National Public Radio in the US explores the pros and cons of thorium reactors as “a magic bullet” to solving our energy problems.   “As the search for cheap, safe and non-carbon emitting sources of energy continues, a band of scientists say the answer may be nuclear reactors fueled by thorium. Others caution that thorium reactors pose waste and proliferation risks. Ira Flatow and guests discuss the pros and cons of thorium reactors.” You can listen to the broadcast or read the transcript. smartplanet offers comments on the NPR thorium debate here.

OILPRICE writes about fusion in Overcoming the Impossible: Developing Nuclear Fusion. Unlike fission, fusion is hard, very hard. “…the ability to run a steady state reaction that produces more energy than it takes to drive the reaction eludes us.”  So far humans have been unable to get more energy out of a fusion reaction than has been put in, other than for a nanosecond.  The trick is to produce a continuous stream of usable energy that can generate electricity with no greenhouse gas emissions and very little radioactive nuclear waste.  Fusion offers that promise.  If we can get it to work.  ITER (the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor being built right now if southern France) is trying to do this with a tokamak, a donut shaped device that the Russians started devising back in the 1950s.  This post explores the tokamak approach –  it circulates fuel plasma around endlessly at Sun-like temperatures and pressures that should get a net energy gain if the fuels are hot enough and at high enough pressure. Electronics engineer Maria Goretti Sevillano has come up with some ideas to make this work and the post explores her ideas.  As one Nobel prize winning physicist one put it: “We say that we will put the Sun into a box. The idea is pretty. The problem is, we don’t know how to make the box.”  Sevillano is trying to help us build that box.

Can Helium-3 from the Moon solve Earth’s energy problems?  io9 considers this question. Estimates place the efficiency of Helium-3 fusion reactions at 70%, out-pacing coal and natural gas electricity generation by 20%.  While there is little Helium-3 on Earth, it appears there are vast resources on the Moon that might be brought back to Earth for fusion reactors later this century. It could also be used by space vehicles that would use the Moon as a “gas station” on their way to explore the cosmos. See our earlier post Is Man’s Energy Future on the Moon?

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