In the sixties, the United States built a new, super-safe, highly efficient Molten Salt Reactor (MSR). Fuelled by uranium dissolved in a very hot, liquid salt, the MSR had performance and safety advantages over water-cooled, uranium-powered, solid-fuel Light Water Reactors (LWRs) – also called “conventional” reactors.
LWRs are cooled with normal (light) water, a term used to distinguish them from reactors cooled with “heavy” water – deuterium. LWR pellets contain 3.5 – 5% U-235, with the remainder being “inactive” U-238 for dilution, but deuterium cooled reactors can utilize un-enriched U-238. (Most nuclear reactors in use today are LWRs).
Alvin Weinberg, the Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratories, proved the superiority of MSRs in hundreds of tests during 22,000 hours of operation, but due to the success of conventional reactors in Admiral Hyman Rickover’s submarines, water-cooled reactors became the choice for commercial power production. Weinberg, who protested that MSRs were safer and more efficient, was fired, and the MSR program was terminated, partly for political reasons [See more about Dr Weinberg’s firing here].
“I hope that after I’m gone, people will look at all the dusty books ever written on Molten Salt and say hey, these guys had a pretty good idea, lets go back to it.”
There was a second reason: The Cold War was heating up, and the uranium-plutonium fuel cycle of LWRs could be adapted for making bombs. However, making a weapon with MSR technology is more difficult and dangerous.
The Atomic Energy Commission also knew that MSRs could generate abundant, low cost, 24/7 electricity while breeding their own fuel from U-238 or Thorium – and that Thorium would create less waste than conventional reactors.
If we had switched to MSRs in the 1960’s instead of burning carbon, we would have eliminated much of the CO2 that created Climate Change and reduced the toxic emissions that have caused medical expenses in the billions of dollars.
From the April, 2013 Scientific American: “Dr. James Hansen, former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has said that just our partial reliance on carbon-free nuclear power since 1971 has saved 1.8 million lives that would have been lost due to fossil fuel pollution. By contrast, we assess that large-scale expansion of natural gas use would not mitigate the climate change problem and would cause more deaths than expansion of nuclear power.”
Carbon-fuelled power plants cause at least 30,000 premature U. S. deaths/year.
Because we rejected MSRs, almost all of the electricity we have generated with nuclear power has been produced by high pressure, water-cooled LWRs, which require a containment dome. MSRs do not.
Unfortunately, according to Michael Mayfield, head of the Office of Advanced Reactors at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the NRC is “unfamiliar with most, new small reactor technology, [including MSRs] and has no proven process to certify one.” (2010)
THAT MUST CHANGE!
In 2013, the U. S. Energy Information Administration predicted that world energy use will increase 56% by 2040. Most of that increase will come from burning carbon-based fuels, which will add even more CO2 to our already damaged biosphere.
We must replace CO2-creating power plants with GREEN nuclear power plants!
When Radiation Is Safe and When It Isn’t
The largest obstacle to expanding nuclear power is the fear caused by misinformation about radiation safety, so let’s begin with a question intended for seniors like me: “Do you still have your toes?”
This foolish sounding question refers to a machine that, during the thirties and forties, stood near the entrance of every up-to-date shoe store in America. Called the ADRIAN shoe fitting machine, it was ballyhooed as the perfect way to see if one’s shoes fit properly.
Attractive ads with photos of the marvellous machine proclaimed, “Now, at last, you can be certain that your children’s foot health is not being jeopardised by improperly fitting shoes. If your children need new shoes, don’t buy their shoes blindly. Come in and try our new ADRIAN Fluoroscopic Shoe Fitting machine. Use the new, scientific method of shoe fitting that careful parents prefer.”
The customers, usually children, inserted their feet into an opening while their parents watched the image in two viewing ports. Unattended children would often repeatedly switch sides to watch their siblings’ toes wiggle. It was fun, and no-one gave a thought to X-ray exposure.
Despite these fairly high exposures to children who frequently hopped onto the machine just for fun, no malignancies or other damage to the feet of foot-radiating junkies like me were ever reported.
Now, as I travel the country with my presentations on nuclear power, “renewables” and radiation safety, I always ask the seniors in my audiences, all of whom instantly recognize the machine, if they still have their toes.
During 2016, I queried some 1,000 seniors, but I never found any evidence of damage. However, my tale of the shoe-fitting machine always brought laughter and an opportunity to talk about the Merchants of Fear whose hype created a new 20th century word: radiophobia.
“We’ve accepted for decades that millions of people are allowed to be killed by combustion pollution and mass produced weapons. We’ve accepted for at least 100 years that the planet’s climate and oceans can be allowed to be changed for the worse because of our love of combustion. We even accept poverty and all its ill effects, simply due to our general inaction. But the safest form of energy production, nuclear power, is foolishly married to fear of nuclear weapons.” – Dr. Alex Cannara
Radiation from nuclear power is just a tiny part of the “industrial” sliver.
We are bathed in radiation for our entire lives – 2/3 from cosmic radiation and elements like radon, and the rest from elements within us plus from consumer products like smoke detectors and medical use. We all have some 4,400 beta/gamma decays per second throughout our bodies for life, largely from Potassium-40 in foods like bananas and potato chips. (Living beside a nuclear power plant for a year is less “dangerous” than eating bananas and potato chips.)
Because radioactive elements are constantly decaying, our ancestral life forms evolved during times when radiation levels were far higher than they are today. As a consequence, they evolved some very effective ways to repair the damage to the DNA in our cells caused by radiation and oxidation, which is why we are told to favor anti-oxidants like grapes and greens. (DNA is “short” for deoxyribonucleic acid, a complex, spiral, chain-like molecule that contains our genetic codes.) If you irradiate E. coli bacteria for many generations, the bacteria evolve amazing radiation resistance, surviving huge doses of radiation, and some fungi even thrive on radiation.
“Fear and paranoia are the two most common forms of radiation sickness.” Mike Conley, Road Map to Nowhere
However, even the highest natural background radiation rate is insignificant compared to the damage caused by our internal chemistry. DNA bond breaks caused by oxidation and toxins occur more frequently than breaks caused by background radiation. Our bodies are actively repairing DNA damage every second of our lives.
If people understood that “…we have billions of cells that die every day and must be replaced, they will be better able to accept the fact that our bodies have efficient repair mechanisms that can handle low level radiation”. Science Magazine, March, 2015. (Adults have about 37 trillion cells.)
“Each cell contains a coiled mass of DNA that carries the thousands of genetic instructions that we need to run our bodies. These strands of DNA undergo thousands of spontaneous changes every day, and DNA copying for cell division and multiplication, which happens in the body millions of times daily, also introduces defects.
DNA can be damaged by ultraviolet light from the sun, industrial pollutants and natural toxins like cigarette smoke. What fights pandemonium are our DNA repair mechanisms.
“In the 70s, Dr. Lindahl defied orthodoxy about DNA stability by discovering a molecular system that counteracts DNA collapse, and Dr. Sancar mapped out how cells repair DNA damage from UV light.
“People born with defects in this system, when exposed to sunlight, develop skin cancer, and Dr. Modrich showed how our cellular machinery repairs errors that arise during DNA replication, thereby reducing the frequency of error by about 1,000.”
Coming up next week, Episode 8 – More Beer. More Bananas.
In 1928, Hermann Muller, the originator of the Linear No Threshold (LNT) theory, exposed fruit flies to 2,750 milliSieverts (mSv) of radiation in just 3 1/2 minutes, which caused gene deletions and deformities. Radiation dose, which we measure in Sieverts, is the biologically effective energy transferred to body tissue by ionizing radiation.)
Although the dose that Muller used was equivalent to receiving 1,000 mammograms in just 3.5 minutes, he called it a low dose, even though it was extremely high. (Even Japanese atomic bomb survivors didn’t receive such a large dose.)
Muller then extrapolated his results down to ZERO mSv without testing low levels of radiation and continued to promote his theory into the fifties, perhaps because he wanted to heighten fear of fallout from testing nuclear bombs. Muller argued that there is no safe level for radiation and claimed that even tiny amounts of radiation are cumulative. (According to LNT dogma, a butcher who cuts his finger fairly often will be dead in ten years from blood loss – despite his continuing to work.)
Muller’s results were disputed by several of his colleagues, one being a researcher named Ernst Caspari, whose work Muller praised. (We learned this after Muller’s correspondence became public late in the 20th century). Muller wrongly asserted that, even at low dose rates over long times, the risk is proportionate to the dose.
In the fifties, no one knew that our cells routinely repair DNA damage, whether caused by radiation or oxidation, a normal body process, so we accepted his theory. (DNA is “short” for deoxyribonucleic acid, a complex, spiral, chain-like molecule that contains our genetic codes.)
Muller’s theory is analogous to the earth-centered solar system that everyone “knew” was true for thousands of years, and it’s regrettable that so many still believe it. From its beginning, the LNT theory was based on a fraud, and it has been perpetuated by anti-nuclear fearmongers.
So why wasn’t Muller truthful? During a radio interview on IEEE SPECTRUM’s “Techwise Conversations,” Dr. Calabrese explained it this way:
“Ernst Caspari and Kurt Stern were colleagues, and Muller was a consultant to Stern. Muller provided the fruit fly strain that Stern and his coworkers used. Stern and Muller thought there was a linear dose-response relationship even at low doses….
“In the chronic study, which was done far better in terms of research methodology than an earlier study, they found that the linear relationship was not supported, and what they observed would be supportive of a [safe] threshold dose- response relationship. This created a conflict—not for the actual researchers like Caspari—but for his boss, Kurt Stern, who tried to convince Caspari that his study didn’t support the linear model because his control group values were artificially high.
“So Caspari… got lots of unpublished findings from Muller and put together a case that his boss was wrong. Ultimately, he got Stern to accept his findings that supported the threshold dose response. [Which actually meant that there was a threshold below which low levels of radiation were safe.]
“They sent Caspari’s paper to Muller on Nov. 6, 1946. On Nov.12 he [Muller] wrote to Stern indicating that he went over the paper, and he saw that the results were contrary to what he thought would have happened, that he couldn’t challenge the paper because Caspari was an excellent researcher, that they needed to replicate this, and that this was a significant challenge to a linear dose response because this study was the best study to date, and it was looking at the lowest dose rate that had ever been used in such a study.
“A month later, Muller went to Stockholm to accept his Nobel Prize, and in his speech, he tells the scientists, dignitaries, press… that one can no longer accept any consideration of a threshold model, that all you can really accept is the linear dose- response model. …Yet Muller had actually seen the results of a study that he was a consultant on, that was the best in showing no support for the linear model – but support for a [safe] threshold model.
“He had the audacity to actually go in front of all these dignitaries and mislead the audience. He could have said, ‘This is a critical area, and we need to do more research to try to figure this out.’ It would have been intellectually honest and the appropriate thing to say, but that’s not what he says. He tries to actually mislead the audience by saying there’s not even a remote possibility that this alternative exists, and yet he has seen it.”
Because Muller had also strongly (and appropriately) opposed the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, and because he wanted to persuade Congress and the American public to oppose the expansion of nuclear energy, he seems to have concluded that the end would justify his lie, even if it compromised his integrity.
In November, 2014, Dr. John Boice, president of the National Council on Radiation Protection, stated, ”…the reason they were concerned about the risk of radiation doses all the way to zero was because they used a theory [LNT] for genetic effects that assumed that even a single hit on a single cell could cause a mutation, and they did not believe there was any such thing as a beneficial mutation.”
When the LNT model was adopted by the National Academy of Sciences in 1956, its summary stated: “Even small amounts of radiation have the power to injure.” The report, which was published in the New York Times, inflated the fear of radiation, even at extremely low levels.
However, newly discovered letters between some of the members of the National Academy of Science committee indicate that the reason for adopting the LNT model was not that small amounts of radiation might be dangerous, but that Muller’s deception (and possibly self-interest), had trumped science – with one individual writing, “I have a hard time keeping a straight face when there is talk about genetic deaths and the dangers of irradiation. Let us be honest—we are both interested in genetics research, and for the sake of it, we are willing to stretch a point when necessary… the business of genetic effects of atomic energy has produced a public scare and a consequent interest in and recognition of the importance of genetics. This is good, since it may lead to the government giving more money for genetic research.”
In 2015, while reading Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee’sThe Emperor of All Maladies, a Pulitzer Prize winner about our long battle with cancer, I came upon the following passage:
“In 1928, Dr. Hermann Muller, one of Thomas Morgan’s students, discovered that X-rays could increase the rate of mutations in fruit flies…” [Morgan, by studying an enormous number of fruit flies, had discovered that the altered genes and mutations could be carried from one generation to the next.]
“Had Morgan and Muller cooperated, they might have uncovered the link between mutations and malignancy. But they became bitter rivals Morgan refused to give Muller recognition for his theory of mutagenesis…
“Muller was sensitive and paranoid; he felt that Morgan had stolen his ideas and taken too much credit. In 1933, having moved his lab to Texas, Muller walked into a nearby woods and swallowed a roll of sleeping pills in an attempt at suicide. He survived, but was haunted by anxiety and depression.”
Knowing this, I wonder if Muller’s need for recognition and his resentment of Morgan, who received the Nobel Prize for his work on fruit fly genetics in 1933, might have caused him to hide the work of Ernst Caspari and others because it would have jeopardised his “fifteen minutes of fame.”
Muller received his Nobel Prize in 1946, but his deception has promoted the fear of all forms of radiation, however feeble. In addition, it has caused the deaths of millions and accelerated Climate Change by stunting the growth of CO2-free nuclear power, which has required us to burn huge amounts of polluting,health-damaging coal, oil and natural gas.
(Muller’s claim that tiny amounts of radiation are cumulative is like arguing that 50 jumps off of a one-foot step will be as damaging as one jump from a 50-foot cliff.)
For the great enemy of the truth is often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
US President John F Kennedy 1960-1963
“To overturn orthodoxy is no easier in science than in philosophy or religion.” Ruth Hubbard
Due largely to LNT, only a few new nuclear power plants have been designed and built since the NRC was created. There are at least 1,000 papers that prove LNT wrong—all of them ignored by NRC and EPA. On average the NRC creates one new regulation per day, and it can cost a billion dollars just to get approval for a test reactor of a new design.
It’s unfortunately when good science is spun to create bad press.
Fusion is nowhere near a solution. In the very same article Qout (thermal and not electrical) is 11 MW. Qin is 1 GW. Hence Q = 0.011.
It’s just media hype, BBC style. Europe’s ITER has collected Euro 65b of public money on the fusion lie. Well not a lie, but misinformation. To maintain funding. If politicians – and the handful of duped investors – really new the science it would be given a few million, but that’s a digression…
From the data in the BBC/Oxford/JET article the ratio of energy out to energy in is only 1.1%, and only for 11 seconds…
One suspects BBC/Oxford trying something similar to collect some of the billions going into UK fission projects for the JET project. There’s 300 scientists working on JET after all.
(Point to note: 14,000 people worked on the first molten salt project in 1954. It’s not because they didn’t have iPads).
The downside of hyping such projects is it delays public acceptance of fission (the same way the fossil fuel industry plays the green renewable card to the public).
Most investors are more savvy – it’s their purpose to be savvy. Eg, now Bill Gates, and of course the Turkish, Chinese, Russians and French.
Note that ITER is aiming for Q-Plasma parity. Not Q-Total… A small detail even the director of ITER opening ignores, and I am sure an ignorance he promotes. What’s his budget after all? Watch the YouTube in this article:
Whilst it’s not our focus – ours is production of energy using Molten Salt Fission Energy technology and Thorium – we’ve found it appropriate for a couple of focused articles – this one on JET and one on ITER – to highlight the inappropriate gap between the science and the spin. Both articles are be found here.
This spin on fusion distracts from real progress on carbon free power production for our societies. It diverts attention from real technologies. It confuses the public. It diverts public money – and a few duped private investors – who, given full knowledge, would provide their support to such projects more judiciously.
So, let’s go back to basics. Energy = Life. I don’t think anyone disagrees. More energy = more life, and for humans, it means a better society. There are ample studies on this, but we do like to study the obvious, don’t we. It’s the not-so-obvious that this post is about.
Specifically, let’s talk about the ratio of energy obtained compared to the effort expended to obtain that energy in the first place. Hence let’s define EROI: Energy Return on Investment. EROI is far more encompassing than ROI or LCOE. I’ll leave it to others to explain those two. EROI provides “full boundary enclosure” – and that means you include the entire planet – to properly assess the impact and suitability of an energy system. The evidence of this can be described through an empirical timeline of humanity. For an eon of human development no fire meant an EROI ranging from 1 (let’s call it one human power -> direct effort in = direct effort out) to 4 (horses have about 4 times as much power as a human).
Then fire is harnessed. What happens? Civilisations are born. Massive growth in population and subsequently culture, technology and thus quality of life. The EROI? It’s between 7 and 12 for burning biomass (i.e. trees). It depends on the water content, cell density etc. It turns out that the magic number for humans to Thrive is about 7:1. Seven is the bare minimum for a society to move from survival to thriving. Otherwise the search effort for energy is too much for anything more than a simple lifestyle (Think: Inuit, Australian Aboriginals, or American Indians, et al).
Another eon passes, and coal is harnessed. With an EROI of 30:1 suddenly there’s excess energy. What happened? The Industrial Revolution. Steel production. Steam power. Drill bits, oil derricks and…. oil… Rocket ship stuff.
Oil: with an EROI of 80:1 what a panacea it became! (Saving the whales along the way – another story for another day). But hold your breath because burning oil stinks and so does coal.
The story is almost done.
With such a high EROI (80:1) our civilisation truly becomes global. And… we are able to develop Fission Energy! (Nuclear for those not in the know). Solid fission is about 75:1, so again incredible and just perfect for our civilisation – no CO2 is produced. Unfortunately, oil had already a 100 year head start and the piles of money stashed away were quite ready, willing and able to snuff out any competitor. Which they did with great efficaciousness. (That’s another story too).
So, that’s the short story of humanity based on energy, but more importantly EROI – Energy Return on Investment.
What is the EROI of solar? Check the chart below. It’s 1.6:1. Not good. What about wind? 3.9:1. Not good either. These systems do produce energy and yes, a house, a village, perhaps a city can be “green” using only wind and solar. But their neighbours take the burden of everything that can’t be made in that society. Because nothing can work at such a low EROI, except providing for a nice simple lifestyle. Even food production will suffer.
If the entire world switched to EROIs below 7, the net result will be a generational decline in living standards for everyone. This is actually impossible, as there are many who understand EROI. There are however countries that will try to do it. The impacts can be seen after only 20 years in Germany.
“The same oceans that nourished human evolution are poised to unleash misery on a global scale unless the carbon pollution destabilizing Earth’s marine environment is brought to heel.”
United Nations Draft IPCC Report, 2019
In 1866, Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish chemist, estimated that doubling our Earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide would raise its temperature by 9 degrees F, which is why CO2 and its “associates” are called greenhouse gases (GHG).
Then, in 1958, Dr. Charles Keeling, the American chemist and oceanographer began to record the level of atmospheric CO2 at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory, which, being 10,300 feet above sea level and far out in the Pacific Ocean, avoided misleading data from mainland sources that could skew his research. Although Keeling proved that CO2 levels were soaring, his work had little influence for more than 20 years.
Acting like blankets, greenhouse gases limit how much of the Earth’s heat can escape into space. If the blanket becomes too thin for too long, too much heat escapes, and an Ice Age follows. However, if it thickens excessively, as it already has, too much heat is trapped, and the Earth develops a fever.
If we give water vapor a rating of 1, carbon dioxide would rate a 5, but methane, (CH4 – the primary component of natural gas), is initially 80 times worse than CO2, averaging 20 times worse as it slowly oxidizes to CO2 and H2O, which takes decades.
However, despite the fact that CO2 is 5 times more potent than water on a molecule to molecule basis, water vapor is a more powerful accelerator of climate change because there is a lot more water vapor, and as the planet warms, even more is created. That extra water vapor traps additional heat, which raises ocean and land temperatures even higher.
For millions of years, our planet has been nurtured by a gassy comforter that, like Goldilocks’ bed, has been just right. Those gases have served us well, especially since the last Ice Age, varying only a little while periodically providing nothing worse than a string of harsh winters or abnormally hot summers before returning to normal. That has changed, and the rate of change is rapidly increasing.
Thanks to air trapped in ice from Greenland and Antarctica, we know that the level of atmospheric CO2 has been hovering near 280 parts per million (ppm) since the age of the dinosaurs. However, that number slowly began to rise about 250 years ago when the Industrial Revolution allowed us to burn increasing amounts of carbon. By 1950, atmospheric CO2 levels had reached 300 ppm.
Spurred on by increasing industrialization and burgeoning populations, that number reached 421 ppm in May, 2021. Now that we are no longer hampered by an anti-environment President, his carbon-loving, anti-science cabinet and a badly distracted Congress, we can and must elevate planet above profit if we and the environment that supports us are to survive.
As temperatures rise, heat-reflecting snow and ice become water, which absorbs 90% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) heat and creates water vapor. Warming the oceans increases their volume, which will bring coastal flooding plus serious economic and social upheaval. Nevertheless, Florida’s Governors have ordered employees to avoid discussing climate change, and Miami is launching a building boom despite street flooding from increasingly higher tides.
The loss of snow and ice exposes land, which, as it warms, produces more water vapor, which brings heavier rains and stronger thunderstorms and tornadoes. In addition, our warming planet will experience a decrease of snowfall, which will reduce the mountain runoff needed to replenish reservoirs that store precious water for agricultural, industrial and personal use.
As the land-based ice in the Antarctic and Greenland melts, rising sea levels will destroy coastal cities, create millions of refugees and cause civil unrest. The insurance industry knows this, and it has already begun to adjust its rates.
Rising seas will displace 300 million people by 2050
The world is at its hottest for at least 12,000 years
The Guardian, 2021
For eons, Nature has relied on three primary methods to capture CO2. The first is photosynthesis by forests, crops and ocean plants that range from huge kelp “forests” to tiny phytoplankton, but we are clear-cutting forests equal in area to West Virginia every year while polluting our oceans. The second also involves the oceans, which can absorb huge amounts of CO2, and the third depends on CO2-hungry basalts that have been stripped of their carbon dioxide by the heat of volcanoes.
However, adding CO2 to water creates carbonic acid, which impedes the formation of the calcium carbonate shells of crabs, shrimp, lobsters, oysters, scallops, and most importantly, tiny organisms like the phytoplankton that comprise the foundation of the ocean food chain.
Acidifying our oceans is already causing greater damage than sea level rise, and it will have far more serious consequences.
We now have evidence that the concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases will, within a few decades, equal those that caused the Permian extinction that occurred some 250 million years ago – when more than 90% of all oceanic species died due largely to huge eruptions of CO2 and methane in Siberia.
Because these conditions developed over hundreds of thousands of years, many organisms had time to evolve, but our anthropogenic (human-caused) Climate Change, being much more rapid, will leave too little time for many species to evolve. (The Cretaceous-Paleogene die-off 56 million years ago also followed a significant drop in the pH of the oceans.)
Like it or not, the problems we face are the direct result of our creating 2.1 trillion tons of Industrial Age CO2, to which we are adding 50 billion tons per year. Only 1/3 of that CO2 has dissolved in our seas, and as the remainder is absorbed, our oceans will become even more acidic (less alkaline) and increasingly hostile to life.
Our oceans have been slightly basic for millions of years, having an average pH of 8.2. (7.0 is neutral, being neither acid nor basic). However, in the last 250 years, our excesses of CO2 have made our oceans more acidic as their pH has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1.
That might seem trivial, but because the pH scale is logarithmic, not linear, this represents a large increase toward acidity, and a pH of 8.0 or 7.9 couldl mean death to many species, including phytoplankton, and near-death to the oceans that provide 20% of our protein and 50% of our oxygen.
Even if we stop burning carbon today, we will still have almost 1.2 trillion tons of excess, man-made CO2 in our atmosphere to deal with. It is no exaggeration to say that we only have about 15 years, not decades, to prevent the next 0.1 drop in pH.
“It is not up for debate: It is a cold, hard fact that both climate change and ocean deoxygenation are happening.”
Since 1980, we have melted 72% of the Arctic’s ice, and in 2014, scientists at California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who monitor the rate of arctic melting reported that at least 50 cubic miles of the Greenland ice sheet melted during just 2013. And in early April, 2017, the Coast Guard International Ice Patrol, which tracks icebergs, sighted 450, which is far more than the historical average of 83 in the same area at that same time of year.
As the Arctic warms, the tree line is slowly moving north, as are robins, black bears and a host of “southern” insects. I have seen these changes and many more.
Beginning in 1961, I spent parts of the next 38 summers “bush flying” in northern Canada and Alaska. There, winters are now at least five weeks shorter than they were just 50 years ago, and the shrinking ice pack is leaving many polar bears insufficient time to fatten up on seals, with some bears coming off of the springtime ice severely underweight. Some are drowning, having become too weak to survive what was once an easy 100-mile swim to shore for a healthy bear.
Once ashore, these weakened bears face a new hazard: Grizzly bears are expanding their range, and even a healthy polar bear is no match for a grizzly.
When the winter of 2016 began, the North Pole was 36 degrees F above normal, and in July, 2017, an ice shelf the size of Delaware broke free from Antarctica.
With NOAA reporting that 2019 was, globally, the hottest year ever recorded, (with arctic temperatures running as high as 16 degrees F above normal), and that 2020 has been the hottest on record, what hope is there for these magnificent animals – and for many other species that are not as photogenic or obvious? In March, 2020, Antarctica broke previous records with a high of 68 degrees F.
In Oregon, Washington and British Colombia, oyster farmers must now add lime to their tanks of ocean water to counter its increasing acidity. And according to the World Wildlife Fund, over fishing just between 1970 and 2014 has reduced the number of fish and other ocean species by 50%, with tuna and mackerel down by 74%. In addition, several new studies show that even current levels of oceanic CO2 can even “intoxicate” fish, which can impact their ability to survive.
The year scale in this image ranges from 1850 to 2100. The dark blue line shows decreasing pH – increasing acidity – and the green line reveals the decrease in carbonate available for making shells. In the chart, “NOW” is 2014. We will be farther down the dark blue line when you read this book.
In 2014, Canadian scientists discovered that the volume of arctic phytoplankton had dropped an alarming 40% since 1950, and since then it has continued to drop by 1% per year.
Why should we care about these tiny organisms? Because phytoplankton provide the base of the food pyramid that sustains most oceanic life, and no phytoplankton will eventually mean “no fish.” In addition, as previously noted, phytoplankton produce 50% of our oxygen and consume most of the carbon- dioxide we produce by using carbonates to build their shells.
When they die, their tiny shells accumulate on the ocean floor, eventually becoming limestone – the end result of the most effective carbon sequestration process on earth. That process can sequester a billion tons of CO2 per year, which sounds impressive, but, as noted earlier, we are emitting 50 billion tons of CO2 every year. Worse yet, since prehistoric times, the amount of oxygen in our atmosphere has declined by a third, almost entirely due to deforestation and the decrease in phytoplankton.
Carbon emissions are acidifying the ocean so rapidly that the seafloor is disintegrating.
National Academy of Science, 2018
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is 50% dead. Caribbean corals are 80% dead (PBS May, 2021). By 2050, shellfish calcification and survival could become impossible. Our carbon dioxide emission rate is even greater than the volcanic emission rate that caused the Permian extinction 250 million years ago when the world lost 90% of its species.
Even if we find a way to emit less CO2 than is being absorbed, our oceans will continue to acidify because the CO2 we have already created will persist in our atmosphere for hundreds of years, and in the oceans for tens of thousands of years, which is why we must develop some form of corrective geo-engineering. However, that will require huge amounts of CO2-free, non-polluting nuclear power.
Reducing acidification must become a worldwide priority if we are to avoid a life-changing oceanic and humankind disaster. Extinctions of sea life are certain if we do nothing.
“We cannot cheat on DNA. We cannot get around photosynthesis. We cannot say I am not going to give a damn about phytoplankton. All of these mechanisms provide the preconditions of our planetary life. To say we do not care is to say that we choose death.”
1. Mimic the natural carbon sequestration process of the oceans: Use CO2-free, highly efficient nuclear energy to heat limestone or dolomite to release lime (calcium oxide and magnesium oxide), which we distribute across the ocean to neutralize the carbonic acid. The CO2 produced when limestone is heated would be sequestered in porous basalt, with which it chemically combines. Refining enough lime from limestone will require about 900 1-Gigawatt (GW) nuclear plants, and that’s only enough to neutralize our present emissions.
[A team led by Dr. Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, used an alkaline substance to alter the chemistry of seawater at a small atoll in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The resulting decrease in seawater acidity mimicked pre-industrial ocean conditions – so this remedy could work.]
[If we had adopted the Atomic Energy Commission’s 1962 recommendation to expand nuclear power, we’d already have those nuclear plants, we’d have created less CO2, and we’d have saved MILLIONS of lives that have been lost due to carbon-related pollution.]
2. Spread finely ground basalt into the oceans. Basalt, which is created by volcano1es, is “carbon hungry,” so basalt would remove CO2 from the oceans. Lime and basalt, being basic, would assist shell formation by neutralizing the carbonic acid. Volcanic ash, which is primarily powdered basalt, can also be used to improve soil quality, so scattering “powdered” basalt across farm fields could help remove the excess carbon dioxide from our troubled atmosphere.
“Our current anthropogenic carbon dump rate is about 33.4 gigatons of CO2/year. Each ton of powdered basalt can “fix” about 0.2 tons of carbon (0.73 tons CO2), so we’ll need to mine, grind, and disperse about 46 billion tons of basalt powder/yr to keep up with our current CO2 dump rate (about the total amount of sand & gravel now mined/yr). At 100 kWhr/ton, the power needed to convert that much rock to powder would require the electrical output of 500, 1 GWe nuclear reactors. However, basalt contains many minerals, some of which might be harmful to sea life, so basalt might have to yield to lime, which is as natural as the organisms that incorporate it in their carbonate shells and skeletons. In any case, marine biologists should oversee these actions and the production of the materials.
“For this to work on land, fields should be warm, watered, tilled and biologically active. The world’s 400 million acres of rice fields seem to fit that bill. Land currently devoted to corn and soybean production would probably also be suitable.
“This approach is more affordable than scenarios that invoke electrochemistry or the calcination of limestone. In addition, it would appeal to countries that want to increase agricultural productivity.
3. “Pump water and CO2 from the air into the basalt that underlies huge areas of the globe. The volcanic basalt, will combine with the carbonic acid to LOCK UP the CO2. This is not same as just pumping compressed CO2 down a hole and hoping it stays there.“Iceland studies reveal that up to about 150 pounds of CO2 can be stored in just one cubic meter of basalt, and if we could also apply this process to the basalt in ocean ridges, we could sequester the 5,000 Gigatons of CO2 created by burning all of the fossil fuel on Earth. If this were done worldwide, it could drastically shorten the timescale of carbon trapping. Instead of taking centuries, CO2-trapping via basalt carbonation could be completed within a few decades, but it will require huge amounts of CO2-free electrical power.” In 2017, scientists at Caltech and USC found a way to speed up part of the reaction that helps sequester CO2 as limestone in the ocean. By adding the enzyme carbonic anhydrase, the researchers made the sequestering process proceed 500 times faster, and in 2018, a new process for sequestering carbon dioxide in concrete was developed.
We must also electrify cement making, which requires huge amounts of energy, by using electricity generated by CO2– free nuclear power, then sequester the CO2 released during the process in basalt and use the lime to assist the ocean.
To summarize: Our planet’s ocean life can sequester a billion tons of CO2 per year by making shells, skeletons, limestone, etc. However, the 1/3 of the 2 trillion tons that the ocean has already absorbed has already lowered ocean pH close to extinction levels for many organisms.
Ocean warming has worsened the threat, and 2050, not 2100, is the key oceanic end-of-life date, and this doesn’t include the warming caused by methane liberated by thawing permafrost and sub-sea methane hydrates.
Therefore, getting CO2 levels down to 350 is probably meaningless if we don’t protect ocean chemistry.
To sequester CO2 one must chemically remove about 500 CO2 molecules from every 1,000,000 molecules of air – and then store them FOREVER.
We will also need to connect the removal sources to basalt formations that permanently store CO2 as rock. Then, we must address methane leakage, which is adding about 200 ppm of equivalent CO2 to the air because our natural gas wells and our porous distribution systems are leaking so severely.
We must get serious. Our yearly 40+ trillion tons of CO2 emissions have already brought ocean chemistry 2/3 of the way to the death of the oceans that create 50 % of our oxygen.
Bad news: If we add the effects of methane leaking from fracking wells and our porous distribution system, and methane released from thawing permafrost, our May, 2021 CO2 level of 421 ppm would, in effect, be over 500.
More bad news: Because humans cool their bodies by sweating, rising heat and humidity will increase stress while decreasing comfort and efficiency. Further increases will cause medical issues that can even be fatal.
Even more bad news: 50 % of the Arctic’s shallow permafrost is predicted to thaw by 2100. As it does, some of its 40 million gallons of previously immobilized, hazardous mercury will be released into the polar ocean and the atmosphere.
At least 30,000 plant and animal species are threatened with extinction.
Dr. James Hansen, former chief climate scientist at NASA, now chief climate scientist at Columbia University, is well known for bringing definitive evidence of global warming to Congress in 1988:
“Environmentalists and world leaders must accept nuclear power now to avoid catastrophic climate change…Mass species extinction, extreme weather events, dry spells and fires are climate change impacts which are happening now.
“A warmer atmosphere and warmer oceans can lead to stronger storms,” he explained. (Superstorm Sandy, for example, remained a hurricane all the way up the Eastern seaboard to New York because Atlantic waters were abnormally warm.)
Planet is trapping almost twice as much heat in atmosphere as it did 15 years ago.
“Amplifying impacts” and feedback loops will accelerate the changes, says Hansen. “It will happen faster than you think,” he said. (If major coastal cities become dysfunctional because of sea level rise, which he believes is possible, the global economy could be in peril of collapse.)
“Our minds are the most powerful tools we have. Applied correctly, we can achieve anything”
The sun rises and over a verdant green vista. My home awakes me with the gentle sounds of birds and the curtains slightly to let in the Eastern rising sun. I motion with my hand and the curtains fully open. Other folk have the electrostatic polymer window panes installed but I still like the feel and texture of a material window covering. Even if it is 100% fabricated from grown polymer fibres. Through my windows I see the tops of thousands of trees lit by the brilliant, new, fresh gold of the morning sun. These trees are less than 30 years old and spread as far as I can see.
I also see 5 other residential towers like the one I’m in. Each is 1,000 metres high and with the same 10,000 apartments. All are connected beneath the trees by boulevards and underground maglev personnel pods and shuttle carriages. I can also see the faint steam coming up from several areas among the tees.
That’s why I live here. Cheap electrical energy, and thermal domestic heating. 10 times less than even the cheapest fossil fuel from 30 years ago. Hidden beneath the trees and 20 metres of earth are tiny power generators driven by Thorium Molten Salt Fission Technology. I had a small hand in that – I was one of the scientists in the early design teams.
Safe, clean and green. The power units are entirely replaced every 20 years – even though they have a lifespan of 30. These power units are second generation already. Maybe 40 years they can be here. No overhead cables. No step down transformers. No cooling towers. No fuel lines. No coal conveyor belts. No waste heaps. Wow, what a change.
The supercritical CO2 turbo-machinery was developed by Mitsubishi and Siemens. They are tiny and work for decades with no maintenance. Heck, we are even using Stirling cycle machines in 3 of the power units. Maybe we’ll switch over soon for all of them.
This device produces the same energy output as the one behind. That’s the power of Super Critical CO2
Power generation in 2050 has become easy. No more oil wars, oil blockades, gas transit or border disputes. Each country has access to technology as common as the once common internal combustion engine.
Thankfully Elon Musk finally killed that infernal fossil driven machine 20 years ago. It’s all electric from here – neutrons to electrons. Everyone is happy. There’s still lots to do: millions have had to move because of rising sea levels. At least now we can build it right.
Authored by Jeremiah Josey Founder and CEO of The Thorium Network
What’s the Fossil Fuel Record? Millions of Air Pollution Deaths each year Because the carbon industries are heavily subsidised, one might expect them to have exemplary safety and social records, but one would be wrong!
According to the Guardian(2021-10-21) “The IMF found the production and burning of coal, oil and gas was subsidised by USD 5.9tn in 2020″ Or USD 11 million a minute every day. This is according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund. The IMF has noted before that existing fossil fuel subsidies overwhelmingly go to the rich, with the wealthiest 20% of people getting six times as much as the poorest 20% in low and middle-income countries.
In 2006, the Sago coal mine disaster killed 12. A few years later, a West Virginia coal mine explosion killed 29. In May 2014, 240 miners died in a Turkish coal mine.
The ash derived from burning coal averages 80,000 pounds per American lifetime. Compare that to two pounds of nuclear “waste” for the same amount of electricity. The world’s 1,200 largest coal-fired plants cause 30,000 premature U.S. deaths every year plus hundreds of thousands of cases of lung and heart diseases.
Generating the 20% of U.S. electricity with nuclear power saves our atmosphere from being polluted with 177 million tons of greenhouse gases every year, but despite the increasing consequences of Climate Change and Ocean Acidification, the burning of carbon to make electricity is still rising.
Scientific American, 13 Dec 2007: “Coal-fired plants expel mercury, arsenic, uranium, radon, cyanide and harmful particulates while exposing us to 100 times more radiation than nuclear plants that create no CO2. In fact, coal ash is more radioactive than any emission from any operating nuclear plant.” How Coal Kills 17 Feb 2015
In one year, a CO2-free, 1,000 MW nuclear plant creates about 500 cu ft of spent fuel that can be recycled to retrieve useful U-238, reducing its bulk by about 90%. (An average U. S. bathroom is about that size.) In that same year, a 1,000 MW coal plant creates 65,000 tons of CO2 plus enough toxic ash to cover an entire football field to a height of at least 200 feet.
Every year, we store 140 million tons of coal ash in unlined or poorly lined landfills and tailing ponds. In 2008, five million tons of toxic ash burst through a Tennessee berm (see below), destroying homes and fouling lakes and rivers.
Coal-fired power plants leak more toxic pollution into America’s waters than any other industry. (A June, 2013 test found that arsenic levels leaking from unlined coal ash ponds were 300 times the safety level for drinking water.)
And in 2014, North Carolina’s Duke Energy’s plant (now bankrupt) “spilled” 9,000 tons of toxic coal ash sludge into the Dan River. Why do they always say “spilled” – never “gushed?”
Coal companies like to promote their supposedly “clean coal,” which really means “not quite so filthy,” but despite making an attempt at carbon capture and storage (CCS) at a new power plant in Saskatchewan, the plant has been a failure. (Burning fossil fuels causes 4.5 million early deaths per year.)
CO2 removal devices use natural gas or electricity, which is usually generated by burning carbon. The moral hazard of removing CO2 from the air is that it justifies burning fossil fuels.
Technology to Make Clean Energy from Coal is Stumbling in Practice An electrical plant in Saskatchewan was the great hope for industries that burn coal. In the first large-scale project of its kind, the plant was equipped with a technology that promised to pluck carbon out of the utility’s exhaust and bury it, transforming coal into a cleaner power source. In the months after opening, the utility and the government declared the project an unqualified success, but the USD 1.1 billion project is now looking like a dream.
Known as SaskPower’s Boundary Dam 3, the project has been plagued by shutdowns, has fallen way short of its emissions targets, and faces an unresolved problem with its core technology. The costs, too, have soared, requiring tens of millions of dollars in new equipment and repairs.
“At the outset, its economics were dubious,” said Cathy Sproule, a member of the legislature who released confidential internal documents about the project. “Now they’re a disaster….”
New York Times by Ian Austen, 29 March 2016, Ottawa
Even modern, 75% efficient coal-burners with thirty-year lifespans can’t compete with nuclear plants that have lifespans of 60 years and provide CO2-free power at 90% efficiency, and the new plants are even safer. In addition, our coal reserves will last 100 years at best. And as we “decarbonize”, we will require increasing amounts of electricity, and the only source of economical CO2-free, 24/7 power must be our new, super-safe, highly efficient nuclear reactors that cannot melt down.
Note: The word “efficiency,” AKA “capacity factor,” in this book means the amount of electricity created over an extended period by wind, solar, etc. compared to their maximum power rating. Unfortunately, the maximum power rating is often used to sell the project. For nuclear reactors, this figure is at least 90%, but it is 33% for windmills and just 19 -22% for pv solar – and solar panel efficiency degrades by 1% per year during their short, 20 year lifespan. (Thermal efficiency is a separate matter.)
When a gas pipeline exploded in 2010 at San Bruno, California, 8 people died, 35 homes were levelled and dozens more were damaged. In 2016, a federal government report stated that natural gas explosions cause heavy property damage, often with deaths, about 180 times per year– that’s every other day.
In 2010, British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico “spilled” 200 million gallons of oil and killed 11 workers and 800,000 birds. Prior to that, an explosion at a Texas BP refinery killed fifteen workers. And BP, which was also involved in the Exxon Valdez “spill” in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, is just one of the many oil companies that we subsidise with USD 2.4 billion every year.
“‘Evolution is driven by the tendency of all organisms to expand their habitat and exploit the available resources… Just as bacteria in a Petri dish grow until they have consumed all of the nutrients, and then die in a toxic soup of their own waste.”
Later in 2010, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured in Michigan, eventually “spilling” more than a million gallons of tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo River. When monitors at the Alberta office reported that the line pressure had fallen to zero, control room staff dismissed the warning as a false alarm and cranked up the pressure twice, which worsened the disaster. In 2018, Enbridge’s “cleanup” was still incomplete.
In 2013, a spectacular train wreck dumped 2 million gallons of North Dakota crude oil into Lac Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 residents and incinerating the centre of the town – but that’s just another page in the endless petroleum tale that includes Exxon’s disastrous, 2016 “spill” in Mayflower, Arkansas, that received scant notice from the press.
And in November 2013, a train loaded with 2.7 million gallons of crude oil went incendiary in Alabama, followed in December by a North Dakota conflagration.
2014 began with a fiery derailment in New Brunswick, Canada, and in October 2014, 625,000 liters of oil and toxic mine-water were “spilled” in Alberta.
July, August and September brought Alberta’s autumn, 2014 total to 90 pipeline “spills.” 2015 brought four, fiery oil train wrecks just by March, and 2016 delivered two Alabama pipeline explosions – one close to Birmingham.
In late 2015, California’s horrific, Aliso Canyon methane “leak” (think “geyser”) erupted, spewing forth 100,000 tons of natural gas, the equivalent of approximately 3 billion gallons of gasoline or adding 500,000 cars to our roads for a year.
The Southern California Gas Company finally managed to throttle the geyser in February, 2016. Incidentally, Aliso’s 100,000 tons of “leakage” is just 25% of California’s allowed leakage, which is an indication of the political power of the natural gas industry. (Five months later, a new headline appeared: “Massive Fracking Explosion in New Mexico”)
The Aliso “leak” caused the loss of 70 billion cubic feet (BCF) of gas that California utilities count on to create electricity for the hot summer months. As a consequence, the California Independent Service Operator, which manages California’s grid, estimated that due to Aliso, 21 million customers should expect to be without power for 14 days during the summer.
According to Reuters, (June 2016), “SoCalGas uses Aliso Canyon to provide gas to power generators that cannot be met with pipeline flows alone on about 10 days per month during the summer, according to state agencies.”
However, during the summer, SoCalGas also strives to fill Aliso Canyon to prepare for the winter heating season. State regulators, however, subsequently ordered the company to reduce the amount of gas in Aliso to just 15 BCF and use that fuel to reduce the risk of power interruptions in the hot summer months of 2016. Fortunately, State regulators have also said that they won’t allow SoCalGas to inject fuel into the facility until the company has inspected all of its 114 storage facilities.
The Aliso disaster wiped out all of the state’s Green House Gas (GHG) reductions from its wind and solar systems – and led to a USD 1.8 billion judgement against SoCalGas in September, 2021. In 2016, California officials also reported leakage at a San Joachim County storage facility that was “similar to, or slightly above, background levels at other natural gas storage facilities.”
Dr. Alex Cannara, a California resident writes, “Combustion sources [unlike nuclear power], aren’t burdened with their true costs. Natural gas, for example, is not cheaper than nuclear or anything else. In 2016, our allowed leakage wipes wind/solar out by 4 times. In other words, ‘renewables’ in a gas state like California wipe out their benefits every 3 months because they depend on gas for most of their nameplate ratings. The Aliso storage was largely used to compensate for ‘renewables’ inevitable shortfall.“The most important combustion cost is the unlimited downside risk of its emissions for the entire planet, but in February 2016, our CEC approved 600MW of added gas burning in the San Diego region simply because the San Onofre nuclear plant wasn’t running, due to possibly corrupt actions by SoCla Gas, SCE, Sempra Energy and Edison Intl.
“Such practices were prevented for 75 years by the 1935 PUHCA, but the Bush administration repealed it in 2005 after decades of carbon combustion-interest lobbying. Some states – not California – passed legislation to correct for the 2005 PUHCA repeal.”
There’s more: In August, 2016, the PennsylvaniaEPA admitted that oil and gas production in the state emitted as much methane as Aliso Canyon. The Aliso “leak” was deemed a disaster, but the hundreds of equally damaging Pennsylvania “leaks” were considered business as usual.
Finally, also in August, 2016, a thirty-inch pipeline exploded in southeast New Mexico, killing five adults and five children while leaving two other adults in critical condition in a Lubbock, Texas hospital.
All of this could have been avoided if, instead of pursuing intermittent, short-lived, carbon-dependent windmills and solar panels (Chapters 9 and 10), we had expanded safe, CO2-free Nuclear Power.
Dr. Wade Allison, in Nuclear is For Life, wrote: “Critics of civilian nuclear power use what they fear might happen due to a nuclear failure – but never has – but ignore other accidents that have been far worse: – The 1975 dam failure in China that killed 170,000; – The 1984 chemical plant disaster in Bhopal, India where 3,899 died and 558,000 were injured; – The 1889, Johnstown. PA flood that drowned 2,200; – The 1917 explosion of a cargo ship in Halifax, N. S. where 2,000 died and 9,000 were injured; – Turkey’s 2014 coal mine accident that took 300 lives; – The 2015 warehouse explosion in China that cost 173 lives. “
The list seems endless, but no one advocates destroying dams or closing chemical plants.
The way the world has reacted to the Fukushima accident has been the real disaster with huge consequences to the environment, but the accident itself was not.”
“In California, defective, Japanese-built steam generators at the San Onofre plant could have been replaced for about USD 600 million, but the plant is being decommissioned at a cost of USD 4.5 billion because of Fukushima and anti-nuclear zealotry. The plant could be replaced with two, CO2-free AP-1000 reactors for USD 14 Billion.” – Mike Conley
In this foolish way, California lost the CO2-free electricity generated by San Onofre – 9% of California’s needs – which was replaced by carbon burning power plants and/or carbon-reliant wind and solar.
Nuclear plants are required to set aside part of their profits to pay the cost of decommissioning, but no such requirement is made of wind and solar farms. Neither are carbon companies required to pre-fund the removal of miles of pipelines, the cleanup of refinery sites, or the sealing of their abandoned wells.
I repeat, NO ONE has died from radiation created by commercial nuclear power production in Western Europe, Asia or the Southern and Western hemispheres, but more than 2,000,000 people die prematurely every year from the burning of coal, gas, wood and oil.
If you REALLY care about safety, check this chart!
A 2019 study lowered the nuclear death rate from 0.0013 to 0.0007/Twh.
The original version of this chart, which rated nuclear power at 0.04 deaths per Terawatt hour, included thousands of LNT-predicted Chernobyl deaths that never happened.
As a consequence, this image, which reflects reality instead of LNT [Linear No Threshold] errors, reveals that nuclear power is far safer than initially thought, and that nuclear is actually 115 times safer than wind – not 4,340 times safer than solar – not 10, 3,000 times safer than natural gas, 27,000 times safer than oil – and coal is out of sight.
Comparing Daily Fuel requirements and CO2 production for a 1,000 MW Power Plant
Fuel Quantity (kg)
CO2 Production (Tons)
Solid Fission (U232)
Natural Gas Burning
240,000,000 cu ft
Coming up next week, Episode 5 – The Big Melt and The Acid Bath.
The African continent is a behemoth of people, resources and potential. The area of the combined 58 countries and regions is 1.8 times larger than Russia; 3 times larger than the European Union; and 84 times larger than Germany. The 1.3 billion people living in Africa (16% of the worlds’ population) have available to them a combined power generating capacity of ~230 GW. This equates to about 1,500 kWh per person per year in energy consumption.
A Billion More People
Over the next 30 years there will be another 1 billion new people born on the African continent. Africa will be the youngest and most dynamic region on earth. With global “peak child” happening in 2014 (a demonstrable fact) the number of children coming to the planet has plateaued and will remain that way for the foreseeable future as societies improve their living standards and reduce the size of families. This is also so in Africa, yet the population will grow no matter what. Furthermore, the African continent will hold more than 3 billion people by 2100.
And energy will be the prime enabler to provide those billions with a decent quality of life.
Improving Lifestyle means Increasing Energy Consumption
South Africa has the highest energy consumption per person, at 4,100 kWh per year. Yet this is still below the 5,500 kWh average across Europe. Further across the continent it is clear that some countries lack basic energy infrastructure to bring energy to their people.
Let’s assume that by 2050 the present average of 1,500 kWh per person per year increases to 3,000 kWh*. Thus the total energy generation capacity becomes almost 800 GW. Thus 570 GW of new power generating capacity is required to be built from now to 2050.
*This means a 50 MW ‘burner’ will produce the energy needed for about 150,000 people.
Avoiding the Renewables Trap
The Africa Renewable Energy Initiative planned to install 10 GW of wind and solar by 2020 (achieved) and 300 GW of wind and solar by 2030. But they are forgetting Germany’s failed 20 year experiment in wind and solar. In Germany, CO2 levels are unchanged and electricity prices have doubled. Now Germany is planning to restart coal fired power stations. The reason is simple. When considering all factors, wind and solar are simply not viable. This is best illustrated by the Energy Return on Investment ratio, or EROI. This bar chart is developed from the Berlin Institute for Solid-State Nuclear Physics (Institut für Festkörper-Kernphysik) and available on the Australian government’s nuclear scientist’s website. The Energy Return on Investment Ratio is a macro level indicator of the overall usefulness of the energy derived from any particular form. How many units of energy can be recovered for each unit of energy expended. The EROI of wind and solar (3.9 and 1.6 respectively) fails miserably when compared to coal (30), gas (28) and existing solid-fuel nuclear fission (75). But our focus is the literal purple elephant in the room – Molten Salt Fission Technology. It’s EROI is 2000 to 1! With such a significant obvious benefit, over all other forms of energy production, it is only a matter of time before the genie is out of the bottle.
Thus as the reality of low value return on wind and solar is realised, Molten Salt Technology (and other small modular reactors using traditional solid fuels) will gain traction to fill the growing requirements of Africa’s energy needs.
A New Paradigm of Industrial Growth
One can imagine a fleet of up to 5,000 small modular Molten Salt Fission machines each with a capacity of 100 MW installed strategically across Africa. Creating a decentralised, distributed power generation system. Some sites will be larger or smaller than others, driven by domestic electricity demands. With the power facilities having a fuelled lifespan exceeding 30 years, it is quite easy to see energy as no longer an issue across the African continent.
But it goes further. Whilst reliable 24/7 power from Molten Salt Fission machines provides ample energy for domestic needs, the technology supports industrial growth and development. 1 GW and larger power installations are able to drive industries reliant on both heat and power. Facilities of this size could lead to industrial parks such as the one here envisaged by government energy and industrial development planners in Turkey.
A Positive Future
The people of Africa have a bright future ahead for them. With technologies tried and true from western spheres, the people of Africa can select and choose the most appropriate and most suitable means to improve their quality of life. For themselves and for their children. Molten Salt Fission energy technology is a strong contender for the energy mix of Africa.
Excerpts from the Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) 7- 31 May, 2013 General Assembly Records.
Chapter III Scientific findings [Fukushima]
“1. The accident and the release of radioactive material into the environment.
On 11 March 2011, at 14:46 [2:46 pm] local time, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake occurred near Honshu, Japan, creating a devastating tsunami that left a trail of death and destruction in its wake.
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which flooded over 500 square kilometres of land, resulted in the loss of more than 20,000 lives.
The loss of off-site and on-site electrical power and compromised safety systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station led to severe core damage to three of the six nuclear reactors on the site.
The Government of Japan recommended the evacuation of about 78,000 people living within a 20-km (12 mile) radius of the power plant and the sheltering in their own homes of about 62,000 other people living between 20 and 30 km from the plant. However, the evacuations themselves also had repercussions for the people involved, including a number of evacuation-related deaths and the subsequent impact on mental and social well-being
Those “evacuation-related deaths” would eventually total 1,600, with 90% of them caused by Japan’s reliance on American radiation safety standards that are based on a fraud that began in the 1920’s. More on that in coming episodes.
That fraud, committed by a Nobel laureate and formalised by the U.S. in the 1950’s, became regulatory dogma that has greatly retarded the expansion of CO2-free nuclear power, accelerated Climate Change and caused the deaths of millions who, out of fear of radiation, avoided essential diagnostic methods and treatments, and at Fukushima caused hundreds of suicides by distraught and unstable people, primarily the elderly, who feared that they would never see their homes or businesses again.
The linear model has since been dropped by a number of international bodies specialising in radiation protection.
The daughter of an elderly woman who had hung herself lamented, “If she had not been forced to evacuate, she wouldn’t have killed herself.” (Chapter 7 of the book compares the deaths caused by using fossil fuels instead of emission-free nuclear power).
Children were not allowed to play outside, and topsoil was needlessly removed at great expense from farm fields that became, as a consequence, less fertile.
Hundreds of elderly people were hastily removed from nursing homes and hospitals, only to be scattered across the hardwood floors of gymnasiums, where many died from makeshift medical care, or sometimes none at all.
These deaths were preventable, just as Climate Change can be moderated if the industrialised nations replace the burning of carbon and the use of deadly, inefficient, carbon-reliant windmills and solar farms (chapters 9 and 10) with CO2-free nuclear power as rapidly as possible while developing technologies that support natural processes that can remove CO2 from our atmosphere. Windmills can’t do it. Neither can solar, not singly or combined with wind. For that, we will need an abundance of safe, efficient, CO2-free nuclear power. Nothing else will do.
Here is a podcast with George Erickson talking about Fukushima Daiichi:
Unintended Consequences is intended to help open-minded readers learn the truth about the severity of Climate Change, the need for nuclear power – not “alternatives” like wind and solar – and to explain why our unwarranted fear of tiny amounts of radiation has caused millions of deaths and disabilities.
Those who challenge the firmly held beliefs of legislative bodies and powerful organisations like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and their well-meaning but science-indifferent clones, soon learn that their arguments, no matter how logical or well documented, will often be brushed aside with a dismissive “That’s just your opinion.”
To counter that assertion, I, Dr. George Erickson, have included many links to supportive material from a wide range of professionals in the energy field: engineers, nuclear physicists, science journalists and specialists in nuclear medicine.
Although inserting links to the work of so many experts within the text instead of footnoting them might seem intrusive, I’ve taken that risk because the health of our planet requires an informed public and science-literate legislators – unlike those who are supporting inefficient technologies that are damaging the environment they claim to revere.
“It is much easier to fool someone than it is to convince them that they have been fooled.” Mark Twain
Unfortunately, when I and my associates give climate change/energy presentations that support advanced nuclear power and criticise inefficient, environment-damaging, carbon- reliant wind and solar farms that we were conned into accepting, we frequently encounter disbelief, a problem that Mark Twain addressed: “It is much easier to fool someone than it is to convince them that they have been fooled.”
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