[extropy-chat] Energy & Global Warming [was: Partisans and EP]
hkhenson at rogers.com
Sun Feb 11 17:19:29 UTC 2007
At 09:08 AM 2/11/2007 +0000, you wrote:
>On 2/10/07, Keith Henson <<mailto:hkhenson at rogers.com>hkhenson at rogers.com>
>>I am really annoyed at scientology distracting me at this time. In the
>>process of writing a novel set a hundred years in the future, I had to
>>come up with a way the energy and carbon crisis was solved. That led to
>>notes so extensive as to almost constitute a business plan.
>I'm not so sure there is the "energy" crisis that people typically think
>there is. The U.S., Europe, Russia, China, and India all have the
>technology to go nuclear. Newer reactor designs are safer. Reactors to
>breed U or fuel recycling could provide a multi-hundred year source of
>non-global warming electricity.
There is an unrecognized problem with nuclear power. I believe all of you
are aware of the North Korean fizzle. The reason for the fizzle is they
almost certainly used reactor grade Pu, which has a high percentage of Pu
240. Pu 240 has a high rate of spontaneous fission which causes the bomb
to go off in a low grade mode before it is completely assembled. Weapons
grade Pu is 90% or better Pu 239. It is made by pushing slugs of U though
a reactor fast enough that little of the Pu formed picks up a second
neutron. The slugs are then chemically separated to recover the Pu. It's
a trade off between grade and production rate.
Some years ago it occurred to me that exceptionally high grade Pu 239 could
be made by briefly exposing U 238 in solution to neutrons, sorting the Pu
with ion exchange and pumping the solution back though the reactor to
convert more U 238 to Pu 239. This should generate low cost Pu 239 upwards
of 99%. Considering that over a fuel consumption cycle a power reactor
generates a number of kg of neutrons, tapping a few percent in this loop
would produce a considerable amount of super weapons grade Pu.
I never wrote this idea down, considering it one of the thing I wished I
had never thought of. But if I can think of it, so can any number of other
people. Last weekend while I was in jail I decided this bit of information
should not die with me. It will give inspectors an idea of what to look for.
Otherwise I mostly agree with your thoughts. Indeed, it might be
impossible to make carbon nanotubes good enough and in large enough amounts
for a space elevator cable prior to full scale nanotechnology. (Though the
iron cycle process needs to be investigated.)
But if they can be made at low cost and tens of Gpa strength, then a
mechanical powered elevator is possible. (Laser powered climbers are just
The other point of a space elevator is that much access to space (thousands
of tons a day) you could put sunshades in the sun/earth L1 location and
directly control climate.
Incidentally, I agree that in spite of all the problems, vast number of
nuclear reactors are the only other large enough non carbon approach.
More information about the extropy-chat