James Hansen, global warming, and LFTR
The issue of human-induced global warming has been a concern of mine for many, many years and has been the subject of several of my previous blog posts. It is clear to anyone who takes the time to examine the problem that the “low-hanging fruit” for CO2 reduction is the elimination of coal-fired electrical generation, and I have also written emphatically, since the start of this blog, that we should be striving to eliminate the use of coal. Coal is filthy, coal is dangerous, coal is a proven killer.
My co-author on this blog, Charles Barton, has also written in a similar vein on these same issues.
Thorium and the liquid-fluoride reactor offer a very compelling approach for the replacement of coal-fired electrical generation with electricity generated from thorium. Both can generate baseload power regardless of ambient weather. Thorium is even more energy dense than coal and a thorium reactor can potentially take advantage of much of the cooling-water and electrical distribution infrastructure of a coal plant.
Several weeks ago, thanks to the suggestion of my friend Tom Blees, I had an opportunity to participate in a workshop hosted by Dr. James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Sciences, held in Washington D.C. During this workshop, Dr. Hansen had invited speakers on the subjects of energy efficiency, renewable energy, electrical grids, current and advanced nuclear energy, and carbon capture technology to speak.
The workshop was very busy and I learned a great deal. Those who are members of the thorium-forum can read some of the notes I took at the workshop.
Recently Dr. Hansen posted an extended letter on his website called “Tell Barack Obama the Truth” where he summarizes much of the situation in the world regarding global warming, the desperate need to replace coal, and the options for doing so. I encourage readers on this site to take a look at the paper and read it carefully as I have done. Here are some of the points Dr. Hansen makes:
1. Atmospheric CO2 levels need to be stabilized at 350 ppm; currently they are at 385 ppm and growing.
2. New coal plants should not be built; existing coal plants should be phased out by 2030.
3. Energy efficiency, renewables, and grid improvements should all be pursued. There is a small possibility this may be sufficient for the US to eliminate coal. But this is not likely. For the developing world it is highly unlikely.
4. Advanced nuclear options like the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) and the Liquid-Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) could improve nuclear safety, efficiency, and address the issue of long-term nuclear waste.
5. Policy-makers should move with haste to develop these advanced nuclear energy options to permit the hasty retirement of coal-fired electrical generation, both in the US and in the developing world.
Please read the document and feel free to forward it to those in positions where they might need to hear this message.
James Hansen: Tell Barack Obama the Truth — The Whole Truth