In Leverage (see at right) along with a series of articles here over the years I’ve made what I believe is a decent case for LFTR technology — nuclear fission using thorium as the fertile fuel dissolved in molten salt.
Why? Several reasons, chief among them:
- The fuel is (relatively) plentiful, about as common as lead in the environment. It is also specifically found in coal, which happens to be very convenient for one means of exploiting this technology.
- Carbon (in any form) can be turned into liquid hydrocarbons (gasoline and diesel, to name two.) The Germans figured this out in WWII and it is currently used in production in South Africa, among a few other places. In other words, we know how to do that.
- The LFTR runs at ~600-650C, which conveniently is a temperature that works well for direct use in the Fischer-Tropsch reaction to convert said carbon to liquid fuels.
- We have ~400 years, more or less, of coal at reasonably-conservative energy use growth rates (e.g. approximately equal to our expected population growth), so we have both the Thorium and coal to do this.
- Finally, there is a monstrous surplus of energy produced from the thorium found naturally in coal (~13x) compared to just burning the coal.
These points means we can replace the electricity we generate today by burning coal, use the coal to make synfuel and thus completely replace all foreign sources of oil for the next 400 years. The back-of-the-envelope math says we can do this using approximately the same amount of coal we use today — but in a fashion that processes it first so as to remove the sulfur and other nasty compounds from what goes into the air. This will also cut CO2 emissions markedly because while the land and air fuel will remain liquid (and for other thermodynamic reasons I believe they will in the main for a long time to come, the fad-car pontifications notwithstanding) the use of oil for that fuel will go to an effective zero while the coal consumption will not increase. While I personally do not believe in the global scaremongering climate nonsense if you happen to this makes a further reason to support such a path.
The laws of thermodynamics are not suggestions folks; they are laws. Any solution we wish to put forward to our energy challenges must comport with those laws, and most of the ones that the greenies want to embrace simply do not. If you want to live in a cave then most of those “other ways” are fine, but few of us are happy to live in a cave.
One final point:
Energy is the key to GDP and both economic and personal prosperity; we had damn well better get off our asses or we’re going to get run over from the East.