I look forward to presenting Liquid Fuel Nuclear Reactors talk at the Thorium Energy Alliance symposium at the Googleplex next week. Part of that talk will remind us that the liquid fluoride thorium reactor is capable of producing energy cheaper than from coal.
Cap and trade and carbon taxes have faded from public attention. No agreement was reached in Copenhagen because the developing nations would not accept taxes that limited their potential for economic growth. From their point of view, the OECD nations achieved their wealth from cheap energy, from burning coal.
A way to dissuade nations from burning coal is to provide an economically superior alternative. If the LFTR can undercut the economics of coal, nations will build LFTRs and stop burning coal — all this without punishing carbon taxes and fraud-prone carbon credit trading. In the US the average cost of coal delivered to a utility is $40/ton, which works out to 2 cents/kWh just for the coal fuel. Depreciation and operating expenses double this. In China electric power is delivered at 5-7 cents/kWh to the industrial and commercial centers; I suppose [coal] power generation costs are half that. I propose a target for LFTR power of $0.03/kWh, from the power plant. This is an ambitious, achievable target, because of its unique, low cost attributes of compactness, intrinsic safety, and high temperature. I’ll present these next week.
Overpopulation, global resources, and wars over them are as critical to civilization survival as is climate change. Population is projected to climb from 6 to 9 billion people. Nations refuse to protect the few tuna left in the oceans. Mid-east wars over oil are fresh in memory.
Yet population growth is stable in the wealthy OECD nations; children are born at less than the population rate. Analyzing data from the CIA World FactBook shows that prosperity stabilizes population. At a GDP of $7,500 per capita, birthrates fall below the replacement rate. Fewer people competing for scarce global resources will stabilize the earth’s civilization.
Energy is a critical element of achieving prosperity. Prosperity also depends on food, education, health care, rule of law, a stable financial system, and good government. Consider the importance of electric power. It is essential to water distribution, sanitation, lighting, cooking, heating, refrigeration, communications, health care, and machinery. Prosperity helps people spend more time in productive jobs, becoming more educated, and having some leisure time to enjoy life. Freeing women from constant toils of everyday life allows them time to become educated, contribute to the paid workforce, and make choices about bearing children,
Providing power at $0.03/kWh makes energy affordable to developing nations. Another unique attribute of the LFTR is its ability to be produced in small sizes at affordable investment levels — $200 million for a 100 MW LFTR will meet the $0.03/kWh target. The CIA World FactBook data above shows that 2,000 kWh per capita per year suffices for modest prosperity. For comparison, the US uses 12,000 kWh per capita per year.
Energy cheaper than from coal is critical to civilization for two reasons: (1) stopping CO2 emissions from burning coal is a big step to controlling climate change, and (2) affordable electric power is key for developing nations to achieve modest prosperity and the lifestyles that include stable birthrates.