"From the containment of fire, the domestication of beasts of burden, the invention of the water wheel, the steam engine and all the rest to modern times--to whoever was first, whoever used it more widely, whoever developed it more fully, whoever found new and better sources, went the growth and improvement in the lives of their population and nation. Not a single intellectual, academic, nor prophet has ever disputed that energy is the source of all wealth. The United States and Russia are the only major countries that are energy self sufficient, representing only 750 million people. Smaller countries with energy independence from a local resource only account for another 200 million. What about the other ten billion people on this planet?"
Excerpt from novel 2039, by author. This has always been true, is true today, and will still be true in 2039, 24 years from now.
There is a constant world struggle between the energy HAVES and the HAVE-NOTS. Between the unstable Middle East oil nations, and most of the rest of the world. Between Russia--and its Eastern and Western European neighbors, between the HAVES of Central and South American and the Asian HAVE NOTS. There are new players now too, such as the US and Canada, as well as other smaller nations such as Romania and Israel.
But that's just about oil and gas--which is not the only energy game in town.
The 'greens,' the renewables, are becoming more prominent: Hydroelectric, Solar, Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, Biofuels. To be practical and affordable--technology, hardware, and infrastructure are needed to develop and efficiently distribute these sources. In 2014, renewables accounted for nearly 10% of US energy use. Hydroelectric is, and has always been, the majority. But the others are on a steady growth path. Credit GE's digital wind turbines, Elon Musk's solar and battery advancements, and many, many domestic and foreign entities large and small all working in this space.
But whatever the idealistic romance is with renewables, they won't become the major source of energy in the developed world--or any of the third and developing worlds at anytime in the foreseeable future. Think of Asia and Africa. The mass burning of coal on those continents, sickening their people and polluting the atmosphere, can only be supplanted by nuclear. Yes, this article is endorsing the globalization of a new, 4th generation nuclear energy process using thorium as the fuel.
What's Thorium you ask? In 2039, Ida asks Jon to explain a few technological terms she heard in his discussion with some Russians:
"Tell me about Thorium next," Ida said.
"Okay, Thorium is very interesting," Jon said much more slowly. "Thorium 232 is an element close to uranium on the periodic table of the elements. Thorium has an atomic weight of 232, uranium is predominately U238, but there is also some naturally occurring U235, which is the important stuff to have a nuclear reaction. Maybe I should skip the chemistry lesson, huh?"
"Yeah, skip the chemistry."
"Thorium is radioactive, stable, and plentiful in the earth as thorium oxide, ThO2--four times more plentiful than uranium! There is plenty of it over much of the world. When separated from the oxygen, it's a shiny metal. With the addition of a single neutron to its atom in a reactor vessel, making it thorium 233, it can morph into Uranium233, a non-natural isotope that is fissile. The U233 will split and release a ton of energy. But here is the good part: it doesn't spew multiple neutrons so it cannot sustain a chain reaction. It's useless for atomic bombs!
"Many countries are working to make a practical power plant using thorium as the fuel, but not us--not the United States. Our Department of Energy claims it's backtracking, reinventing something we already have, but I don't know the real truth. In my opinion, developing domestic power using thorium fuel would be a big improvement over uranium, coal, natural gas, and all the rest. Maybe they, the Atomic Energy Commission just has its hands full and doesn't want to start over with a new nuclear fuel.
"China's in the lead, of course. Thorium has a number of excellent, passive safety and cost advantages over uranium, as you heard the Russian Admiral recite. But because of politics in the 1950s, particularly the Cold War, it was bypassed in favor of uranium. At that time, the goal was uranium and plutonium for bombs. You get the idea?
"The story can go on and on if you want. But is that enough?"
I laughed. "Yes, that's as much as I need to know about thorium..."
As Jon told Ida, China's in the lead--because our Atomic Energy Commission, which is NOT pursuing or even encouraging the US Nuclear Industry, has given China access to all our information and data from our experience with thorium at Oak Ridge National Laboratory from inception to cancellation in 1973.
"The thorium power plant will be the most progressive development of this century."
The Russian Admiral admonished Jon.
"It will make available cheap, clean, and ample energy for any country that adopts it, and eventually every country will. If China is the first to have success, they will price it to have a world monopoly and extract excessive royalties from others to take advantage of it merits. It is with the Molten Salt Thorium Reactor (MSTR) that China will gain control of the world!"
Think about it, dear readers. The US cannot afford to stay out of this race. The MSTR is the ultimate safe clean cheap energy source that this world needs, to supplant the coal worldwide that is choking our atmosphere and might eventually kill our planet. On every occasion that you have, talk about this to your elected representatives. Ask why the United States is leaving such an important future development to others, some of whom are not our friends.
Get the full story in 2039, my recent future history novel, available on Amazon.