M. King Hubbert on nuclear energy

Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels was written by the eminent geophysicist Dr. M. King Hubbert in 1956 and contains the seeds of his Peak Oil theory. Notable as well is his obvious interest in nuclear power as a source of energy for the future.

This was earlier in his career, and he had only recently learned about nuclear energy – many of the details were still top secret. He teased out information, did his own computations, and became excited about nuclear power for its super-high energy density. Here’s a graphic that ends the paper:

In 1955, he had become a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Advisory Committee on Land Disposal of Nuclear Wastes. In Session V of the Oral History Transcript, Mr. Hubbert speaks about his time with the then-named Atomic Energy Commission.

We probably ought to bring this session to a close fairly soon. There are just a few more questions I wanted to ask you about work in Shell and concurrent research. It was 1953 that you became on the NRC Advisory Committee on Land Disposal of Nuclear Wastes.
In 1955, I think it was.
We can check. Around that time. The Advisory Committee to the Atomic Energy Commission.
I think it was ’55.
We’ll check on that.
They just broke up that summer, this Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy. That was in Vienna. That was the point when they began to open up. Everything was under tight wraps prior to that time. That was the first time they began to take it out of Top Secret.
Had you been aware of many of those issues before they became declassified?
Well, I was an outsider, and not only that, but I’d studied very little nuclear physics. I had studied radioactivity and related things in the physics department at Chicago. There was an elementary course in this. I was familiar with that, but I just had very little knowledge, other than that I knew the geological occurrences roughly of uranium and thorium, and something about the radioactive disintegration theories and the amount of heat energy that were released. But I knew that for example, in granitic rocks that uranium was only so many parts per million, 12 or so, as I recall, and thorium was a little different. I forget now what, just what it was. But these things were very rare elements. For that reason I was very skeptical that uranium could ever amount to anything as a source of power. Atom bombs, yes, they had enough atom bombs to blow us off the earth. But it was not very promising for power. It wasn’t until I was on this committee that I began to get information that enabled me to determine that that scarcity or rarity of uranium was offset by the enormous amount of energy you could gain. A little bit of uranium still had a hell of a lot of energy.
What was your role on the committee?
Just a member.
Do you remember any particular discussions of issues?
Well, the committee was set up — I don’t remember quite the details. There was a tie-up with Johns Hopkins Department of Sanitary Engineering. They had an extending contractual relation with the AEC. That was under Abel Wolman who was the chairman of the department. I don’t remember the date of our first meeting but I think it was the spring, or maybe early summer, of I think 1955. I do know that we met in one of those little temporary buildings that were over on the Mall. And we were just about everything but fingerprinted to get in the place. I had a badge on me — we all wore badges — that said that we had to be accompanied by somebody. I got arrested for trying to go to the gents room without an escort.
Is that so?
The whole thing was silly. So here we were, gathered in this room, and there were about a dozen of us outsiders. All the rest were the AEC people and Abel Wolman’s people, kind of giving us an orientation as to the nature of the problems. Well, they were reeling off facts and figures — they had their chemist from Oak Ridge and various other technical people from here, there and the other place. They were reeling off these things that were familiar to them but totally unfamiliar to people like me. So you just got this was this isotope, that isotope and the other one, and so on, and these wastes. They had a tape machine running taping everything that everybody said, in case they inadvertently let out a secret you could erase. This thing went on from morning, 9 o’clock or so in the morning, a break for lunch, and into the afternoon. It finally came to a slowdown. He said, “All right now, what we want you to do is tell us what to do with this stuff.”
You had no preparations before that?
No. I don’t think we had. I think that was the first meeting. I said to the chairman, “I’ve sat here all morning and up until now and I’ve been trying to get an answer to a couple of questions that it seems to me we need to know. Maybe you’ve told us but if so I missed it. Approximately how much of this stuff per year are you producing? And approximately what are its physical properties?” He kind of looked around. Oh, that was classified and they couldn’t tell us. The whole thing was ridiculous. Here was the very information we had to have, and that was secret. Well, I was sufficiently annoyed by that — I don’t remember whether it was just after or before, but we had had a meeting with the Hopkins people. Out of this we had got the information that on the average one fission produced so and so much heat on the average, and that was one of the very few basic facts that we had. Well, as I say, I was just especially annoyed over that performance. The next big meeting we had was a two day conference at Princeton. I now don’t remember the dates of these things, but this was either the same year or the next year. We’d invited in quite a spectrum of outsiders, mining engineers, ground water people, and so on, that hadn’t been present in these earlier meetings. Well, I determined, OK, this can’t be all that mysterious. I did a little work with a handbook of physics and chemistry. All right, how many atoms of uranium would there be in a kilogram, say, of uranium? And whether the ratio of U-235 to U-238, etc. And then if we held so much energy released per fission, and that was put in oh, some unorthodox units. I forget what they were, but anyhow, you can convert from one physical unit to another. We had things like electron volts. I guess that was it, so many electron volts. And you could convert that.
From volts back into calories?
To heat, say, and so, I did a little work with this. I put a handbook of physics and chemistry and a slide rule in my bag on the way over to that meeting. I did a little bit theoretical work and a little bit of computation, and one of the questions that I was asking was, suppose we produced all the electric power in the United States as of that date from uranium? From then to the year 2000, how much uranium would that take, or how much U-235 would that take? Actual tonnage of it. I made the calculation, and came out with a certain figure. I wasn’t sure of myself, I was just feeling my way along, an outsider. I wasn’t at all sure what I was doing was correct. But I came up with a certain answer. It was a very useful figure. I don’t remember what it was now. But I was determined, when we got to the meeting and they pulled this secrecy on us, I was going to put it on the blackboard.
At this Princeton meeting?
Yes, this forthcoming meeting. I was just loaded for bear, so to speak. Well, when we got there, and after some preliminaries, we finally broke meeting into two sections. One dealt with surface disposal of waste, on the near-surface. The other was deep disposals and deep wells. And so on. Well, I wound up as chairman of the second meeting. I had in my group Floyd Cutter, who was the chief chemist of Oak Ridge. We worked our way around to where this question was needed. We were putting this thing down, say, a well. Well, how much volume of sand would be occupied? And so on. I posed this question and sent Floyd Cutter to the board to work it out. He got the same answer I did. Then I got a letter from him a week or two after that meeting, very much relieved. They’d just made a terrific bugaboo out of this thing. They were relieved to discover that the magnitudes they were looking at were not as awful as they thought they were.
Really? This is one of the first times that they had begun to seriously look at waste volumes?
His letter was expressing a relief to discover that this bugaboo was not as bad as they had thought it was. Well, one of the things that came out of these meetings and this earlier review was what they were doing in various of these locations. One of them was at Hanford. They had dug a well down this loose sand, clay things where the plant is located right up on the border of the Columbia River. This stuff was all worked over by the Columbia River, and so they had dug what amounted to a mine shaft. They’d lined it with wood and cribbing like a mine shaft, to hold the loose material back. They were running this stuff down that hole, it was disappearing and they didn’t have the remotest idea where it was going. It just disappeared. They expressed considerable misgivings about that practice.
I can imagine.
Supposing that they’d just got rid of it. They hadn’t got rid of it, it would be coming out somewhere, including the Columbia River, which it was right close to. Then in Oak Ridge, why, they’d bored out a dirt tank in the local clay area, shale outcrop, and were running all waste into these big tanks.
Just plain dirt floor tanks?
Hoping that they wouldn’t leak. We said to them, they damn well would leak. Then, following that, later on we went out and spent time at Oak Ridge, Savannah River, and these various places, Idaho, and Hanford. We made stops of a day or two in each one with the staff at each one of these places. We saw on the ground what they were doing, and got a notion of what the situation was in each of these places. Savannah River not immediately; that came about later. But we had Oak Ridge, we had Idaho, and we had Hanford, among the places we visited the first summer, I think it was. Gradually, well, we wrote up a report about so thick on this conference at Princeton, the summer results. One thing that came out there was this. They always wanted, for every one of these things right from the beginning, to dispose of these things at the site where they were produced. And we said, “Gentlemen, these sites weren’t selected with regard to waste disposal, they were selected for totally different purposes. It doesn’t follow that because you’re producing wastes here, it’s a suitable location for their disposal.”
Right. They were worried about transport of materials?
Yes. Of course. Well, what about putting it in hard rock mines? There were mines up and down the piedmont, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and so on. We said, “Well, have you ever been down in one of those mines? If it’s an operating mine, you’ll find water coming in through all the chinks and cracks and crevices, and the pumps are running. If they don’t, the mine will fill up with water. If it’s an abandoned mine, it’s full of water. And if you don’t keep the pumps running, the working mines would flood. So we suggest that you go out and go down one of these mines and take a look at it, and then consider whether you want to put wastes down there or not. We don’t regard that as a practical solution right now.” And as in this dirt tank thing at Oak Ridge, over and over again they wanted disposal sites where they were producing the wastes. All we could come up with at that conference was really two possibilities. One was deep wells in a basin like the Illinois Salt Basin, in deep sand, which is now full of, say, salt water brine. There you would pump the brine, dilute the wastes very considerably, and pump them down into this sand and displace the existing brines down there. Put them at a density high enough that they would stay down on the basis that they were of a higher density than any displaced water. The other thing was you had to account for the heat problem. You had to have enough dilution so that your heat wasn’t too concentrated. That was one possibility. But the practical problems of drilling the wells and handling these wastes down the hole and so on, presented enough practical difficulty that alternatives were to be considered. One of them was a proposal of a member of the committee, that would be Heroy [unclear], of rock salt, and I was very skeptical about that.
What made you skeptical at first?
Well, bedded salt in particular. Salt domes. I’d been in salt domes, I knew they were tight. Bedded salts would be salts of a few feet or a few meters thick, and overlaid by water filled sediments. To me, I anticipated that they would be pretty leaky. Well, Heroy insisted that the salt mines even under Detroit were bone dry. He also did a considerable amount of looking into the various salt mine areas of the country, including out in central Kansas. So we finally made a trip out to Kansas, to see these abandoned salt mines out there. It turned out that at a depth of around eight hundred feet or so, there was an old abandoned mine that had been mined out about 1920 or so. There was not a drop of water in the place. At least, maybe a little suture occasionally and a little bit of moisture along the lines or so.
Right, but very different from a hard rock mine.
Yes. And this was quite impressive. So we recommended they clean up part of this old mine where the roof had caved in and so on, and use it as a place to do experimental work on properties of salt including using simulated wastes which had the same chemicals, but with the heat supplied laterally. Putting things in salt cavities and observing the effects on the mechanical properties of the salt. Well, what we didn’t know was that right next door almost, there was a solution salt mine in operation. Nobody knows the outer boundaries of a solution mine. So we wound up after the preliminaries recommending this salt disposal, but not in a slurry or liquid form but in solid chroamics tubs so big around, maybe ten feet around, put into a honeycomb series of rows in the salt, widely enough spaced so you could keep the temperature controlled. We made such a recommendation. As far as locality is concerned, I don’t know if we expressly said so, but we had the understanding that this whole abandoned mine was only for experimental observations, if they’d buy up the property out there and completely own, completely control, do their own mining and have the thing under control. Instead of that, pinching pennies, they wanted to work it to buy up this old mined out mine that we’d looked at, and that’s where they had trouble with the state of Kansas. Kansas Geological Survey started raising hell about it, because there was a solution mine around there next door. Not only that, but they were running into some abandoned oil wells for which there were no records. Maybe it was in this solution mine or somewhere. So the Kansas Geological Survey got into the act to objecting to what they were doing, and got the whole state government involved. The result was that the AEC got thrown out of the state of Kansas.
So that was the end of that?
That was the end of that particular project. Then they went to New Mexico. They’re still arguing with southeastern New Mexico right now.
Were there any other matters related to the work that you did on disposal of atomic wastes that you recall during that time?
Well, I was involved in this from 1955 right on through 1965. But I was the chairman of the Research Council of the National Research Council of the Geology Science Division from 1963 to 1965. Well, what happened was that we’d been so critical of the things the AEC were doing with these various establishments that here we still existed as a committee, but they weren’t doing anything with us. So when I came on, I called in the AEC representatives and said, “Look, I will not have a committee standing around holding its hands. Either there’s something for the committee to do, or discharge the committee.” Well, the point was that they didn’t like the criticism that we’d given them consistently right down the line, when they were doing something wrong. All right, they somewhat grudgingly said, “Well, let’s make one last round of these sites, and you write a report on this. After that we’ll decide what to do.” We did. We made the rounds. By this time I was ex officio member of the committee, but I had been a member of the committee straight up to that time, including these two years. So we made the rounds, and they wrote their report, and the AEC suppressed it.
Is that so?
They looked it over themselves and wrote a rejoinder of it internally, but they wouldn’t agree to allowing it to be published.
Was there a specific ground, or was it again because of the past criticism and sensitivity to the issue?
Well, the whole thing, see, the AEC was accustomed to being almighty, doing any damned thing they pleased, as they did with this. So in the late 1960s, they ran into something they’d never encountered before. That’s about the time they were having this bout with Kansas. They had a public meeting up in Vermont, and the whole countryside of Vermont rose up against the proposed electric power plant up there. That was the first time they’d ever really been talked back to by a public meeting. It kind of jolted them. The next thing was, an uprising was building up in St. Paul-Minneapolis, because they were trying to build a plant up river from St. Paul-Minneapolis. There was an uprising, a public uprising there. Well, I didn’t know much about this thing until I got a phone call from a man at the University of Minnesota. It was all very mysterious and very cryptic, but would I come to this meeting and would I prepare a paper, give a paper that was ready for publication? I had very little information on what the meeting was about. So I agreed to do it, and took a train to Minneapolis. I got there in the late afternoon, and instead of taking a taxi to my hotel, I found myself surrounded by a bunch of AEC people and a private limousine for my hotel.
That must have been a surprise.
So I called up the man I knew in the university there and said, “What the hell is going on here? There’s something mysterious about this whole business.” And then the next morning, the same thing.
At your hotel?
They picked me up at the hotel, and got me back but when I got over to the meeting place, around the university buildings, there were people all around the outside carrying placards. What they were doing was isolating us from anybody talking to us or us talking to anybody.
How did you feel about that?
Well, I didn’t like any part of it. So this meeting went on, and there were people there from as far away as the state of Washington, Colorado and so on at this meeting. The first talk was by the governor who was bitterly opposed to the whole business. The point was that they were being very scared. It was the first time they’d ever been talked back to, seriously. This Vermont thing had happened just before, and here they were.
What was your own testimony at that meeting?
Well, it wasn’t testimony. I was invited to give a general paper over the energy situation, which I did. But what got me was the tricky behavior of the AEC people over this whole business. So it came time for the general sign-off, the second afternoon, I guess. And I had this suppressed report with me, of 1965. This was, I don’t know, 1968 or something. And I was just waiting for an opportunity in the discussion to mention this suppressed report. But no opportunity occurred, and so I couldn’t get it into the record. But later on they wanted to publish a book on this, the papers at this meeting, and I was reviewing the galleys. At an appropriate place, I wrote a footnote about this suppressed report, and I got it back blue-penciled by this same guy who’d made the mysterious call in the first place, who had, he was with the University of Minnesota but he also had inside connections with the AEC. He was really an AEC representative.
Do you recall his name?
No, I don’t at the moment. But there was another man, I mean, the committee, the university committee for this meeting had the same distortion. There was a man by the name of Gene Abrahamson who was a medical doctor, an MD. He saw the blue pencil, he made a note in the blue-penciling, by this AEC guy, and he raised hell about it. He sent this thing to Senator Muskie.
That’s interesting.
And Muskie demanded from the AEC a copy of this suppressed report, and he published it in the records of his Committee on the Environment or whatever it was called.
That’s interesting. This would have been 1968, 1969?
Yes, somewhere about then. So that’s how it got in print.

His recounting of the meetings is very educating with respect to the early discussion on nuclear fission radioactive waste disposal. Apparently, the nascent industry wanted to to dispose of the spent radioactive fuel onsite of the reactors, despite the power plants’ sites being chosen without regard to disposal issues, the methods of which were just being discussed, and were primitive to say the least. From Session VIII of the oral history:

The AEC’s concern at that time was to find a relatively easy way, painless way of disposing waste?
No, what they really wanted was to have a disposal site at each one of these places, and we told them emphatically that these places weren’t located with regard to waste disposal. There was no place to dispose, no suitable waste disposable site at any one of these major institutions. The last go round was Savannah River, and at Savannah River, you have Tertiary, young sediments, to roughly a thousand feet. The bottom of that was a thick sand, Tuscaloosa sand, of two or three hundred feet thick, which is one of the major fresh water bearing aquifers on the Eastern seaboard. Immediately under that were these basement rocks. And they were proposing at the time to mine out a tunnel, about a quarter of a mile long or so. And they were going to put these nuclear wastes in this tunnel under the assumption that they wouldn’t leak.
Where was it to be located? Underneath the plant and below the bedrock?
Yes. But just by the Savannah River plant. These rocks were full of cracks, fractures going like this, and I recommended to them that they send men to go down into mines on the Eastern seaboard. The water is coming in all these cracks, if you get a lot of rain you flood the mines. I don’t think they ever did. But that’s a long story all by itself.

In session 7 of the oral history, he discusses “penny-pinching” of the Atomic Energy Commission, and “treating waste disposal as kind of an orphan child, in effect sweeping it under the rug.”

I don’t remember now. One thing was legitimate, because I’d talked about 235 or something or other and he’d pointed out that it was natural uranium in the original fission reactor in Chicago. Which was a mistake on my part. But with regard to the waste problem, I’d visited all these sites. I knew a good deal about it and they didn’t.
And you were on the committee.
Yes. And so after I got back, and endured this heckling of Wilson, why, I wrote some very specific things, data into this nuclear problem. Oh yes, also including this letter that we’d written to the AEC commissioners. I put it into this report, and also the data from Floyd Culler on the chemistry of the various waste components. With regard to waste disposal, I said they’d been treating waste disposal as kind of an orphan child, in effect sweeping it under the rug. So in my final recommendations, I recommended, here’s the letter to McCohn, pages 118 to 119, and Table 12. Somewhere I’ve got that waste disposal recommendation — well, I don’t see it, but it’s somewhere in here.
In this report?
Somewhere in there I put in, from the report by Floyd Culler who was the chief chemist at Oak Ridge, a whole graph of the isotopes and whatnot in these wastes were involved in. I recommended that the budget for the disposal of nuclear wastes be increased several fold over what it had been. That the people who were doing the job couldn’t do it any better because they didn’t have enough money. And they didn’t have enough money because the AEC was pinching pennies to try to promote nuclear power, and they were cutting all the other costs in sight in the process. OK. When the committee, these reviews were completed, the committee then had its final session. When it came my time, knowing the issue that was afoot, I said, “Gentlemen, what do you propose to do with this report, burn it?”
What was the reaction to that?
I said, “This is my report. I wrote it. Any errors in this report will be gladly corrected. Aside from that, the report stands. If you don’t accept the report, other than that, I resign from the committee and publish it on the outside.” I backed them down.

M. King Hubbert recognized the need for nuclear energy, but later in his career, he balked at using a technology that created tons of radioactive waste with no good way to deal with it.

It is for this reason, he turned to renewable energy as an alternative, despite the recognition that these technologies didn’t have the energy density to match fossil fuels let alone nuclear power.

Had Mr. Hubbert known about low-energy nuclear reactions, he would most likely have supported a nuclear power that that uses no radioactive fuel and creates no radioactive waste to dispose of.

Behind schedule, but catching up soon – this graph of Dr. Hubbert’s may very well represent our future energy mix yet.

Cold Fusion Now!

Related posts:

Nine Critical Questions to Ask About Alternatiev Energy Answered by Jed Rothwell.

1976 Edison Electric pamphlet by Ruby Carat December 10, 2010

Dangers of nuclear fission plants exposed; stand in contrast to cold fusion

Cold fusion is called low-energy nuclear reactions and though it is a nuclear process, cold fusion is nothing like the nuclear fission reaction that powers today’s nuclear plants.

  • Low-energy nuclear reactions describe a 21rst century process of extracting energy from atoms involving fractal superwave phonons, quantum waves, and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
  • In low-energy nuclear reactions, there is no radioactive fuel or toxic metals involved. Energy is created by quantum interactions inside small amounts of nano-sized metals like nickel and palladium infused with hydrogen, the main element in water.
  • Low-energy nuclear reactions do not involve a fission chain reaction.
  • Low-energy nuclear reactions do not produce any of the dangerous fission products seen in current nuclear technology.
  • Low-energy nuclear reactions do not produce radioactive waste. In fact, the effect of transmutations may allow for a process to clean-up existing stockpiles of radioactive waste, “transmuting” them into non-lethal materials.
  • Low-energy nuclear reactions do not require huge power plant infrastructure, but will be scaled small for personal use or large for industrial use. Current prototype cells sit on tabletops, operating at room temperatures.
  • Low-energy nuclear reactions do not have the geo-political impacts of oil and gas. Using a fuel of hydrogen from water, access to water means access to fuel, giving communities around the globe true energy security.
  • Low-energy nuclear reactions do not have a history in weapons research.
  • Low-energy nuclear reactions are being developed by young, new-energy companies concerned about the environment and the future of life on Earth.
  • Choose cold fusion for a peaceful next-generation nuclear power.

    Japanese Red Cross
    Donate to the Japanese Red Cross
    International Red Cross
    Donate to the International Red Cross
    American Red Cross
    Donate to the American Red Cross.

    A natural disaster. A human tragedy.

    A 9.0 magnitude earthquake followed by a wall of water over 3 meters high in the open ocean (and a few times higher upon hitting the coast), moving an astounding 800 kilometers per hour. The shock and trauma defies words. Superimpose a nuclear fission plant disaster and the mind is numbed into an empty and quiet desperation.

    How do you prepare any large-scale power facility for that kind of geological event? The short answer is, you don’t. These events have been statistically rare enough that design costs outweigh the remote probability of an extreme event. In other words, a cost-benefit analysis concludes it is not economically feasible to construct facilities to withstand these kinds of extreme events. In some cases, current technology is not evolved enough to respond to the geological conditions.

    Note that this type of extreme event ”had been” statistically rare enough, based on previous data, which of course doesn’t guarantee any future outcome. At some point, the black swan casts a dark shadow, and from the realm of possibility, a probability of one. Thales said, ”The past is certain, the future obscure” in 600BC.

    There is always risk. Yet the amount of risk one takes should be commensurate with the reward. Space exploration is risky, but the rewards, real or intangible, outweigh those risks, and we agree to take those risks to continue expand our physical reach into the universe.

    But some risks are not worth the price. What are some of the elements of nuclear fission technology that contribute to its high levels of risk?

    Fission is the process of splitting large atoms apart into smaller atoms whose combined mass is smaller than the original atom. The missing mass converts to energy. This process begins when a heavy element, like an uranium atom, for instance, absorbs a neutron. Having an extra neutron, it becomes an isotope of uranium, and even heavier. Now unstable, the atom then falls apart into two smaller atoms, releasing heat energy in the process. It is this heat that turns water into steam, which turns a turbine, creating electricity.

    The fission process uses the heaviest elements that exist naturally, like uranium and plutonium. These elements are characterized by their natural radioactivity called radioactive decay. During radioactive decay, alpha and beta particles, and high-energy gamma ray photons are spontaneously emitted. These particles and gamma rays are what make-up the radiation.

    Radiation is dangerous to biological life forms as these particles and photons interact with living tissue at the sub-atomic level, ionizing the atoms in a body. The effects of ionizing radiation can be sickness, cancer, death, and genetic birth defects for generations. There is shielding against this radiation, but when the shielding breaks down, the environment, and people, are exposed.

    An explosion at a nuclear fission power plant can spread radioactive fuel into the environment where, depending on the material, radioactivity can last for decades, or millennia. These particles could then settle in the water tables, in food or clothing, or be inhaled in. The radioactive particles polluting the environment then decay, causing the radiation that is harmful to life.

    Fukushima nuclear fission power plant explosion.
    A building at the Fukushima nuclear fission power plant after an explosion.

    Beyond a nuclear meltdown, or other catastrophic accident, radioactive fuel must be mined, transported, and processed before it’s ready to use, providing ample opportunity to mishandle the toxic metal fuel. The International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA reports in their International Status and Prospects of Nuclear Power, published in September 2010, that ”uranium mining now takes place in 19 countries, with eight countries accounting for 93% of world capacity.” These materials are at risk by those who would make ”dirty bombs”, conventional explosives laced with radioactive material, the purpose of which is to further spread radioactive poisons to biological systems.

    The fuel for nuclear fission plants is a finite resource, geographically located, with all the geo-political ramifications that come with a strategic resource. Currently, the full demand for uranium has not be met by mining, but by recycled materials. According to the IAEA, ”Currently, 35% of uranium needs are covered by secondary supplies – stored uranium or ex-military material – and recycled materials.” Dramatic price rises since 2004 by a factor of 10 anticipate a possible deficit. When industry estimates include low fuel costs, the supply deficit from mining that has been made up by recycled sources must be factored in.

    Nuclear fission power relies on a process of chain reaction instigated by neutrons. When an uranium atom absorbs a neutron and subsequently splits apart, on average, 2.5 new neutrons are liberated from that reaction. These newly freed neutrons can then be absorbed by more uranium, creating more fission reactions and more neutrons, continuing the self-sustaining fission process.

    The trillions of reactions from all the uranium atoms splitting apart needs moderating. If the reaction goes too fast, and becomes uncontrolled, the fuel will become hot enough to melt. The radioactive liquid mix will form a pool at the bottom of the container, at which point, it can melt through the containment vessels and out into the environment.

    A nuclear fission meltdown can leave a region uninhabitable for centuries. Some materials will remain radioactive for geological time, essentially creating a dead zone for humans, as well as other lifeforms who live on this planet.

    Japan sits in one of the most seismically active regions of the world and, before March 11, had 55 operating nuclear fission plants. Over the last several decades, power plant designs have evolved into structures with maximum safety features for magnitude 7.9 earthquakes, but not 9.0. Every area of the globe has some type of extreme weather or natural threat that could disrupt or destroy a nuclear infrastructure. Earthquake, tsunami, or super-hurricanes can exact a crushing dominance of Mother Nature over human technology. It doesn’t happen often, but when a statistically rare event does occur, the consequences from damaged or destroyed fission power plants can last millennia.

    In the US, there are 104 operating nuclear reactors, 97% of them more than twenty years old, and more than half over 30 years old. This graph from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission NRC shows the average number of unplanned automatic scrams, or emergency shut-downs per plant for all 104 plants.

    Did lots of fission plants have no unplanned emergency shut-down, and a mere few have many more scrams? The chart doesn’t answer that. All it shows is a non-zero number of automatic emergency shut-downs.

    Worldwide, ”about three quarters of all reactors in operation today are over 20 years old, and one quarter are over 30 years old.”, according to the IAEA, and age appears to be a factor in reactor safety. While newer fission nuclear plants have multiple safety back-up systems, the Fukushima plant in Japan was built in 1971, and had only the diesel generators, sitting above ground, as a back-up. When the back-up diesel generators stopped, a partial meltdown occurred.

    A survey of the age of the nuclear fleet in the United States shows the majority of nuclear reactors are between 20 to 40 years old, the result of successful efforts by concerned citizens to block the building of new nuclear fission plants after Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

    A specially-skilled individual is required to operate, maintain, and troubleshoot the various designs of reactors of this age. Lack of experienced personnel with this decades old technology is a cause for concern in the industry, and nuclear agencies are stepping up recruitment efforts to replace an aging workforce ready to retire. The IAEA reports that countries entering into the nuclear fission power production will have to rely on “their technology providers” for training.

    Dangers from mining, processing, transporting, and fission reactor accidents are further compounded by back end radioactive waste disposal. Currently, there is no good method for storing radioactive waste generated by fission plants. Depending on the reactor, hundreds or even thousands of kilograms of radioactive fuel is used. Used fuel rods continue to accumulate in larger quantities and needs to be stored for longer time periods than initially envisaged (over 100 years), according to the IAEA.

    This photo showing “temporary storage” of radioactive waste is from the NRC website.

    Radioactive waste disposal in the US. Disaster in the making.
    Nuclear waste disposal in the US is "non-permanent", despite there being no acceptable solution on the horizon.

    In the US, a planned radioactive waste site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, had a license revoked and will be closed. Finland, France, and Sweden are hailed as ”advanced” in waste storage, with Finland currently constructing an ”exploratory tunnel to disposal depth” in hopes of ”applying for a repository construction license in 2012 so that final disposal can begin in 2020.”

    Beyond storage, some spent fuel is ”reprocessed” for weapons, continuing the intimate link between nuclear fission and weapons research. Reprocessing takes used fission fuel rods and transforms the material into another form, like a powder. This procedure has been criticized for creating a product easier to steal than the original heavy array of fuel rods would be. Reprocessing also makes accounting for the radioactive material much more difficult as small amounts may go missing, and not be noticed for years.

    Look at the top of this page at the Earth at Night montage by NASA. Japan shines bright, indicating a high-technology culture with a need for electrical power. And Japan is not alone.

    Many regions of the world shine just as bright. It is these regions that have had the benefits of petroleum that the unlit regions haven’t had, and due to peak oil, won’t have. Yet all the regions of the world want some form of a technological culture requiring more energy. The US Energy Information Administration predicts a 2.3% increase in world demand for electricity through 2035, using a baseline of 18.8 trillion kilowatt hours generated in 2007.

    Currently coal generates 39% of the world’s electricity [OECD]. As hydrocarbons continue their slide down Hubbert’s curve, new sources of energy are needed, and fission nuclear power plants are being discussed as a solution.

    ”Nuclear energy from fission produces slightly less than 14% of the world’s electricity supplies, and it is a mere 5.7% of total primary energy used worldwide”, according the IAEA’s most recent International Status and Prospects of Nuclear Power report.

    Yet there are 440 nuclear fission power plants operating today on the planet, creating less than 14% of the electricity supplies. This graph from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission shows the distribution of nuclear fission power plants around the world.

    Currently, 60 new nuclear fission plants are being built world wide, with a third of them beginning construction in just the last few years. Ten new reactors broke ground in 2008. This increased to 12 new construction starts in 2009.

    The IAEA also reports that 18% of the fission reactors under construction have been under construction for over 20 years.

    ”Of the 60 plants, 11 have been under construction since before 1990, and of the 11 possibly only three are predicted to be commissioned in the next three years. There are a few reactors which have been under construction for over 20 years and which currently have little progress and activity.”

    Asia is a newcomer to nuclear fission technology, but it is this region of the globe that has the highest rate of new construction. Key industries have been ramped up to supply materials and engineering to this young industry.

    ”All 22 of the construction starts in 2008 and 2009 were pressurized water reactors (PWRs) in three countries: China, Repubic of Korea and Russian Federation”, says the IAEA report. China claims the ”capability to produce heavy equipment for six large reactors per year”. The Japan Steel Works (JSW), a maker of key fission reactor parts, had only a few months ago planned to triple it’s capacity.

    This chart from the US NRC shows the number of applications for new nuclear power plants. The US, which had a virtual halt to new fission plant constructions after the 1979 Three Mile Island disaster, also has increased applications for licenses in recent years.

    New construction costs are rising higher than official inflation as commodities increase in nominal value and stricter design constraints are enforced. The permitting and building of a new plant can easily take ten to twenty years which also contributes to higher costs.

    It is currently cheaper to permit and build a natural gas plant than a nuclear fission plant, though this analysis has not taken into consideration the costs of environmental damage in either production or consumption of hydrocarbons.

    From the IAEA Nuclear Technology Review 2010:

    ”The Nuclear Technology Review 2009 reported that the range of cost estimates for new nuclear power plants had grown at its upper end compared to the range of $1200-2500 per kW(e) that had been reported in the Nuclear Technology Review 2006. In the past year, cost estimates remained high…..

    ”The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) updated a cost study for the USA that it had done in 2003 – its updated overnight cost estimate of $4000/kW(e) is very close to the name of the estimates for north America….. The updated MIT study concludes that, in the USA, the cost of capital will be higher for nuclear power than for coal and natural gas-fired power because of the lack of recent experience and resulting uncertainty among investors. Without this ’risk premium”, nuclear power’s estimated levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) would be comparable to the LCOEs for coal- and gas-fired power, even without fee or taxes on carbon dioxide emissions and even with an overnight cost of $4000/kW(e).”

    The private Citigroup Investment Research, estimated ”overnight costs for generic new nuclear reactors in the UK at $3700-5200/kW(e)”, while costs for new nuclear fission plants in Asia are significantly lower. The NRC IAEA report mentions the Republic of Korea where new reactor costs are $1556/kW(e), allowing Korea to bring ”four new reactors on-line since 2000 and has six under construction.”

    The chart here was supplied to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission FERC and shows production expenses, which does not include upfront capital and construction costs. Also, fission fuel costs have risen significantly recently.

    The US Energy Information Administration published this table comparing the relative costs of producing electricity for its Annual Energy Outlook 2011, and it does appear to include a ”levelized” capital cost.

    Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert from the Institute of Policy Studies, wrote ”A 1997 report for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by Brookhaven National Laboratory also found that a severe pool fire could render about 188 square miles uninhabitable, cause as many as 28,000 cancer fatalities, and cost $59 billion in damage.”

    We find this cost incalculable.

    Whether it’s natural disasters or human error, things will go wrong. Looking at the various facts that cause risk, nuclear fission is a poor choice for Earth’s electrical energy source.

    The nuclear fission industry claims a nuclear crisis like what happened in Japan, can’t happen in the US. But Wall Street investment banks said a crash couldn’t happen, and BP claimed they had the technology to deal with anything on the ”horizon”.

    There are services to radiation in medical technology, and the natural radiation that exists in our environment allows for the dating of ancient objects from humankind’s early history. But the various factors that contribute to the disservices of large scale nuclear fission plants to generate electricity are overwhelming, and we conclude that fission nuclear power plants are not safe or cost-effective, especially when the ultra-clean alternative of cold fusion exists.

    Cold fusion is called low-energy nuclear reactions and though it is a nuclear process, cold fusion is nothing like the nuclear fission reaction that powers today’s nuclear plants.

  • Low-energy nuclear reactions describe a 21rst century process of extracting energy from atoms involving fractal superwave phonons, quantum waves, and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Energy is created as converting small bits of mass to energy as Einstein described in his famous equation
  • In low-energy nuclear reactions, there is no radioactive fuel or toxic metals involved. Energy is created by quantum interactions inside small amounts of nano-sized metals like nickel and palladium infused with the hydrogen from water.
  • Low-energy nuclear reactions do not involve a fission chain reaction.
  • Low-energy nuclear reactions do not produce the amount of harmful radiation seen in nuclear fission reactions.
  • Low-energy nuclear reactions do not produce radioactive waste. In fact, the effect of transmutations may allow for a process to clean-up existing stockpiles of radioactive waste, “transmuting” them into non-lethal materials.
  • Low-energy nuclear reactions do not require huge power plant infrastructure, but will be scaled small for personal use or large for industrial use. Current prototype cells sit on tabletops, operating at room temperatures.
  • Low-energy nuclear reactions do not have the geo-political impacts of oil and gas. Using a fuel of hydrogen from water, access to water means access to fuel, giving communities around the globe true energy security.
  • Low-energy nuclear reactions do not have a history in weapons research.
  • Low-energy nuclear reactions are being developed by young, new-energy companies concerned about the environment and the future of life on Earth.
  • For these reasons, we reject current nuclear fission technologies and we support cold fusion as the only viable alternative for ultra-clean next-generation nuclear power from water.

    Japanese Red Cross
    Donate to the Japanese Red Cross
    International Red Cross
    Donate to the International Red Cross
    American Red Cross
    Donate to the American Red Cross.

    Supporting links:

    1. Nuclear Technology Review 2010 International Atomic Energy Agency http://www.iaea.org/

    2. International Status and Prospects of Nuclear Power International Atomic Energy Agency http://www.iaea.org/

    3. United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission http://www.nrc.gov/

    4. NRC Probability Risk Assessment
    http://www. nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/probabilistic-risk-asses.html

    5. United States Department of Energy Nuclear Office http://www.ne.doe.gov/

    6. United States Energy Information Administration http://www.eia.doe.gov/

    7. Guide to the Nuclear Wallchart
    http://www. lbl.gov/abc/wallchart/outline.html

    8. The Oil Drum http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3877

    9. Cost of Nuclear Power

    10. Nuclear Power Costs

    11. Nuclear Reprocessing: Dangerous, Dirty and Expensive Union of Concerned Scientists
    http:// www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/nuclear_power_risk/nuclear_proliferation_and_terrorism/ nuclear-reprocessing.html

    12. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission http://www.ferc.gov/

    Edmund Storms on the Rossi device: “There will be a stampede”

    James Martinez surprised Cash-Flow listeners on March 1 when he played a pre-taped interview with Dr. Edmund Storms just back from Chennai, India where the ICCF-16 took place. ICCF is a conference where researchers in low-energy nuclear reactions share their most recent results.

    Dr. Edmund Storms is a long-time researcher in this field and author of “The Science of Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions“.

    Download the .mp3

    James taped the interview in conjunction with 137 Films crew filming their documentary on cold fusion. To be released in late summer, it is expected to make the independent film festival rounds.

    Here are some excerpts.

    James: “What are the new issues that are happening in cold fusion? What happened with that Italian discovery because that’s been written about quite a bit.”

    Dr. Storms: “They [Rossi and Focardi] found a way of amplifying the effect to a level that makes it attractive as an industrial source of energy and people in the cold fusion field have been working towards that, but they had not achieved that level of heat production, and so this was both a bit of a surprise and a bit shock, but a bit of a kick to get people moving a little more rapidly now. And it looks like the phenomenon will actually have an application.”

    James: “This is a major step then, would you not agree?”

    Dr. Storms: “Oh yes, It’s a major step. It doesn’t change the reality, the reality had already been established, but it has moved the debate from the laboratory into an industrial environment, and it’s put the phenomenon on the map now. People, skeptics can no longer ignore what’s going on, it’s such a high level, and apparently quite reproducible, that there’s no doubt that it has the potential to really be a serious competitor for a primary energy.”

    James: “So we’ve arrived, so to speak.”

    Dr. Storms: “We’ve arrived. It’s interesting we’ve arrived in a different car than we thought we were. Cold fusion started out using deuterium and palladium, and then Rossi found that it worked quite well in nickel and light hydrogen.”

    James: Regarding that, since I saw the 60 mins interview, and saw what the Israeli’s did over there in their lab, what did … the Italians do that’s different? Were they financed well? What made them be ahead of everybody else regarding this issue?”

    Dr. Storms: “That question is a little difficult to answer. The contrast between the Israelis, Energetics, … they were using – just to give you a little bit of understanding – they were using heavy water, palladium in an electrolytic cell, and applying what they call Superwave that allows the palladium to get to a very high composition. They had worked with the Italians to create palladium that could achieve these high compositions. So they were getting success in a more conventional framework.

    Rossi hit upon this somewhat by accident. He was using a nickel catalyst to explore ways of making a fuel by combining hydrogen and carbon monoxide and apparently, observed quite by accident, that his [apparatus] was making extra energy. So then he explored it from that point of view and, apparently, over a year or two, amplified the effect.

    He’s exploring the gas loading area of the field. This is also a region, a method used in the heavy water, or the heavy hydrogen, system. But in this case, it was light hydrogen, ordinary hydrogen and nickel and what happens is quite amazing.

    You create the right conditions in the nickel, and he has a secret method for doing that, and all you do is add hydrogen to it and it makes huge amounts of energy based upon a nuclear reaction.”

    James: “Wow. Alright. I have a number of questions since you said secret. Are they going to be transparent with what they discovered? If I were them, I would tell everybody how they did it, or are they not doing that?”

    Dr. Storms: “Well, you really need a patent, you need to protect your intellectual property. You want to be able to gain some economic benefit from the discovery. So far, they have not gotten a patent, and that’s always been difficult in the cold fusion field because the patent examiners simply don’t believe that it’s real.

    So, until they get a patent, they’re not revealing how they do it. Now, they’ve been upfront about what they can do and what they promise to do, and so far, they’ve fulfilled these promises. Once they get their patent, then they promise to reveal how they go about doing this.”

    James asked Dr. Storms a question from an unnamed listener who apparently knew this interview would be happening. The question?

    “Some said this is LENR, not cold fusion. What’s the difference?”

    Dr. Storms: “Well there is no difference. It’s purely a matter of semantics. There is a phenomenon, and that phenomenon allows a nuclear reaction to be initiated in a chemical environment, and it’s a very special chemical environment, it’s one that we don’t understand yet, we don’t have total control over it, so that it’s difficult to reproduce, although not impossible, it’s been replicated hundreds of times, so it’s real.

    But it’s a process whereby the Coulomb barrier is reduced in magnitude, in a solid, by some kind of … oh what would I call it … chemical mechanism. It’s not chemistry, but it involves atoms and electrons, which of course apply to chemistry.

    And so, what do you call it? Well it was called cold fusion by Steve Jones, and that stuck. And then later people said, you know, that’s not very accurate because you get transmutations, and it may not be fusion directly, so let’s make it describe a bigger area, so we’ll call it low-energy nuclear reactions [LENR]. I like the chemically-assisted nuclear reactions [CANR] description myself, but nevertheless, it’s all the same thing. It’s hard to believe that nature has only one technique for doing something so extraordinary.”

    James: “As far as patents go for this subject matter, are you briefed on that all the time, are other scientists made aware of what’s happening with that, or do you hear about it later?”

    Dr. Storms: “Well it generally percolates into the cold fusion chat rooms fairly quickly. There was a patent that was made known by Windom-Larson most recently, but that was granted, oh I guess it was actually filed back in 2005.

    Very few are granted, and most of the ones that have been granted, I might add, are absolutely useless as patents because not only don’t they describe very well what is going on, but in the absence of any understanding, their descriptions are not implementable, you cannot take the patent and then do what the patent claims, which is what a patent absolutely requires. It has to describe how a person that skilled in the arts can go about replicating what the claims may be.

    None of the patents do that, so technically, their not valid, and that ‘s a big problem, until somebody makes something that works, and then describes how they made it work and that’s where Rossi comes in, because he in fact does have something that works and once he shows how it works, he will have a valid patent.”

    James then asked Dr. Storms what type of press did the Italians get on their demonstration.

    Dr. Storms: “The Swedish newspapers, the Italian newspapers, the Greek newspapers, they showed an interest. The American newspapers showed none at all. It’s been on a number of blogs and talked about in a number of chat rooms, but no, it hasn’t reached a level of any serious importance to the American press.”

    James: “Why do you think that is now?”

    Dr. Storms: “Mainly because, it is institutionally the belief that cold fusion is not real, or if it is real, it’s so trivial, it’d make no difference to anybody. That’s institutional. It’s the myth that’s in, we’ll call it, the intellectual structure of the United States, and a number of other countries.

    There a few countries where that’s not true, and Italy is one of them. The government there believes that it’s real, and they’re doing everything they can to develop it. The government in China believes it’s real an they’re doing everything they can to develop it.”

    James: “So what is the problem? Regardless whether it was an American issue or an Italian issue, that should be all over the press here, and it’s not. It absolutely amazes me that this needs to be happening right now, what I’m doing. The press should’ve had this totally covered.

    Well, what’s next for you? Are you going to be following what the Italians are doing, are you going to go to Italy and be working on it, and try to do what they’ve done and replicate it where you are?”

    Dr. Storms: “Well, first of all, I haven’t been invited. Rossi is determining who’s going to watch this – he’s promised a demonstration in Florida that’s coming up in October. And there will be some people from the US government there watching, and hopefully they will be convinced that it’s real and that will change the attitudes.”

    James: “So they still – after this entire time – can’t wrap their head around it!”

    Dr. Storms: This obviously is not a rational world, and we, on many levels, do not have a rational government. It is very simple once you realize that this irrationality is present.

    Yes, people are trying to replicate what he did. But in the absence of this secret addition, it’s all guesswork [refering to the secret ingredient Rossi is using as a catalyst]. And that’s been pretty much true of all the work in the field. We do not have a good theory, we don’t have a path to follow, and so people do a lot of random searches, and when somebody – I’ll use the analogy prospecting for gold – when somebody finds a nugget, everybody runs to the spot where that guy found the nugget and everybody starts to dig there. Maybe some other nuggets will be found, maybe not.

    That’s what has made it easy for the skeptics to blow it off, and it’s made it easy for the government to pretend that it doesn’t exist.”

    James then asked why was the upcoming demo is being done in Florida.

    Dr. Storms: That’s where the factory is that Rossi owns. Rossi has business interests in the United States, he has a number of companies. He has a company in Florida and that’s where the cells are being manufactured.

    James: “So they’ve [Rossi and co.] already started the process then?”

    Dr. Storms: “Oh, yeah. The [recent demonstration] in Bologna was a single cell unit and it put out 10Kilowatts and it’s put out even more energy in other circumstances. He’s going to build a hundred cell unit in Florida, he claims, to try to run a Megawatt. That’s pretty difficult to ignore.”

    James: “What do you think they’re going to be able to do of a practical use? What are they going to use it for initially?”

    Dr. Storms: “Well, they’re planning to use this as a source of energy in a factory in Greece, and they’re making arrangements in Greece for this to be incorporated into an industrial application, an industrial factory.

    It has to be done in industry at this level because we don’t know if it’s safe, we don’t know it’s characteristics, we just don’t know enough about it to put it into individual homes. This is what he says, and it’s quite rational. It has to be explored, its characteristics have to be understood in an industrial environment, so they’re going to do that in Greece.

    Of course, he’s taking orders, and I’m sure there’ll be people from all over the world, where regulations are not so quite severe, and minds are more open than they are here, and they’ll buy units, and put them in their factories, and suddenly the cost of energy to those companies will go down significantly, and all of a sudden people will panic, and then there’ll be a stampede to buy these things.”

    James: “The irony of the timing of all this now, seeing what’s going on in the Middle East right now, everything’s going up at the gas tank, people looking at other energy things, do you find this unusual, the timing of this? This could have happened five years ago, and right now, with the complete and total collapse of many economies around the world, suddenly these guys in Italy come up with something. Did that surprise you?”

    Dr. Storms: “Well, life always surprises me. It always has these synergistic relationships happening all the time. No, it didn’t surprise me. It’s quite, what would I call it, simple justice. The system absolutely needs this, and suddenly it’s available. I guess it took both happening at the same time to change minds.

    You have to be desperate enough to want to believe that this is real, and then you have to have a device that puts so much energy out that you cannot ignore it, and you marry those two things together, and the skeptics are just blown away.”

    James: “If this is going to happen in Florida, obviously the press is going to catch wind of it, and if it is a private meeting for this demonstration, are you .. thinking that now all the big money people behind the scenes are going to get in on this deal and close it off, and compartmentalize it, and not give it to the public?”

    Dr. Storms: “I don’t think that’s possible.”

    James: “… because I don’t think you should have been cut out of it. I mean, you’re one of the guys that stood tall before anybody!”

    Dr. Storms: “Well I appreciate that, but I’m not being cut out of it, and in fact, I don’t feel that I’ve been cut out of it.

    I’m funded. We’re working to try to understand the mechanism and so we’re hoping to have a seat at the table when the final decisions are made. But Rossi is clearly in charge of his own discovery, and I wouldn’t find that unusual.”

    James: “OK, well, listen, I’m glad that you’re back, I’m glad that you’ve told us this, I’m glad that we’ve covered it here. I want to thank you very much Dr. Storms for always being there for for me and helping me out, and making this a public issue, so thank you very much, much appreciated. We’ll be talking to you very soon. You may be surprised – we may hit Florida anyway!”

    Dr. Storms: “Well James, I appreciate your efforts too, it’s efforts like yours that make it possible for people to find out what’s going on.”

    For the FULL audio interview, go to the Cold Fusion Now Ca$h Flow page to download the March 1 Edmund Storms interview.

    Related Links

    Why is cold fusion rejected? by Dr. Edmund Storms July 1, 2010

    Q&A with Dr. Edmund Storms by Ruby Carat June 27, 2010

    Answering “Nine Critical Questions to Ask About Alternative Energy”

    Whether you are a scientist or just a regular Jane, how do you evaluate the claims of a new energy technology?

    Michael C. Ruppert CollapseIn 2003, Michael C. Ruppert, author of Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil and star of the movie Collapse, posed “Nine Critical Questions to Ask About Alternative Energy“.  You can read these queries on his old website From the Wilderness. His new site is Collapsenet.com.

    The questions created criteria for evaluating the claims of alternative energies like the renewables: wind, solar, and hydro, as well as ethanol.  It was his response to those who advocated replacements for oil and gas which produced flat or negative energy return on energy investment EROEI, like ethanol.

    Of concern was M. King Hubbert’s Peak Oil, the condition of reaching maximum production capacity for oil, after which is irreversible decline.  The need for solutions to a looming, deep energy deficit had many hoping for an alternative energy solution, but their expectations did not match the realities.

    Eight years later, the possibility of a clean energy technology marketed to the world moved closer to physical reality with the recent demonstration in Italy of a cold fusion “steam engine”.  Inventor Dr. Andrea Rossi’s ECat boiler produced 12 Kilowatts of power over an hour, using a fuel of hydrogen and nickel.

    Low-energy nuclear reactions have been a science for the last 22 years.  Now, it seems that a technology is in sight, a technology that promises a nuclear-sized power with no emissions or radio-active waste.  How do these claims  stand up to Mr. Ruppert’s Nine Questions?

    Jed Rothwell of lenr.org has long been involved with low-energy nuclear reactions research, and is the author of Cold Fusion and the Future, a look at the implications of cold fusion technology and the changes and challenges it may bring.  We asked Mr. Rothwell to respond.

    (Note: Question 9 had multiple parts which we numbered to fifteen questions!)

    1. How much energy is returned for the energy invested (EROEI)?

    With oil or coal there is significant “energy overhead” meaning it takes energy to extract energy. With oil this is roughly 10% to 20% depending on where the oil is extracted, the type of well, how far the oil is shipped, and what grade of fuel the refinery produces.) Coal is more efficient; the overhead is around 8%.  (Pimentel, D. and M. Pimentel, Food, Energy, and Society, Revised Edition. 1996: University Press of Colorado, p. 17.)

    The only significant energy overhead with cold fusion is the energy used to extract heavy water from ordinary water. This is 0.05% with today’s heavy water extraction techniques, and it will probably be less in the future, because the techniques should improve.  (Rothwell, J, Cold Fusion and the Future, p. 46.)

    Total worldwide production of energy will consume roughly 6,000 tons of heavy water per year, which is enough to fill 2.4 Olympic size pools. Some additional heavy water will be needed to cover losses from evaporation, broken cells and so on.  (Rothwell, J, Cold Fusion and the Future, p. 34.)

    2. Have the claims been verified by an independent third party?

    Yes. Roughly 200 major laboratories have verified many aspects of cold fusion, especially excess heat and tritium. A small number of laboratories have confirmed neutrons and helium production. These are much more difficult to measure.

    3. Can I see the alternative energy being used?

    If you visit the laboratory you can see experiments producing cold fusion. This is what Prof. Robert Duncan did on the “60  Minutes” segment broadcast in 2009. There is only one commercial or practical scaled device. It was demonstrated by Rossi et al. at U. Bologna on January 14, 2011.

    Watch CBS 60mins Cold Fusion More than Junk Science

    4. Can you trace it back to the original energy source?

    The energy comes from nuclear fusion.

    5. Does the invention defy the Laws of Thermodynamics?

    Nothing defies the laws of thermodynamics. That is impossible. Cold fusion is measured using calorimetry, which is predicated upon the laws of thermodynamics.

    6. Does the inventor make extravagant claims?

    No. All major claims confirmed by mainstream peer-reviewed journal process. The claims may seem extravagant to people unfamiliar with the scientific literature, but that is a subjective state of mind.

    7. Does the inventor claim zero pollution?

    Cold fusion produces minute amounts of helium, far smaller than the existing background, and low levels of tritium which is dangerous but can be contained. It produces far less nuclear waste and radioactivity than uranium fission, and roughly 11 million times less radioactivity than plasma fusion.

    8. Can I see the blueprints, schematics or a chemical analysis of how it works?

    Yes. Thousands of papers about cold fusion have been published, including roughly 1,000 in mainstream peer-reviewed journals.

    9. Infrastructure requirements: Does the energy source require a corporation to produce it?

    Yes. Cold fusion cells are similar to batteries. They require precision manufacturing and careful handling of some toxic materials. Tritium must be removed during recycling. Mildly radioactive substances when handled correctly are not a hazard. Tritium is used today in some wristwatches and in emergency exit signs in buildings. Radioactive americium is used in smoke detectors.

    10. How will it be transported and used?

    If cold fusion can be made practical, it will be built into devices. There is no need to transport it. Both cold fusion and plasma fusion produce roughly 1.5 million times more energy per gram of fuel than chemical energy sources, so there is no need to transport fuel. An average automobile will use roughly 1 g of heavy water per year.

    11.  Will it require new engines, pipelines, and filling stations?

    It will require new engines, but no pipelines, filling stations or any other distribution infrastructure.

    12. What will these cost?

    Cold fusion generators and engines should cost roughly as much as a conventional chemical ones now do. They probably will not require rare or expensive materials, and they should require roughly as much precision and cleanliness as NiCad batteries do. The fuel for cold fusion generators — heavy water or deuterium gas — is virtually free. U.S. per capita annual fuel costs are presently $2,499 according to the Energy Information Administration, U.S. DoE. The deuterium fuel needed to replace this would cost roughly $1.

    13. Who will pay for them and with what?

    Consumers will pay for them. Since the fuel is virtually free the overall cost of owning these machines will be lower than today’s models.

    14. How long will it take to build them?

    Once commercial devices become available they will replace most major energy consuming devices such as automobiles, heating and air-conditioning units, and appliances as rapidly as these machines wear out and are replaced. These machines normally last 10 or 20 years. Some heavy equipment such as railroad locomotives and aircraft last longer than 20 years. Large centralized power generators last much longer than 20 years, but these will not be needed with cold fusion.

    15. What do you think of these questions in regards to evaluating alternative energy?  Are they sufficient?

    Some of these questions are not applicable to cold fusion. The questions that should be asked of any scientific claim about energy (or any other subject) are: Has the claim been peer-reviewed and independently replicated? In the case of cold fusion, the answer to both is yes.