During World War 2 the exceptional bravery and courage of a group of saboteurs managed to stop Adolf Hitler and the Nazis from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We have suggested in our course that in the future one method to solve a future loss of oil, gas and coal would be to use fast-breeder nuclear reactors to make synthetic fuel and provide all of the electrical energy required. This is known as the Plutonium & Synthetic Fuel Economy.
Is this a good idea? Let’s take a look firstly at how the allies stopped Hitler from obtaining the bomb, and then take a look at this nuclear future? Is it as Robert Laughlin the physicist suggests, a viable option which would render even renewable energy uneconomic to utilise? Or are we dicing with nuclear holocaust?
HOW THE ALLIES STOPPED HITLER FROM OBTAINING THE NUCLEAR BOMB
COURSES ON THE HISTORY OF ENERGY & ENERGY AND WAR
WILL BE AVAILABLE IN 2019.
IS THE FUTURE NUCLEAR RATHER THAN RENEWABLE ENERGY?
Robert Laughlin, the physicist, in his book: Powering the Future suggested that we’ll one day supply very cheap electricity using fast breeder nuclear reactors. It’s a suggestion that we’ve also made in our course. It would also help to make cheap synthetic fuels assuming we can obtain hydrogen from sustainable sources like biomass. Laughlin argues that the amount of waste produce over a 1000 years is relatively tiny (the cube of an American Football field) and most of it would eventually become less radioactive than the oceans. Re-using spent fuel rods could be easily regulated, and become so cheap that no nation would want to buy expensive rods so that they could divert their material towards nuclear arms programmes. Eventually cheap electricity from these reactors would put coal out of business, provide cheap synthetic fuels and do away with he need for expensive renewable energy alternatives, such as wind farms or solar panels etc..
It’s sounds like a great future for those living in the early 22nd century. However, consider this: physicists like economists largely believe people are rational. Rational leaders would always operate logically, like computers. Unfortunately, historians teach us that people are irrational, vengeful, full of hate, religiously intolerant and often unpredictable.
For example, Donald Trump in October 2018 pulled out of the INF arms limitation treaty which for 30 years helped America to lower its costs by not having to deploy medium range nuclear missiles in Europe. There’s no logic to that! It’s just a game of brinkmanship and showing off. It offers nothing to either Russia or the USA other than creating unnecessary tensions and more expense. Meanwhile in April 2018 the Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomenei stated that “Israel was a cancer that had to be eradicated from the region”. Iran has long been in Israel’s sights for wishing to obtain nuclear weapons.
In the future, finding the right the solution to the coming oil crisis is going to be far more important than Climate Change. It’s literally a matter of extinction. Let us hope that in the future people choose wisely, and all leaders are far more logical than the ones we have now!
Which option would you choose? Let us know?
Robert Laughlin (2013) Powering the Future, Basic Books
John Clarkson (2018) The Bigger Picture: the Probable Future of Energy (course published on Thinkific available here to purchase)