My first encounter with Thorium as a nuclear fuel was a tweet from Tim O’Reilly to this presentation remix on YouTube.
Now this from my uncle Steve Lord, an astronomer/researcher who commented, “This from one of the world most esteemed astronomers…”
We review the science behind climate change from an astronomer’s perspective. We investigate the evidence locked in Antarctic ice cores of past cycles of runaway warming and cooling (interglacial periods and ice ages) and their relationship to astronomical phenomena (the Milankovich cycle), and we point out why current events are different. We also discuss the alarming possibility that the Earth has already passed the tipping point for the melting of the polar ice. We then review alternatives to our current energy practices. Compared to projected needs by mid-century, there are only five realistic choices to reduce or eliminate net carbon dioxide emissions: (1) fossil fuel with carbon capture and sequestration, (2) biofuels, (3) solar photovoltaics/ solar thermal, (4) wind, and (5) nuclear. We point out the drawbacks of the first four. We then explain the basics of nuclear fission, concluding that reprocessing and breeding are necessary to remove public concerns about waste management, safety, and sustainability of the nuclear option. We point out why the long overlooked technologies of molten salt reactors coupled to the thorium fuel cycle is superior in terms of cost, passive safety, and weapons non-proliferation to the current usage of nuclear power. We discuss an approach using novel materials to build two-fluid molten salt reactors on a rapid enough schedule to make the United States and the world free of plutonium and net CO2 emission by mid-century. Of particular interest may be the possiblility of leveraging the capacity of such facilities by coupling nuclear power to the production of artificial coal. The latter holds the promise of making existing coal-fired power plants not only carbon neutral, but even carbon negative. In this manner, it may be possible to reverse human-induced climate change and pass on to future generations a mode of living compatible with satisfying the economic aspirations of billions of people now living in poverty together with a greener, more benign, and more bountiful planet.
Uncle astronomer Steve writes:
It was an excellent lecture. Shu is part of a group designing future Th reactors.
While an advisor to their president, Shu got the Taiwan govt to start researching test
reactors. But then the US came in and had the Taiwanese shut the project down and decided
the US would take the lead. Now this is a US govt funded research project.
The group also wants to use the reactor power to make bio fuels (coal like material) from fast crops like bamboo. Why? The coal will burn w/out putting C compounds into the air but rather back into the ground and with the help of the bamboo plants the process will sequester CO2 from the air.
So inspiring to me are the essentialists of Friends With You.
I had the utter delight to spend a day last week with the precociously hard working and brilliant students of Wavecrest Montessori middle school. And thank you to the student’s teacher Janene Case for inviting me to speak and visit on the Live Earth Farms day.
Update: They published a blog post about my visit. I am so lucky.
Update: We’ve launched our Burning Man 2011 website: http://billionjellybloom.org/
Call me a grumpy old codger, but I liked the old way better. For one thing, I used to have at least a rudimentary idea of how a newspaper got produced: On deadline, drunks with cigars wrote stories that were edited by constipated but knowledgeable people, then printed on paper by enormous machines operated by people with stupid hats and dirty faces.
Ian Bremmer’s The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations? is on the top of my reading list.