Fusion and nuclear Power

From: Lawrence Johnston (johnston@uidaho.edu)
Date: Tue Sep 10 2002 - 09:10:54 EDT

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    Hi, Glenn, George, Ian and other ASA people -

    I would ask Glenn or other energy people what the world supply of
    available Uranium and
    Thorium is. My impression is that there is enuf in proven lodes to
    keep the world in energy
    for many decades. And just as we have to mine the water supply and
    use a lot of energy to
    get a teeny amount of Deuterium, we may be able in a pinch to mine
    the oceans for the dissolved
    Uranium. This should give us a big reprieve until the world's
    scientists can develop an even
    better energy source, perhaps fusion.

    Everyone says when Nuclear energy is mentioned, that it is a
    political problem. That means
      that if we are serious about pushing that resource further, we have
    an educational job
    ahead of us. I blush that some of my physicist friends have been
    prominent in promulgating
    the public's fear of the N word.

    I believe it was Charles DeGaule who decided that France needed to go
    Nuclear. He gathered
    the anti-nuclear activists together and asked them: "would you
    rather that we install Nuclear
    power generators, or freeze in the dark?" or words to that effect.
    They decided to think of
    something else to protest. Now France and most of the 3rd world
    rely on nuclear power,
    with less danger to the health of the atmosphere than comes from
    burning coal, and with no
    contributions to atmospheric warming due to CO2.

    Disposal of nuclear waste is usually mentioned as a big problem, with
    the heat and radiation that
    it generates. This is a problem, but not comparable to that of
    developing Fusion power. It should
    be filed under "Political Problems". A helpful way to think about
    the worry of "All that nuclear
    waste giving off radiation for many years" is to remember that this
    radiation is similarly being given
    off by the Uranium minerals in the earth and in the ocean, in almost
    exactly the same amounts,
    per atom, only in a longer period of time. Each Uranium atom, in
    going thru its long chain of
    decays into some isotope of lead, gives off alpha particles and beta
    rays and gammas, and puts
    the same amount of waste energy into the earth, as it would in the
    process of being made into
    reactor fuel and the energy being used by mankind. In fact the
    earth is being warmed mainly
    by the decay of radioactive isotopes in the crust. We are just
    diverting a bit of it into running
    our economy.

    Bernard Cohen has made some telling analyses of the comparative risks
    from Nuclear power,
    which I will try to find, if there is interest. but I remember that
    the largest risks to life and
    health seem to come from oil field accidents, and mining accidents in
    the case of coal and

    More Power to us People! Larry Johnston

    "There is sufficient light for those who desire
    to see, and there is sufficient darkness for those
    of a contrary disposition."

           -Blaise Pascal, Pensees 149 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Lawrence H. Johnston home:917 E. 8th st.
    professor of physics, emeritus Moscow, Id 83843
    University of Idaho (208) 882-2765
    Fellow of the American Physical Society
    http://www.uidaho.edu/~johnston/ =====================

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