Starting a homemade hydroponics system is a lot like training your innovation and persistence. We can become, as we once were, that child playing amongst the lego set, only this hydroponics lego set is limited by the ideas in our head and the materials in reality. If that lego set should happen to become a chemistry set later on in life, what ideas and materials would limit the design of our nuclear reactor?
As a solution to energy concerns, our current intermittent and renewable technologies, such as wind, solar, and geothermal do and will not produce enough energy to eliminate the need for fossil fuels. They are largely space consuming, unreliable and invasive forms of energy production that require expensive transmission lines and near perfect environmental conditions. Granted, you might argue that we need to become more energy efficient, consuming less energy for the good of the planet. But individually conserving energy negatively affects our standard of living disproportionally more than it does on our dependence on cheap and nasty fossil fuels. Both tacts are no path to steer this ship.
I have recently had my eyes opened to the length and breath of technology yet again. I almost daily bask in the glow of technological brilliance of 'quadrotor' helicopters alone. As of late my focus has fallen on nuclear technology, but in a non-conventional sense. Conventionally we use one type of reactor with one type of fuel and it is this type reactor and this type fuel that was developed during wartime, for war. As a result, this technology has become stuck, proverbially suspended in the sands of time to become the widely accepted and understood practice of nuclear energy.
Over the decades of discussion into energy management and our role in its management, influence has risen to the surface to curb the perception on personal responsibility. It has pushed the established lexicon, 'solar, wind, geothermal, carbon emissions and green energy', giving green warriors a gooey feeling of leadership and community pride.
This perception is misguided, as I will point out. As the late Edward Bernays put it, 'Our minds are molded, out tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of'. Our acknowledgment of this is irrelevant. And regardless of intent, the manipulation of public opinion will persist with or without our conscious attendance. It has been this driving force that has popularized solar and wind and inflated their role in energy creation beyond economics and physics into a delusion realm.
Ask the familiar armchair environmentalist about 'energy concern' and a landscape of windmills and solar panels forms in their mind, abound with green rolling hills and bird filled trees interspersed with bands of angels singing concerto among the neon preen, lego haired smiley families of the future. The spool of sound bites runs ad-nauseum across any such question. 'Solar, wind, geothermal, carbon footprint, polar bears and hockey sticks' are among the common captain planet media token responses.
There is now a new kid in the kitchen and he's cooking all the good stuff, "You don't get taught this stuff in nuclear engineering school", says Kirk Sorensen, a PhD in aerospace engineering and self professed nuclear history buff. "There will one day be a thorium age" he continues.
I want to touch on thorium as a reactor fuel to show you why so many people are getting excited.
1. It turns nuclear waste back into nuclear fuel
2. The amount needed to power your entire life is the size of a large marble
3. It is relatively abundant across the globe
4. It cannot be used in the production of nuclear warheads
5. And it can be turned into energy today with proven technology
The technology was proven some 40 years ago when it was developed for a nuclear powered bomber, that's right, a nuclear airplane. This type of reactor had to be radically different to anything developed beforehand, it met its criteria and the molten salt reactor became a valid yet poorly accepted reactor technology.
A molten salt / liquid fluoride reactor:
1. Operates at high temperatures, achieving high thermodynamic efficiencies
2. Low pressure, self-regulating with a passive safety system
3. Can have its waste heat desalinate seawater or sythesise fuel
4. Is comparatively compact
5. And 10 years of operation produces 1 / 1000th of a gram of waste
As of 2009 we used 5 billion tonnes of coal, 31 billion barrels of oil, 5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas and 65 thousand tonnes of uranium to produce the worlds energy. One single unimpressive rare earth mine can dig up 5000 tonnes of thorium inadvertently, enough to power the world for a year.
How might it do this pray tell?
Nuclear fission is a million times more energy dense than a chemical reaction such as oil and thorium has a million times the energy density as a carbon hydrogen bond.
We would then be limited by the amount of energy we can get out of thermo electrics, the ability to transmute heat into electricity.
It has become apparent to me that nuclear power is grossly under-appreciated and has become extremely smeared for its capacity for warhead proliferation and hazardous radiation. The word 'Nuclear' itself has been plied from reality and scorned with imagery of death and destruction. As the world of marketing can confirm, perception is everything and facts mean nothing. Today's perception is that nuclear is an old redundant dangerous energy and we that we currently occupy the very pinnacle of our nuclear energy capabilities. A plight has developed against ourselves where we are trapped between a series of erroneous perceptions and the very real future of expanding wars over limited fossil fuels.
It has been asked, could thorium power our world? "It is powering our world" Sorensen explains, "Thorium has been powering our world for billions of years, and will (continue) … for billions of years." It is interesting to note that geothermal is actually a thorium and uranium nuclear reaction in the center of the earth and any argument for 'renewable' geothermal is an argument for thorium as a 'renewable', its abundance is what confuses people.
China has started developing a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. Once they establish this technology, we will buy our reactors off of them because we will not be able to compete with our primitive energy sources. "If China's dash for thorium power succeeds, it will vastly alter the global energy landscape" says Abrose Evans-Pritchard in his telegraph.co article.
The push that comes when beginning homemade hydroponics is the same push that breeds quality leaders in all fields. It involves regressing from the business as usual scenario and going on to raise the bar. The innovative and persistent among us become the creditors of technology.