Your Love Keeps LFTR Me Higher

“…when humanity learned to do without slaves, and made carbon our slave, we began to learn what it meant to be civilized people. Imagine the profound changes to our society when we free ourselves from the barbarity of fossil fuel. “


First, a caveat (which does not count toward my 500 word limit):

Yesterday I wrote about SEES (Safety, Efficiency, Economy, and Sustainability) as a framework for understanding our energy solutions in the future. I wrote that while solar and wind meet several of these requirements, only nuclear, (and only new forms of nuclear in particular) satisfy the SEES. A friend of mine pointed out on Facebook that it was perhaps illogical of me to judge current forms of solar and wind against the nuclear of the future. He may have a point. But whereas LFTR technology is already developed and waiting to be implemented, proposed solar and wind technologies still seem to fall short. I haven’t seen anything in solar and wind that looks like the panacea the LFTR might be. This is not to say that we may develop viable solar and wind techs in the future. More on that in a few days.

We split the atom at the end of WWII not for energy needs, but for warfare. We developed the atomic bomb in 1945, but we didn’t begin thinking about nuclear as a power source until 1947 (and it wouldn’t be until 1954 that a nuclear plant was connected to a power-grid). In the early days of nuclear, emphasis was placed on heavy water reactors that used uranium (specifically uranium 233/235) as the nuclear catalyst. This is for two reasons. First, we understood how uranium worked within a reactor because we had been building bombs using the same process, and second, heavy water reactors produce plutonium (specifically plutonium 239) which is preferable in bomb tech to uranium due to its more fissionable character.

In a “typical” nuclear reactor (“typical” is used here in quotes because there are many different ways of doing nuclear), uranium 233 or 235 is used to generate heat within a reactor. This heat is then transferred through a heat exchange to outside water sources which boil to produce steam which then spins turbines for power generation. These reactors need to be kept cool in order to prevent meltdown, and water is circulated within the reactor to regulate temperature. However, because the temperature within the reactor reaches 450º Celsius,  the reactor must be kept pressurized in order to keep the coolant water in a liquid state. Meltdown occurs when power is lost to the pressurization system, the water flashes to steam, and the reactor can no longer be kept cool.

The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor mitigates many of the concerns of traditional heavy water reactors. Instead of water, the LFTR uses molten salt as a coolant and propellant. Since salt is already liquid at 450º Celsius, the reactor does not need to be pressurized, and the chance of meltdown is therefore virtually non existent. Thorium is also “fertile” as opposed to “fissile”, meaning the nuclear waste created within the reactor cannot be made into a bomb. Thorium is one of the most abundant rare-earth materials in the earth’s crust, and since the LFTR consumes 98% of the inputs (as opposed to 0.7% in uranium based reactors), we have a virtually limitless supply of thorium energy.

Like I said, the thorium based reactor is an already developed technology. Chinese and U.S. firms are already working together on developing market ready LFTR technologies as a way to combat climate change and secure our energy future. I can’t tell you how excited this technology makes me. It may be a silver bullet. Tomorrow I’m going to talk about LFTR implementation: how it might take shape, and how the LFTR might change the very way we view the world and each other. As LFTR evangelist Kirk Sorensen often says, when humanity learned to do without slaves, and made carbon our slave, we began to learn what it meant to be civilized people. Imagine the profound changes to our society when we free ourselves from slavery of fossil fuels.

Next Up: The Backyard Thermo-Nuclear Reactor

Let’s Talk about SEES, baby.

It’s becoming harder and harder for mainstream conservatives to deny the dramatic changes in global climate. Whether it’s record flooding coinciding with record drought, street fights in India over dwindling fresh water resources, or orcas appearing in the arctic, the climate is changing in dramatic ways.  If we’re going to combat climate change seriously, we need to dramatically reevaluate how we see energy production.

In my mind, there are four characteristics which must determine how we approach energy production in the future. These are Safety, Efficiency, Economy, and Sustainability (SEES). Any new forms of energy must be able to out compete fossil fuels in price per kilowatt. New energy technologies must also use their resources efficiently and safely, and, perhaps most importantly, new energy sources must be (or virtually be) in limitless supply.

Fossil fuels fail to meet three out of the four of these. They are not safe , they are not efficient, and they are certainly not sustainable.  But as it stands right now, fossils are out-competing alternative energy technologies. In the new annual report from the Energy Information Administration, we can see that fossils are far cheaper to produce than any other form of energy production currently on the market and are likely to remain that way. This is all the more shocking when you consider that the gas in your car was dug up half a world away, shipped across the planet, refined, and then distributed to your local Circle K. Milk is almost twice as expensive as gasoline even though the process for getting milk to the consumer is far less intensive.

Solar and wind fare better than fossils when judged on SEES, but even they fail to meet all four qualifications. Without massive subsidy, solar and wind are just too expensive, and the EIA report doesn’t even factor in the upfront cost of purchasing solar panels, or the installation, or the walls of batteries that are needed to maintain quality of life. This is all beside the fact that the manufacture of photovoltaic cells is highly toxic.

Only nuclear satisfies the SEES. Now, wait. Yes. I am aware of Fukushima and Chernobyl. And, yes. I get it. Nuclear is only 0.7% efficient in getting the energy out of the inputs. Yes. I am aware that according the EIA report, nuclear is almost 3 times as expensive to produce as fossils. And yes, I know. Uranium is not in limitless (or virtually limitless) supply. But I’m not talking about the way in which we do nuclear right now, I’m talking about the way we’re going to do nuclear in the future. What I’m talking about is the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR).

What’s needed in the energy market is innovation and invention. If we can manage to cut through the politics of these issues, we can reduce energy regulation, reduce market manipulation through subsidies and credits, and we can begin, really begin, to take this problem seriously.

Next up: Let’s Talk About the LFTR.

Driving Through the Middle

Snopes carried an interesting piece today. Kim LaCapria sat down with Libertarian presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson and his running-mate Gov. Bill Weld. It isn’t unusual that presidential candidates, especially 3rd party candidates, talk to reporters (unless you’re Hillary Clinton), but it is unusual that Snopes, the internet’s favorite meme busters, would be invited for a sit down. Johnson said that he hoped to dispel some of the “libertarian myths” surrounding himself and the party, and that Snopes was the right outlet for that.

In response to those [myths], Johnson opined that “some of the baggage the Libertarian Party carries is that it’s ‘survival of the fittest’ [and] a ‘Darwinian party,'” firmly adding that “we’re not in that camp.” He continued by explaining that the 2016 Libertarian ticket didn’t espouse any fully laissez-faire ideas and voiced support for social programs:

We do believe in a health/safety net, for example … we’re for supporting social security, but that [earlier referenced misconception is part of] the baggage the Libertarian Party carries. And you know what? In theory, a lot of that at some [prior] point might actually [have ‘flown’.] But in my lifetime, I don’t think so. We’d like to actually like to hold off [on major fiscal cuts] and push the country in a direction of fiscal solvency … [it’s] where you’ve got to start.

I get criticized by my fellow libertarians for being No True Scott because Gary and I agree on this point (as does F.A. Hayek for that matter). As an active member of the Libertarian Party both at the national and state level, I can attest that I hear criticism for Gov. Johnson on this point (and middling points like it) a lot. Johnson has made a lot of enemies within the party partly because of statements like the one above. He only won his candidacy by ~51% and the other 49% often find themselves biting their tongues harder than any Republican did for Mitt. There’s even the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus,a  group formed in opposition to Gary Johnson and his evil plan to “make Libertarian ideas “non-threatening” in order to placate the enemies of liberty.”

Johnson continues:

You know, if there’s a criticism I don’t particularly embrace at all it’s that we’re somehow Republican-lite. And look, we’re running as Libertarians for a reason. We think the Republican party has really lost touch, but we think the Democrat party has lost touch also, and that the vast majority of Americans are fiscally responsible and socially inclusive … and we’re the voice for that mix … which is, like I say, most Americans.

I don’t know if I would characterize “the vast majority of Americans” as “fiscally responsible and socially inclusive”, but I do hope to see that changing. Already there are positive signs on the social toleration front.

The piece is very good, and the embedded video of Johnson’s well attended New York  rally shows the strength of a campaign that seems to have gotten out of Aleppo unscathed.