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Your Views: Politics is still main obstacle to nuclear energy

POSTED: August 15, 2014 1:00 a.m.

What do we do about nuclear waste? Actually the answer is quite simple. The problem we most often run into with the high-grade questions, is political.

Nuclear energy is an incredible source of plentiful energy.

First we spend billions of dollars to dig up rocks, refine out the pure uranium. Then ship it to the reactor to boil water.

After the reaction has boiled all the water it can, we store the dangerous residue nearby. The plan is to bury the waste at Yucca Mountain, which is behind already behind schedule and they expect several billion in lawsuits before they can get it into operation.

Now, uranium and thorium are distributed in the rocks in the earth. Their radioactive decay produces so much heat that it makes the core of the earth about 6,000 degrees. This heat rises to the surface, with molten rock actually reaching the surface in the form of volcanoes. The rest is safely 2 to 5 miles below the surface. Now we are talking geothermal.

Geothermal power is harnessing the power of the atom while leaving the nuclear elements safely in the ground. First we drill two holes deep into the earth. Into the first one we pump water which is heated to boiling; the steam then goes up the second shaft to turn a turbine for electricity.

The biggest cost of geothermal production is drilling deep. If we could manage to get some nuclear reactor money into deep drilling, then geothermal power could be practical anywhere. Currently 26 percent of Iceland’s power and about 5 percent of California’s power is geothermal.

As I said, our problem is purely political, if we can get past that, then the technological problem will be easy.

Joe Barnes


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