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October 20, 2006

Big Coal book by Jeff Goodell

As pointed out to me by Kirk Sorenson of Thorium Energy

Review 1 of Big Coal by Jeff Goodell


the American Lung Association estimates that 27,000 people a year still die prematurely as a result of pollution from coal-fired power plants. Coal-fired power plants are also the largest emitters of mercury in the United States, releasing forty-eight tons of this potent neurotoxin each year. Combustion wastes from coal plants — fly ash, scrubber sludge — are also a significant environmental and public health concern.

Coal is the most carbon-intensive of all fossil fuels, and it is not an overstatement to say that 200 years of coal burning by industrialized nations is largely responsible for the fact that carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere are higher than they’ve been in the past 650,000 years. Today, about 40 percent of the U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide come from burning coal. To put that in perspective, one big coal-burning power plant I visited in Georgia emits about four times as much carbon dioxide as all the cars and trucks built by the Ford Motor Company in a single year.


Review from the New york Times

"Big Coal" includes a chilling quotation from Joel Schwartz, a public health researcher who produced some of the first detailed studies of the toxic effects of air pollution: "I see more people dying of particle air pollution than are dying of AIDS, and I need to call people's attention to that."

Goodell's writing, so fiery and committed through the narrative parts of "Big Coal," turns oddly tentative when it comes time to endorse solutions. He waves off green dreams like wind and solar electricity. He pins much of his hopes on a kind of national psychotherapy program to "change our thinking" and "make the invisible visible," which translates into a vague endorsement of new emissions taxes and regulations.

Goodell does identify two specific, promising solutions: carbon trading and carbon sequestration. Carbon trading defines the cost of pumping carbon dioxide into the air and lets the market choose the best way to reduce emissions. Sequestration is an experimental technique for snatching carbon dioxide out of the power plant and pumping it into the ground — a technique that dovetails with a highly efficient new way of burning coal, known as the integrated gassification combined cycle.


Jeff Goodell connects all the dots but the last. Mass produced nuclear power plants are what can really turn the tide.

Carbon sequestering costs $100-300 per ton of carbon emissions avoided. They hope to get it down to $10 per ton by 2015. We need to get rid of 6 billion tons of carbon each year from human activity. $600 billion to 1.8 trillion per year at current costs and down to the "bargain" price of $60 billion per year just to get rid of the new stuff and if we stop increasing the carbon generated.

This article explains how nuclear power got killed by unreasonable regulations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and financing costs GE and other U.S. firms currently build 1,000 MW and larger nuclear units in Japan, Korea, China, India and Taiwan in 4 to 5 years. The cost for recent nuclear plants in China is $3 billion for 2 GW of power. China is planning to build two 1-GW reactors every year for the next 15 years.

A coal Chernobyl twice a week and a coal 9-11 three times per year

Time Magazine recently wrote about the bright future of coal energy The world used 4.6 billion tons of coal in 2004 and this amount is increasing. Global consumption of electricity is expected to double between 2002 and 2030.

Global photovoltaic (solar) production is 1.7 GW in 2005. It is growing at 45% per year.
We added 12GW of wind power in 2005. It is growing at 25% per year.
The world adds 100-200GW of electricity every year depending upon economic growth. Wind and solar will not be added fast enough to stop new coal plant construction for 10-30 years. We need to not only stop making new coal plants but replace the old ones. Nuclear power must be included as part of the solution that we push now. Ideally we need to bring Thorium reactors online. We need to fasttrack them. The nuclear reactors are available technology. We have improved versions.

Releases in 1982 from worldwide combustion of 2800 million tons of coal totaled 3640 tons of uranium (containing 51,700 pounds of uranium-235) and 8960 tons of thorium. The population gets 100 times more radiation from a coal plant than from a nuclear plant. So in 2004 by burning 4.6 billions tons of coal, we released 5980 tons of uranium into the air and 14720 tons of Thorium. This is like 80 truck size dirty nuclear bombs releasing 1 ton of radioactive material every day.

China had 8000 coal mining deaths in 2003. 80% of the world total. Therefore, 10,000 coal mining deaths per year That is more than three times the deaths from 9-11.

Chernobyl killed 50 people and made 4000 gravely ill.

Some 600,000 miners in China were suffering from lung diseases at large state owned mines due to poor ventilation, while last year state mine workers reported 20,000 new cases of lung disease. "If we consider small local and township mines, which don't report this kind of statistic, then there are some 2 million mine workers with lung disease."

MSNBC and clear the air indicate that there are 24,000 premature deaths from soot every year in America alone.

In a per year number, we are looking at about 400,000 gravely ill people per year.
Therefore, this is like 2 Chernobyls per week. If coal use doubled, we would be looking at coal Chernobyls 4 times per week.

How much oil does it take to dig and move 4.6 billion tons of coal?
How many traffic accident happen moving all those loads?
How much wear and tear is there on the roads?

Coal is a main cause of global warming. Global warming is killing animal, plant and fish species.

Despite all of the publicity the old nuclear reactors in the US did not cause direct deaths from radiation. (Other than a handful of safety accidents) The new reactors are safer. Thorium reactors would be even safer. In 46 years, using 440 nuclear plants, Chernobyl happened once.

Existing Coal plants must be regulated and the nuclear material prevented from going into the air. Every other technological and policy means at our disposal should be used to reduce coal usage. Biofuels, even genetically engineered biocrops, more solar, more wind, and more nuclear. Upgrade existing nuclear plants to add 160 GW.

The urgency is there is a coal Chernobyl twice a week, 80 one ton dirty bombs every day, three coal 9-11s every year, coal is a primary cause of global warming, it is costing us animals and the environment, it is increasing the frequency of Katrina events and all of this will double by 2030 if we do not take very strong action.

more reading:
More facts on how bad coal is

Time magazine had a recent follow up on coal. It shows that there are legal challenges and a push to regulate the coal industry. The radiation fallout issue is not addressed.

Functional Prototype Microwave Invisibility Cloak Made

Prototype invisibility cloak versus microwaves has been created Researchers first fired microwaves at a copper cylinder and recorded the electronic shadow it cast. They next showed in contrast that microwaves largely pass around the invisibility cloak as if it weren't there. "There is some reflection, so this isn't perfect, but it is only a prototype," says David Schurig of Duke University.

October 19, 2006

Hypersonic Mach 10 test aircraft planned for 2008

From defensetech, the Air Force is two Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicles, built by Lockheed Martin with input from NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), will take to the air in 2008. The $100-million program aims to field a Mach-10 unmanned aircraft that can spy on foreign powers, drop bombs or even lob satellites into orbit.

SKorean scientists say cancer-killing virus developed


The new therapy developed by the team from Yonsei University uses a genetically-engineered form of the adenovirus, which normally causes colds. Following three rounds of injections, more than 90 percent of cancer cells in the brains, liver, lungs and womb of mice disappeared within 60 days, the team said. Clinical tests will be carried out early next year and last 18 months.

Physicists boost 'entanglement' of atom pairs

They demonstrated a method for refining entangled atom pairs (a process called purification) so they can be more useful in quantum computers and communications systems, emerging technologies that exploit the unusual rules of quantum physics for pioneering applications such as "unbreakable" data encryption.

The reported purification rate is a record (although the entangled state is not yet pure enough for use in a working computer or other device) with more than one success for every three attempts, compared to one in a million in the photon experiments. Theoretically, the NIST process could be enhanced and then repeated as many times as necessary to create a stream of near-perfectly entangled pairs in a computer or network. The NIST team's continuing research aims to substantially improve the purification operations through, for example, improved control of magnetic fields and laser intensity.

Generating Power From Kites

Hopefully it can work well and at or near the costs that they envision.

From wired, when wind hits the KiteGen, kites spring from funnels at the ends of poles. For each kite, winches release a pair of high-resistance cables to control direction and angle. The kites are light and ultra-resistant, capable of reaching an altitude of 2,000 meters. Research by Sequoia Automation, the small company near Turin heading the project, estimates that KiteGen could churn out one gigawatt of power at a cost of just 1.5 euros per megawatt hour. That's nearly 30 times less than the average cost in Europe of 43 euros per megawatt hour.

Proponents say other plusses of the merry-go-round generator are the contained cost of 360,000 euros and limited amount of space needed. Even with a modest diameter of about 320 feet (100 meters), they estimate KiteGen can produce half a gigawatt of energy. Emulators for the scalable project envision a 2,000 meter-version that would generate 5 gigawatts of power. The team expects it to be up and running in about two years. Outstanding questions about such a generator include location and possible bureaucratic headaches over permits for air space.


More reading:
A pdf IEEE paper on the technology

October 18, 2006

Coal and Oil have been the real alternative to Nuclear power

A couple of other comments that I made on the greenpeace site. Re-edited.
The comments were in reference to information at links pointed to by the Greenpeace person.
End the nuclear age campaign. Talks about why Greenpeace is against nuclear power. they think plants are unsafe, nuclear waste problems and nuclear proliferation.
However, the current and past real alternative to nuclear power has been coal and oil. Coal and oil plants and mining are inherently less safe than nuclear. Here are statistics on coal mining deaths in the US and China Some calculate 22,000 lives each year in US alone are lost prematurely due to getting and using coal energy. Even without an unusual meltdown type accident coal plants kill people from normal operation. Nuclear energy deaths (other than 50 so far from Chernobyl and 4000 more potential deaths) are mainly hypothetical deaths and fears of radiation. Those 4000 Chernobyl deaths from 56 years of nuclear plant operations and a few hundred nuclear submarine deaths are less than one year of mining and health deaths from coal under business as usual.

Another interesting point is that more radiation and radioactive material is released from coal plants than from nuclear plants For the year 1982, assuming coal contains uranium and thorium concentrations of 1.3 ppm and 3.2 ppm, respectively, each typical plant released 5.2 tons of uranium (containing 74 pounds of uranium-235) and 12.8 tons of thorium that year. Total U.S. releases in 1982 (from 154 typical plants) amounted to 801 tons of uranium (containing 11,371 pounds of uranium-235) and 1971 tons of thorium. These figures account for only 74% of releases from combustion of coal from all sources. Releases in 1982 from worldwide combustion of 2800 million tons of coal totaled 3640 tons of uranium (containing 51,700 pounds of uranium-235) and 8960 tons of thorium. The population gets 100 times more radiation from a coal plant than from a nuclear plant.

The end the nuclear age links that you have discuss renewables generating more power than nuclear already. The vast majority of that renewable power is hydroelectric. I thought that Greenpeace would be against building more dams, since it messes up the water ecosystem and the surrounding vegetation. The rotting vegetation releases CO2.

Here are the figures from the Energy Information administration for the global picture Notice that the forecast is for hundreds of new coal plants to be built. President Bush has coal as a central part of his energy policy.

The british anti-nuke site says that 10 new plants will take at least until 2024. Perhaps those are for UK plants with UK building regulations. The projected global case is for over 43 gigawatts of nuclear capacity to be added from non-OECD countries. It is only going to take China about 4 years to build each new plant. Building the plants can be a lot faster with less bureaucracy.

Improvements to the fuel (hollow cylinders instead of solid rods) and the heat removal liquid will allow current nuclear plants to generate 50% more power. In the USA that is 160GW. This can be done over the next few years.

Nuclear waste is a problem. However, nuclear waste is not killing anyone or very few people now. Coal and oil pollution and CO2 are costing lives now. Thorium reactors can process the current waste. So we will not be storing the waste for 10,000 years but converting it to a more manageable form in decades if we make the right choices.

Nuclear alone is not the only answer, but it is part of a better and realistic solution. Along with carbon sequestering, conservation, efficiency improvements, solar and wind.

Thorium reactors can be brought online faster if we use the liquid-fluoride (molten-salt) reactors. The Norwegians are looking at accelerator based versions. How long things take depend upon choices and how well we plan and execute.

Here are links to my thorium articles

A lot of the information is from Kirk Sorensons excellent Thorium energy blog

Accelerating Futures has an interesting proposal for mass produced Thorium reactors

There are some 440 nuclear plants around the world.

Most of the hundreds of reactors were built from 1960 to late 1980's. So the statement that only ten can be made from now to 2024 is wrong. China has turned on seven reactors from 2002 to 2006.

The most conservative IAEA projection is for nuclear power to increase to 640 GW by 2030. China will be adding 40 or more nuclear plants by itself. India has 8 under construction and is looking for ten times as much by 2022.

The world economy is not standing still. the energy revolution stuff is a plan to make enough power for individuals in there homes. Domestic power usage is not all there is. There is industry and productivity. Expansion and growth are going to happen. Greenpeace would have to initiate a successful war and a totalitarian regime to turn that around. As I noted before, millions die to keep the current system going.

I will also note that there is an excessive fear and fixation on nuclear weapons. What you fear is all out war. The fire bombing of Tokyo in world war 2 killed 100,000. In the same range as each of the atomic bombings. More than Nagasaki and almost as much as Hiroshima. Current weapons for fire bombing are 10-20 times more effective than at that time. An all out max-casualty conventional air campaign could run up any kind of casualty amount that you can imagine. Plus once a medical infrastructure is ruined a humanity disaster can easily be triggered via water supply etc... The point is we should not have all out war. Trying to campaign against one or two classes of weapons or technique is pointless.

Of the over 170 to 220 million deaths from mass killings in the 20th century less than 0.2% were from nuclear weapons.

It is alright to fear the potential deaths from nuclear weapons but try not to lose sight of the millions dieing every year now from coal and oil pollution and car accidents and conventional violence.

If we mass produced nuclear power 6000 plants or more by 2050. We should also develop solar and wind and other renewable power, but to get to over 10 times our current power level we will need more. You could say we can stop or convince China and India and other countries to not come up to our power usage or higher. The millions dead in the oil wars of the last two decades would be nothing compared to the fight to stop other countries from developing or in more resource competition wars. If we get most everyone off of the dependence on oil then I think the Middle East will still likely be a mess. It will be a mess like Africa. A lower priority mess where we look at non-military solutions and aid. On the plus side, we will have fairly happy and materially well off 70% of the world. The environment will be coming out of crisis as we stop adding CO2 and start sequestering and cleaning it up.

A 'Spin-Voltaic' Effect May Enable Silicon Spintronics

In contrast to extensive studies with several conventional semiconductors, such as gallium arsenide and indium arsenide, which can be made magnetic by adding magnetic impurities or by growing them next to standard ferromagnets, no such advances have yet been realized with silicon. Currently, even basic spintronic elements, such as reliable spin injection -- ensuring that electrons injected into silicon maintain their spin -- and spin detection have yet to be demonstrated in silicon. The difficulty is that silicon has an indirect band gap, Zutic said, which means that silicon cannot emit light efficiently.

It may now be possible to overcome this hurdle, he said, with a phenomenon he has named the spin-voltaic effect, a spin analog of the photovoltaic effect used in solar cells to convert light into electric energy.

"In the spin-voltaic effect, an injected spin produces an electrical signal due to its proximity with a magnetic region," he said, "a signal that could be measurable even in an indirect band gap material like silicon. Reversing the direction of injected spin could lead to switching the direction of electrical current, which can flow even if no electrical voltage has been applied.

"The spin-voltaic effect also can play an important role in providing dynamically tunable current amplification in a novel class of spin transistors, a building block for future spin-logic applications," he said.

Recent work by Zutic's collaborators at the Tokyo Institute of Technology has demonstrated for the first time the spin-voltaic effect in direct band-gap semiconductors.

New theory explains enhanced superconductivity in nanowires

This could lead to better utilization of superconducting wires and the ability to get enhanced superconducting characteristics.

From physorg.com, Superconducting wires are used in magnetic resonance imaging machines, high-speed magnetic-levitation trains, and in sensitive devices that detect variations in the magnetic field of a brain. Eventually, ultra-narrow superconducting wires might be used in power lines designed to carry electrical energy long distances with little loss.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign not only have discovered an unusual phenomenon in which ultra-narrow wires show enhanced superconductivity when exposed to strong magnetic fields, they also have developed a theory to explain it.

Magnetic fields are generally observed to suppress a material's ability to exhibit superconductivity – the ability of materials to carry electrical current without any resistance at low enough temperatures. Deviations from this convention have been observed, but there is no commonly accepted explanation for these exceptions, although several ideas have been proposed.

Magnetic fields can enhance the critical current in superconducting wires with very small diameters.

With postdoctoral research associate Andrey Rogachev (now a physics professor at the University of Utah) and graduate student Anthony Bollinger, Bezryadin deposited either niobium or an alloy of molybdenum and germanium onto carbon nanotubes to fabricate wires that were less than 10 nanometers wide. The superconductivity of these wires under a range of applied magnetic fields was examined, and the experimental results were compared with the proposed theory, revealing an excellent correlation between the two.

October 17, 2006

World will need many terawatts of power: just a question of how

A comment that I had put on a Greenpeace weblog Here is a modified and editted version of my comment.

Chernobyl was bad and not a good thing. But not making improved nuclear plants is a mistake. The alternative for the past 30 years has been to make more coal plants and use more oil.

Coal kills thousands every year from mining accidents and pollution. It increases global warming. Hundreds of thousands die in the fight over oil. So the long term 4000 and current 50 death toll from Chernobyl is small. New technology can make nuclear plants that are cleaner and are designed to not fail with a meltdown.

Thorium plants are needed to be fast tracked to start helping with the problem. Existing nuclear plants need to be expanded and some more built. Thorium will also need some time to ramp up, we will also have to make due with some carbon sequestering a portfolio of solutions.

Consider the big picture and all of the risks involved. There are plenty of risks in the status quo. The status quo is coal and oil. What are the real risks of a new generation of nuclear power ? What are the risks of using more coal?

Solar and wind are great but they are not ramping up fast enough. The world will need 2 terawatts more power generation over the next 20 years. Will the US, China, India and Europe go into recessions by allowing power shortages? Will those who could profit in the billions by making that power not choose to do so?
Get real. To feed the machines of commerce we all drive cars every year. Every year 1.2 million people die worldwide in car accidents. Almost 50,000 per year in the USA. The real costs of keeping the world economy rolling barely register. Millions die every year and the world does not blink.

Let us make practical and pragmatic choices. Since the economy will keep rolling and the new power generation will be made. We will keep moving around in some kind of vehicles. There will be 8 billion + people and the reality is that they will want not just a current US lifestyle but one that is even better. Let us make the best of it.

NRC Team uses new Quantum Technology to control molecular pathways

A chemical reaction, in which a starting molecule is converted to a product, follows path that seems to a molecule like a hill it must 'ski' down, as shown in the figure.



Here a molecule would normally react by heading down the hill towards valley B. The NRC team describes an experiment that is analogous to the 'Labyrinth' game in which a player controls the tilt of a board in order to guide a steel ball through a maze of holes; in this case a molecular scale game. The knob the researchers used is an ultrafast laser pulse (shown here as a wiggly black arrow) which re-shapes the hill (or tilts the board) as the molecule is sliding down the slope, using an interaction called the Dynamic Stark Effect. In this molecular 'Labyrinth' game, the interaction deflects the reacting molecule towards valley A rather than valley B. The breaking of the chemical bond associated with this process is illustrated on the left. A key aspect of the NRC approach is that the molecule does not absorb the laser light during this re-shaping. The absorption of the laser light would be equivalent to moving the molecule to a different hill instead of tilting the one it is on. This would generally lead to products other than the A or B products indicated in the figure. The avoidance of light absorption is important because different molecules absorb different colours of light, so it is impossible to find an absorption method that works the same for all molecules. Thus, the new NRC method of 'tilting the hill', based on the Dynamic Stark Effect, should be applicable to control of a broad range of quantum processes.

the tool used to alter molecular landscapes has implications beyond the control of chemical reactions. One example already mentioned is in the area of quantum information either to directly encode molecular scale information or to control molecular scale switches. Another application is in developing novel forms of optical microscopy of live cells, where quantum control methods can be used to sharpen images, enhance sensitivity and perhaps even perform molecular scale surgery on individual cells.

DNA Computing Targets West Nile Virus, Other Deadly Diseases

Researchers say that they have developed a DNA-based computer that could lead to faster, more accurate tests for diagnosing West Nile Virus and bird flu. Representing the first "medium-scale integrated molecular circuit," it is the most powerful computing device of its type to date, they say.


Macdonald and her associates showcased the computer's potential by engaging MAYA-II in a complete game of tic-tac-toe against human opponents, winning every time except in the rare event of a tie. Shown in the foreground of the picture above is a cell-culture plate containing pieces of DNA that code for possible "moves"; a display screen (background) shows that the computer (red squares) has won the game against its human opponent (blue).

Composed of more than 100 DNA circuits, MAYA-II is quadruple the size of its predecessor, MAYA-I, a similar DNA-based computer developed by the research team three-years ago.

The computer always makes the first move by activating the center well. Instead of using buttons or joysticks, a human player makes a "move" by adding a DNA sequence corresponding to their move in the eight remaining wells. The well chosen for the move by the human player responds by fluorescing green, indicating a match to the player's DNA input. The move also triggers the computer to make a strategic counter-move in one of the remaining wells, which fluoresces red. The game play continues until the computer eventually wins, as it is pre-programmed to do, Macdonald says. Each move takes about 30 minutes, she says.

October 16, 2006

Light hybrid electric bus from ORNL

A bus that weighs half as much as conventional buses, boasts three times the fuel economy and can carry 20 percent more passengers could debut by the middle of next year. At the heart of the bus is an ultra-high-strength stainless steel body and chassis that would actually be up to 30 percent less expensive to build than the standard bus body. ORNL researchers are helping develop the lightweight structure and chassis by performing computer crash studies. Results show the side intrusion to be within allowable limits. The bus would be much quieter and have far less of an environmental impact compared to typical diesel-powered buses. The bus would also provide significant operational cost savings. The hybrid electric bus is being developed through a collaboration of several partners, including Autokinetics of Rochester Hills, Mich., Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Department of Energy Office of FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies Program.

Accelerating Futures Idea: Mass producing and improving Thorium reactors

Accelerating Futures Michael Anissimov has an excellent article about mass producing and improving thorium reactor designs. We should use our improving technology (better materials, nanotechnology) to make current technology like fission even better economically and remove or radically reduce the downsides. We should also re-evaluate and redesign our systems.

My past Thorium articles:
Norway is considering a major thorium reactor program

Details on how Thorium reactors are proliferation proof

Strategic technology plan for addressing climate change

An american company that is working on developing Thorium reactors

List of thorium energy links

More thorium reactors

Nuclear energy is far better than coal

Links to energy technology sites

Even more on thorium reactors

Thorium reactors for the earth and the moon


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Glenn Harlan Reynolds article from 2002 on Project Orion

One of the greatest appeals of Orion was that the bigger you made it, the better it worked. While chemical rockets scale badly - with big ones much harder to build than small ones - Orion was just the opposite. That meant that large spacecraft, capable of long missions, were not merely possible, but actually easier, for a variety of reasons, than small ones. Bigger spaceships meant more mass for absorbing radiation and shock, more room to store fuel, and so on.

Could Orion ever come back? The answer is yes. The Test Ban Treaty is a real obstacle to any future deployment of Orion. However, it binds only a few nations, and many nations (like India and China) that are both nuclear-capable and interested in outer space have never signed it. For an up-and-coming country looking to seize the high ground in space in a hurry, Orion could have considerable appeal. And, of course, even the United States could withdraw from the Treaty, on three months' notice, under the Treaty's own terms.

Orion's scientists weren't worried about fallout. Orion would have produced some, but the amount would have been tiny compared to what was being released already from above-ground tests, and there was hope that additional work would have produced even cleaner bombs designed specifically for propulsion. Today, people are much more nervous about radiation and under current political conditions a ground-launched Orion is a non-starter, at least in Western countries. But not everyone cares as much about radiation, and indeed the countries that worry about it the least are those most likely to find Orion appealing as a way to attain space supremacy over more established space powers in a hurry. What's "Orion" in Chinese?



Some have suggested that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which forbids placing "nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction" in outer space, would also be a barrier to Orion, but I don't think so. A nuclear "bomb" used for space travel, arguably, isn't a "weapon." It's a tool - just as the Atlas rockets that launched the Mercury astronauts were, because of their use, different from the otherwise identical Atlas missiles aimed at the Soviet Union. (When asked about the difference, Kennedy responded: "attitude.")


My opinion: People get confused about weapons and radiation. These are understandable fears. However, nuclear weapons are not the only ones that could kill most people on the planet and destroy civilization. All out use of biological and chemical weapons could do it too. Conventional explosives used to create firebombing killed 100,000+ in Tokyo back in WWII. It was done in a couple of days. The capability exists to firebomb every population center, wreck the medical infrastructure and then release some flu. So if chemical bombs and weapons can be just as deadly then why do we use them all over our society and not use nuclear power and systems in some key areas where they can make things far better ? The dangers and bad uses still exist. We need to grab the upside and positive uses while not using it for the bad uses. We can use nuclear power and systems for space without increasing proliferation or increasing risks for nuclear war. In the meantime by not doing it we allow other problems to get worse. Also, by depending upon coal and chemicals more people continue to do die now.

In the future, nanotechnology will also just make it easier to kill everyone. There will be more potential downside and more potential upside. We have to go for the upside and control the downside. We should not repeat the same current choice with nuclear which is to limit the upside and without helping with the downside.

More on trapping antimatter

A pdf from the Nasa Institute fo Advanced Concepts discusses creating artificial magnetospheres and large superconducting coils to trap antimatter. Artificial magnetospheres was also the main component of the M2P2 propulsion system which would sail on the solar wind

From page 42 in the Bickford pdf, 10.5 Gwe orbital particle accelerators within the antimatter trap could be used to capture 1 gram of antimatter per year.

From page 11,

Beamed core antiproton propulsion (direct one-to-one annihilation and expulsion of antiproton and proton atoms, 1-1000 grams of antimatter would be required) approaches the theoretical ISP limit of about 30 x 10**6 seconds. Chemical propulsion is at about ISP ~400 seconds. Antimatter rockets have extremely good mass fractions due to the ISP influence on the rocket equation. Antimatter Catalyzed Microfission/Fusion (ACMF) requires only nanogram quantities of antiprotons to achieve spacecraft Δ Vs in the range of 100km/s. Less than 10 micrograms of antiprotons are required to send a 100 metric ton payload on a one year round trip mission to Jupiter. A traditional low energy Mars trajectory entails an average one way flight time of approximately 180 days while a 30 nanogram antiproton driven ACMF variant would have a flight time of about 45 days and also reduce the overall mass needed to be launched into LEO for each mission.
One of the most promising applications is to use antiprotons to image the interior of solids. Material properties and their distribution in the solid can be determined by examining the annihilation products. This has profound implications in both
medical diagnostics and homeland security. Also in the medical area, picogram quantities of antiprotons can be used to locally treat inoperable tumors.

Fuel Energy Density (J/kg)
Battery 7.2 x 10**5 Lithium Ion
Chemical 1.4 x 10**7 LO 2 /LH 2
Fission 8.2 x 10**13 U 235
Fusion 3.4 x 10**14 DT
Antimatter 9.0 x 10**16 E=mc 2

Note: Fission is 5 million times more concentrated than chemical systems. It is why I think we should use our current technology capability to tap fission and fusion power with Project Orion variants. As I have noted, we have the technology now to make it far safer with minimal fallout. We could move all of the industries that are bad for the environment to orbit, the moon, and Mars. Fixing all of our current problems is not just technology but making the right choices. For example a bad choice was not making more nuclear reactors since the 1970s. Discounting Chernobyl as a Russian screwup with more lax safety standards, three mile island did not cause deaths. How many people die every year from coal mining and coal pollution? (answers: hundreds per year from the first and tens of thousands from the second) How much more of a problem has been caused by the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which could have been reduced with more nuclear power since 1970? Bad choices have caused more deaths, more pollution and a worse environment.

2200 kg of antimatter would equal the power used in the world today. It is one of the things we should be doing in the future. Fission and fusion we should be doing today. Not using technology that is a million times more powerful is a mistake. It is like using a car battery and adding a thousand tons of ballast (to make it a million times worse than chemical power to show the difference between handicapped batteries versus chemical versus fission/fusion.) such a system is not going anywhere.

Further reading:
A fairly complete list of links for launch propulsion systems from hobbyspace

Spintronics now able to mix magnetic and semiconductor materials

MIT technology review report on a Spintronic advance. Arthur Smith, professor of physics at Ohio University, and his colleagues have successfully grown manganese gallium, a magnetic metal, on gallium nitride, a common semiconductor that is used to make blue lasers and LEDs, and to amplify radio frequency signals. The researchers say that the spacing of the atoms in the material layers is a near-ideal match, creating a smooth interface between the layers, and thereby increasing the chances of producing a workable spintronics device. Without a clean interface, says Smith, when electrons travel across the barrier between the metal and semiconductor, they can lose their original spin, ruining the device. Moreover, their new system maintains its magnetic properties at room temperature, says Smith.

Proving that the system will work in an actual device is the next step for the researchers. Smith says they will most likely test its light-emitting properties to determine how well the spin of the electrons in the magnetic material translates into polarized light.

October 15, 2006

Norway considering Thorium reactors

Article from treehugger.com about Norway considering Thorium reactors

•There is no danger of a melt-down like the Chernobyl reactor
•It produces minimal radioactive waste
•It can burn Plutonium waste from traditional nuclear reactors with additional energy output
•It is not suitable for the production of weapon grade materials
•The energy contained in one kilogram of Thorium equals that of four thousand tons coal
•The global Thorium reserves could cover the world’s energy needs for thousands of years
•Norway has an estimated 180 000 tons of Thorium

They are looking to make a prototype over the next 15 years which will cost 550 million euros.

From Kirk Sorenson (thorium energy blog author): There were at least three different types of "fluid-fueled reactors" being considered by the AEC in the 1950s, each of which was a thorium reactor. (see "Fluid Fuel Reactors" or TID-8507, the AEC report downselecting to the liquid-fluoride (molten-salt) reactor). There were also the solid-core variants of thorium reactors. Most of these couldn't breed (convert as much thorium to U-233 as they consumed U-233) so they weren't truly thorium-burning reactors, but some of them got close. WASH-1097 described several of these reactors.


The Norwegians are looking at accelerator-driven thorium reactors.

Kirk favors the molten-salt reactor. It was the best reactor on the thorium cycle, because it was capable of continuous reprocessing and complete consumption of the thorium resource. It was also the most developed, with two reactors that were built and operated very successfully.

Further reading:
Here is a powerpoint form Kirk Sorenson which he presented at a seminar at Ohio State University in early Oct 2006

Details: Using Thorium reactors for power without proliferation of nuclear weapons

from the thorium energy blog, using thorium as the fertile material and U-233 as the fissile material has a secret advantage in the "proliferation" department--the inevitable formation of uranium-232. The "4n" decay chain, of which U-232 and Th-232 both follow has a decay product (thallium-208) that emits a strong and penetrating gamma ray during its decay that makes it very unattractive in weapons use. Weapons, especially those that want to be launched on ICBMs, can't afford thick heavy gamma shielding around their fissile cores to protect the sensitive electronics that trigger detonation.

In a two-fluid thorium reactor, thorium nuclei in the blanket will intercept neutrons and breed--first to protactinium-233, then to uranium-233. If the protactinium is isolated chemically after it is formed, then the U-233 in the protactinium decay tank will have little U-232 contamination.

The real question I've had is: how can we generate U-232 contaminated material, even in the Pa decay tank? Ionium is thorium-230, which is part of the natural decay chain of uranium-238, which is rather abundant. If the thorium in the blanket was "spiked" with ionium, it would be impossible to chemically separate the two forms of thorium (since they are chemically identical) but the ionium would preferentially absorb neutrons and form Pa-231.

A breakthrough method for determining the behavior of electrons in atoms and molecules

A goal in chemistry has been to use a pair of electrons to represent any number of electrons accurately. A new method allows the use of pairs or trios of electrons to approximate any number of electrons. Since 1993, we have had approximations that were 71-96% accurate. A new method is 95-100% accurate. University of Chicago chemist David Mazziotti has created an improved solution for the contracted Schrodinger equation.
The behavior of electrons in atoms and molecules affects many significant chemical reactions that govern everyday phenomena, including the fuel efficiency of combustion engines, the depletion of ozone in the atmosphere, and the design of new medicines.

The contracted Schrödinger equation may soon become solvable with a package of computer software, according to Mazziotti.

further reading:
A 2003 article about recent work on the contracted Schrodinger equation

Info on David Mazziotti

Mazziotti Group Home Page

Motivated by the contracted Schrödinger equation, we have also recently developed variational two-electron methods with systematic, nontrivial N-representability conditions. This second class of two-electron methods directly computes the effective two-electron probability distribution of a many-electron atom or molecule without any higher-electron probability distributions. Variational optimization of the ground-energy energy in terms of only two effective electrons is treatable by a class of optimization techniques known as semidefinite programming. The variational two-electron method has been accurately applied to generating potential energy surfaces of molecules including the difficult-to-predict dissociation curve for N2 where wavefunction methods fail to give physically meaningful results.

While two-electron approaches are still in their early stages, the direct determination of chemical properties by mapping any atom or molecule onto an effective twoelectron problem offers a new level of accuracy and efficiency for electronic structure calculations.