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Comment Re:Thorium Nuclear (Score 5, Informative) 452

This comment is very far off.

Unlike molten salt reactors, a class of fast breeders utilize liquid sodium, which reacts violently with water- and has been a bit of a problem (very costly) when heat-exchangers, reheaters, and similar equipment fails.

Molten salt reactors, like the one prototyped at Oak Ridge National Laboratories back in the 60s, ran for years. The corrosion issue stems from the inadvertent production of tritium (from an undesired isotope of lithium in some formulations of the salt) which can combine with the fluorine (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor/LFTR) to produce a strong acid. These and other problems appear to have very viable solutions (from listening to the relevant scientists and engineers), and should not be used to disparage the technology.

To compare this fission technology that has already been demonstrated in principle with a prototype, to fusion which has not even achieved break-even demonstrates a serious lack of understanding of the issues involved. The primary advantages of the molten salt reactor to energy production are the following:
- based on fission which is a well-understood phenomena; U-233 liquid-fueled reactor already demonstrated in principle decades ago (found to be very reliable)
- a liquid fuel system that operates at low pressure and high temperature which allows for very high levels of safety and efficiency
- the above which contribute to the high likelihood of low-cost reactors
- low cost reactors will dramatically lower the cost of carbon-free energy
- high temperatures allow for more efficient cogeneration; example: ammonia synthesis which could be used as an energy carrier on the scale of petroleum, which would address both concerns about fuel supply and carbon emissions
- high temperatures also allow for the use of dry cooling (as opposed to "wet" cooling which uses a lot of water), necessary for an efficient thermodynamic cycle
- thorium fuel is about as abundant as lead (3-4 times more abundant as uranium), and so very low cost
- fissile startup requirements are minimal (less than a tonne of 20% enriched U-235 is possible)
- system is very proliferation resistant (lots of technical details in the specifics)

The disadvantages:
- we must face our fear of nuclear energy
- more R&D (substantially less than $10 billion) will be required before this technology is a commercial reality
- bureaucratic and industry resistance to a new technology (they've already committed themselves to something else which is not suited for solving our systemic problems)
- the general public remains woefully ignorant of the risks it is facing by foregoing nuclear energy

The potential is that we have a nuclear system that is so safe and efficient that it may have the convenience, but at lower cost, than modern and ubiquitous natural gas plants. We are looking at perhaps the greatest technology humanity has ever developed, at best critical to our transition to a sustainable existence, and at worst, an essential technological step to reduce the risk we currently face. The United States may lack the technical leadership to step into a new era of low-cost carbon-free energy, but its rivals are seriously looking at this approach (China is apparently putting around $100 million annually into this), and if it proves viable on a commercial scale (all signs so far showing absolutely "yes"), the US will be left behind. It is difficult to overstate the importance of this issue to national security. Our economic well-being is dependent upon the cost and convenience of energy, and "farming" low-density energy sources dramatically increases our risk in this area. Lower the cost of energy and you will facilitate wealth creation, otherwise we face recession and decline.

Comment Laser Enrichment (Score 1) 456

The importance of laser enrichment is that it has the potential to lower startup costs for reactors that require more highly enriched uranium (say 20%, so maybe still classified as LEU)- like LFTR/MSR. The enriched uranium is more dangerous to handle, but it doesn't make it easier to make bombs, though the enrichment technology might. It is all a very small price to pay considering the benefits of cheap nuclear energy.

Comment Re:The problem is chicken little (Score 1) 1181

Unfortunately for all of us, you are completely misinformed here.

The only viable solution to our present predicament is to aggressively pursue energy technology that promises to be: carbon-free, affordable, flexible, scalable, safe, and physically practical. Nature has offered us very few choices, and considering our current state of advancement, nuclear fission reactors remain our best bet for meeting our goals. But, due to the high level of scientific illiteracy in our society, the best technological choices continue to be ignored by all leading political bodies. Whether it is a failure to comprehend the limitations of fossil fuels, the consequences of continuing carbon emissions in the same manner, or the relationship between energy costs and the economy, leadership and the general populace remain completely ignorant of the real risks attendant to their habits and proposed solutions.

Needless to say, the stress associated with this unenviable position is substantial and it is taking a toll with many people- all of the fear of being helpless in this situation tends to feed frustration, anger, depression, and continued ignorance. Our future is very much up to us, and it all hinges upon making the prudent decisions, which in turn depend upon a modern scientific grasp of reality.

The current favored technology involves using the abundant fertile element thorium as a fuel within a liquid configuration (this is the molten salt reactor, or the liquid fluoride thorium reactor). Such an arrangement can allow for some very desirable operating characteristics: high temperatures, low pressures, high efficiency, and very high stability. We could use those high temperatures to aid in synthesizing an energy-carrier like ammonia, which would in turn be consumed by fuel cell vehicles (this can scale into the billions). If the reactors evolved to be convenient enough, we would eventually see them powering private factories, civil institutions, and heavy sea transport.

There is nothing to guarantee that we will make the right choices in our desperate time. The past is full of examples of where we have failed and the consequences led to catastrophe. There is plenty of reason for worry, but also hope provided more people take an interest in their survival.

Comment Civilization! (Score 1) 625

Remember that game? Surplus energy is critical for supporting innovation within a society, and as some of our energy resources are becoming more expensive to exploit [Peak OIl], surplus energy declines. Apparently per capita energy consumption has declined over the past 40 years, so it seems possible, perhaps likely, that this is having numerous deleterious effects within our society, which are actually symptoms rather than prime causes of our unfortunate situation.

It is a bit late in our game to respond to this old problem (we peaked in our domestic petroleum production back in the 70s), but if we could tap into a vast source of carbon-free energy, we could conceivably synthesize all of the carbon-neutral fuels we require. Now, where is that wonderful machine?

[The game!] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilization_(video_game)

[Peak OIl could limit economic growth] http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article31330.html

[LFTR] http://energyfromthorium.com/2011/10/04/flibe-uk-4/

Comment Re:Petition to solve the economic crisis (Score 1) 308

[NOTE: edited for readability]


Most people do not appreciate the role energy plays within the economy. Whether it is the fuel oil in that tanker that has brought those manufactured goods across the Pacific, or the fuel in your gas tank that has allowed you to drive to work this morning, energy plays a fundamental role in economic activity.

We have a plan to develop a special machine that will allow us to synthesize carbon-neutral petroleum replacements cheaply using nuclear fission as a primary input. With this safe technology, we can drastically reduce waste through efficiency, avoid the use of water for cooling, reduce manufacturing costs by avoiding the use of a high-pressure cooling system, and scale to many thousands of reactors over the coming decades. With this, we can exceed the current world energy consumption of roughly 15 TW. We can sequester a century's worth of carbon from the atmosphere, safeguarding our shorelines for generations to come. And we can end water shortages the world over through massive efficient desalination.

This Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor is Green Nuclear, and it is THE silver bullet.

The White House petition for LFTR

More information regarding the technology.

Green Freedom - industrial scale synthesis of fuel from nuclear energy

Comment Petition to solve the economic crisis (Score 1) 308

Most people to not appreciate the role energy plays within the economy. Whether it is the fuel oil in that tanker that has brought those manufactured goods across the Pacific, or the fuel in your gas tank that has allowed you to drive to work this morning, energy plays a fundamental role in economic activity.

We have a plan to develop a special machine that will allow us to synthesize carbon-neutral petroleum replacements cheaply using nuclear fission as a primary input. With this safe technology, we can drastically reduce waste through efficiency, avoid the use of water for cooling, reduce manufacturing costs by avoiding the use of a high-pressure cooling system, and scale to many thousands of reactors over the coming decades. With this, we exceed the current world energy consumption of roughly 15 TW. We can sequester a century's worth of carbon from the atmosphere, safeguarding our shorelines for generations to come. And we can end water shortages the world over through massive efficient desalination.

This Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor is Green Nuclear, and it is THE silver bullet.

The White House petition for LFTR

More information regarding the technology.

Green Freedom - industrial scale synthesis of fuel from nuclear energy

Comment Not sustainable, not clean, and expensive (Score 1) 394

For those looking at the energy crisis, it should be abundantly clear that we need to look at cheap carbon-free energy generation, and nuclear is the only feasible way to do that. Unfortunately, conventional nuclear technology has many problems from safety and inefficiency to cost and lack of scalability. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors address these issues and more, and every industrialized nation needs to look intently at this technology. It is the only way out of the conundrum of water shortages, Peak Oil, Global Warming, and all of the other energy related issues we now have. Ignoring reality is to embrace lower net energy, and therefore higher costs and the decline of civilization.

http://www.energyfromthorium.com/

http://reserveenergy.blogspot.com/

Comment Re:As an American (Score 2, Interesting) 337

Science is a relatively recent human development, and our mentality is still very much in transition from one that is religious and superstitious, to one that is rational, impartial, contemplative, curious, humble, and never satisfied. The above post is a good example of what is currently seen as a cognitive disease of ignorance, which unfortunately has likely propagated due to our failure to reduce the cost of energy.

I hate to have to repeat what is indisputable fact, but Evolution and Global Warming are not seriously contested within Science. The Universe is currently estimated to be about 13 billion years old, while the Earth formed some 4.5 billion years ago (knowledge made possible by advances in physics). Most life began about 500 million years ago with the Cambrian Explosion, most likely instigated by a dramatic increase of oxygen in the atmosphere. Humans evolved as a particularly virulent branch of hominids, and we as a species are most notable due to our advanced culture, which I am sad to add is still not sustainable.

What is not particularly well known is how serious the Energy Crisis is, how it is affecting the economy, and what is likely to be the only practical solution in the short term. The central issue with energy is how much one gets out of what one puts in. This principle is known as Net Energy. Our return from our energy system has probably been in decline for some 40 years- or about the time when domestic US oil production peaked. Since then, on essentially borrowed time, we have failed to come to terms with this problem. As energy becomes more expensive to harvest, more of the economy must be devoted to harnessing that energy. To further exasperate things, the dominate form of energy today, fossil fuels, basically involves taking what was once sequestered from the atmosphere, harvesting it for energy, and releasing a particular byproduct back into the atmosphere (CO2). This gas acts in such a way as to cause the climate system to retain more energy, which in turn alters the weather. Long-term, the effects are very likely to be catastrophic for civilization, which has largely adapted to inhabiting coastlines.

Since renewables solve, in theory, the carbon problem, many have seized upon them as the solution. What they do not solve is the net energy problem, so while you can “farm” energy in a bewildering variety of ways, they are fundamentally energy sparse, and so energy will remain expensive, regardless of what is done. This conundrum has basically driven our society over the edge with one side trying to impose an unworkable solution on a completely non-compliant and denying opposition.

Nuclear energy remains the only source with the energy density to solve this problem. Unfortunately, the current technology is expensive, fault-prone, inefficient, non-scalable, inflexible, and dirty, all of which has fuelled detractors. Many nuclear alternatives have been proposed, but they remain to date completely unproven (FocusFusion, General Fusion, TriAlpha) or distant and expensive (ITER, NIF).

We do have a technology that is proven, affordable, clean, flexible, efficient, and scalable, but we have to do some work to get it ready for commercialization. Back in the 60s, some intrepid scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratories invented an amazing machine that used a liquid fuel based on U-233 that could be produced from the abundant element thorium. The beauty of this invention is that it solves many of the problems that plague our current technology, delivering an inherently safe and super efficient source of energy that will last indefinitely. China already announced earlier this year that they are pursuing Green Nuclear, and it would be prudent for us to join the Thorium Race at this juncture. Doing so almost guarantees that we will eventually have the resources to end poverty, provide social services to everyone, ensure world peace, and have flying cars! This isn’t science fiction, but it could be our reality if we act with intelligence.

Comment Linux for mobile devices (Score 1) 204

Android sounds like Linux for mobile devices. I'm sure someone will come up with a more accurate analogy, especially since the technology is actually built on top of Linux, but it is essentially a community project stewarded by a commercial firm whose business is built upon selling algorithmic access to its customers. This preserves a certain amount of privacy that many of its customers find acceptable. What is perhaps not acceptable is the NSA's access to nearly every communication firms' backend, but that's another story.

Java is a great technology, but Sun was unable to build a viable business around it, and Oracle acquired Sun largely for litigation potential. Oracle has essentially failed the community in the stewardship of this technology, so this lawsuit is more than a little bit ridiculous. Like many patent disputes, it heaps doubt upon the entire software patent system.

In this time of economic contraction, should we be instigating more uncertainty among important community-orientated technologies? Do we not want businesses like Google building open (and very inexpensive) platforms, and competing primarily upon the quality of their services? Isn't that very much in the interest of consumers?

Comment Join the Thorium Race to solve the Energy Crisis! (Score 1) 306

The scientific community needs to come together over the issue of energy so that we can get around this fundamental problem. I was greatly disappointed when the SCC project was cancelled, but years later the energy problem remains, looming ominously, portending our inevitable destruction. It is long past due for us to get our act together and solve this once and for all. The average person has very little understanding of energy (let along net energy), does not believe in Global Warming, and can't see why poor people don't work! Plenty of voters are convinced that changing parties in the White House will automatically bring in a solution. We're drowning in ignorance, and with less energy available it's getting worse. Let's stop what we're doing, educate ourselves on the Molten Salt Reactor, promote a major Thorium Race R&D project, and get our society moving again in the right direction. If we can do that, then we can surely have our flying cars, luxury cruises, space travel, super space telescopes, and social services for everyone.

Comment The Problem and the Solution (Score 1) 542

As has been noted in other comments, there is plenty to be depressed about in the United States (and elsewhere). In fact, to be content is to be oblivious and fortunate to have adequate resources. I too have fought to keep my child off of medication (a faulty ADHD diagnosis in this case), and so I can totally appreciate what people are struggling with. Having to deal with systemic incompetence in psychology can be very distracting, especially considering all of the other concerns normal people typically have to deal with.

It takes ample energy to train competent psychologists, and unfortunately that is seen as being a luxury in our current economic environment. We've effectively had 40 years of an energy crisis (often denied) with no end in sight, and unless this condition is dealt with, the problems are very likely to continue. Malnutrition (obesity) is widespread as well (and growing), and this can be largely attributed to poor quality nutrients (cheap carbohydrates). As people continue to lose their jobs (minus more risky and indebting "stimulus packages"), we seem to have little to look forward to as the economic system continues to contract.

There is a way out of this mess. A very promising, but not very well-known or understood, form of nuclear energy production has been largely ignored for the better part of those past 40 years, and it is long past due to pursue agressive development of it. That technology has been discussed in this forum (Slashdot), and it remains by far the most promising energy solution we have. Unfortunately, treating the widespread fear of nuclear energy is not an easy task, and that fear continues to hamper promotion of this solution.

The anti-nuclear movement needs to concede on our need to develop sources of electrical generation that will afford a great net energy ratio. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors promise to dramatically reduce the cost of building plants, enabling a scaling capability that no other energy solution can match (we could have thousands of reactors within decades). The high temperatures at which these reactors operate remove the need for water cooling, thereby safeguarding our rivers, aquifers, and shorelines. The inherent safety features of this design (above a certain temperature, the fuel expands checking the nuclear reactions) means that we'll never have another meltdown. The excess neutrons produced in the core facilitate the elimination of long-lived radio-toxic isotopes, reducing the waste problem to about 300 years (down from about 10,000). The potentially low cost of electrical production (through a massive improvement in efficiency) will enable a revolution of the chemical industry, allowing for cheap synthetic carbon-neutral fuels and fertilizer, and we'll be able to sequester enough carbon to return our atmosphere to a pre-industrial state.

This innovative machine can provide us the hope that we need to transform our society from the sorry excuse that it currently is, to the potentially great one that we all know it can be. It is our escape pod from this depressing and reinforcing cycle of decay, confusion and division, to one of renewal and political unity.

Comment The Fundamental Problem is Net Energy (Score 1) 932

The economic situation is not going to improve until we solve the Energy Crisis. We are sitting on the solution, Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors, a Green Nuclear technology that has the potential to radically transform our society for the better, but we need to aggressively pursue its commercialization immediately.

To summarize, this technology was already prototyped back in the 60s at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, so it definitely works. What remains involves system integration, scaling, interfacing with carbon collection systems and fuel production facilities, cost reduction, updating materials, and configuration exploration (among other things). What we will end up with will be far more affordable, safer, efficient, flexible, and scalable than what is currently available. Imagine complete energy independence, ample social services for everyone, massive carbon sequestration, and super cheap carbon-neutral synthetic fuels (check out Green Freedom).

We only require the will to become our own savior. If we continue our current course of confusion and division, we get the opportunity to watch the demise of Democracy and Freedom.

Comment Re:simple (Score 1) 2

You are just repeating the conventional wisdom, which has not led to a solution in 30+ years, and that strongly suggests that you do not understand the problem. In fact, association is not causation, so "laziness" and "lack of self control" could easily be symptoms. Did you check out Taubes lecture?

Comment Re:Safer alternative designs? (Score 4, Informative) 364

Yeah, there's a couple, but I think the best design is the Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactor (Molten Salt Reactor)- it's super efficient, inherently safe, affordable, scalable, and very flexible. It's potentially so cost-efficient that we could synthesize carbon-neutral fuels for all of our transportation needs, and definitely for less than $2/gal (and longer term, significantly less than that). The high operating temperatures mean that water cooling would not be required, so it safeguards our shorelines, rivers, and aquifers. This isn't a theoretical design, as it has already been shown to be feasible by a prototype built in the 60s (the program was shut down in the 70s because it competed with the uranium/plutonium fuel cycle, and it didn't easily produce plutonium for weapons). Really, this is amazing technology for which I believe the "Green Nuclear" label is very appropriate, and the anti-nuclear movement ought to take a very close look at this.

In fact, "farming" energy through renewables is a terrible choice by comparison, and will not be able to generate the cheap energy we need in order to sequester the CO2 that threatens Civilization and end the water shortage (via desalination). China already announced this year that they are pursuing this technology (something the US pioneered the development of), so nearly everyone else in the developed world is lagging in the Thorium Race. I guess after another decade or so of suffering, we'll just go further in debt as we try to buy Chinese-made LFTRs.

This could be our greatest moment, commercializing perhaps the greatest machine ever conceived, ending our economic problems, revitalizing our manufacturing base, ending poverty- so much is possible with cheap energy. Are we instead going to go the way of the Amish, shunning such potential out of fear and ignorance?

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