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November 26, 2007

Near term lifeboat technology: integrated and seamless robustness

AlFin's excellent blog points out that "nuclear batteries" could be used for a near term civilization lifeboat. The initial goal would not be creating fully resistant civilization lifeboats that could handle destruction of the biosphere but hardened points of key civilization services like databases, medical facilities, food services, water services and electricity. The goal would be life shield bunkers which help keep the grid and civilization going when everything is going good but also keep operating at various levels of disaster.

UPDATE: My latest posting has all of the technical details on the nuclear "battery". It is a simplified solid core reactor variant.

With reliable power, a population could thrive underground, undersea, on/beneath polar ice, or in the starkest desert (even in nuclear winter conditions). Using aeroponic food-growing technology, artificial lighting, drilled or melted water supply, sophisticated filters etc. etc. small to medium communities of many types could find a way to develop in relative isolation.

Better, safer, more reliable ways to use nuclear decay to power civilisation (or civilisation's "restart") are coming.


The old bomb shelter were sunk costs and the shelters were unused when there was no crisis.

Technology would be selected and developed which could provide more robustness with less of a price premium and which would not just be stored material.

Instead of warehouses with cans of food, have aeroponic systems that provide food to city dwellers during normal times but which could still function in a crisis.

Water filtration and desalinization systems instead of tanks of stored water.

Instead of oil stockpiles a combination of nuclear batteries, solar and wind power generation systems.

Instead of only underground facilities, monolithic domes and geodesic domes that are integrated into cities Integrate certain homeland security budgets and planning in with the planning of academic, public transit, public facilities (like hospitals) and sports facilities.

Disaster planning should have a revamped and updated view.

Some aspect of enhanced disaster support would be to look prepositioning disaster support with nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. If costs could be contained then nuclear battery facilities and vessels could be examined as part of enhanced coast guard and national guard vehicles.

The russians have been examining floating nuclear power plants

Other people are also considering floating and submersible nuclear power plants

Thorium reactors would be well suited for submersible and floating designs

The compact and safe nature of a liquid-fluoride thorium reactor opens the possibility of building mobile reactors on floating vessels or submersibles. These systems could be built at centralized locations, taking advantages of economies of scale, and then deployed along the Tennessee River to replace coal-fired power plants, plugging directly into existing electrical infrastructure.


Widespread adoption of plug in hybrids would help stabilize the energy grid

Robert Zubrin has pointed at that flexible fuel vehicles would provide adaptability to high oil prices. The combination of plug in hybrids that could run on flexible fuel would help enable sections of an electrical grid to function and would allow vehicles to run on alcohol or methanol in the event of disaster that disrupted oil distribution.

SUMMARIZING
- integrating nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers into disaster planning
- getting nuclear batteries and disaster hardened technology cost
justified for wider adoption
- revamping disaster planning and getting hardened architecture in the
thinking of architects as much as earthquake resistance is.
- Bring down the cost premium of disaster hardened technology.
- Encourage existing and near term technology choices that would enhance robustness
- flexible fuel plug in hybrids

FURTHER READING
Autonomous building is a building designed to be operated independently from infrastructural support services such as the electric power grid, municipal water systems, sewage treatment systems, storm drains, communication services, and in some cases public roads.

Distributed power generation

Flexible fuel vehicles

Atomic battery

More efficient and longer laster nuclear batteries

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