Nuclear Fusion — Our Best Energy Option

Monday, 16 May 2011 01:37 PM

By Pat Boone

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I hope you realize how special you are.

I do, when I speculate on this spinning ball we inhabit. You're aware, I trust, that our blessed Earth is a unique part of a finely tuned universe and is itself miraculously fine tuned. As Albert Einstein mused, "This Earth is not an accident; that's scientifically unthinkable."

All our latter-day space exploration has discovered not one other planet fabulously designed with conditions for the formation and development of human life. Mankind, through the attribute of intelligence and the ability to reason, is set apart from all other forms of life.

Man controls his life apart from his surroundings, whereas all other forms of life must adapt to their surroundings and are controlled by them.

Fundamental to man's ability to control his life is access to energy.

The more people that crowd onto this unique planet, the more energy must be developed and available. Energy is absolutely required for:

• agriculture, in all forms, and production of potable water;
• transportation;
• production of virtually all goods required by humans;
• provision for man's comfort and survival in all weather conditions.

However this planet came to be — whether the lately postulated "Big Bang" or the profound Genesis account of the creator saying "Let there be . . ." — we know the Earth has three sources of energy, resulting from two fundamental scientific processes. And these sources are atomic in nature.

Firstly, the Earth is unique in having life as we know it powered through photosynthesis, from energy produced by the sun. This colossal energy within the sun is provided by the fusion of hydrogen into helium — and the associated release of energy.

Scientists describe the Earth as an organic battery, having been "charged" by the sun for as long as both have existed, in what we call the solar system.

Secondly, the Earth is unique in the large amounts of fissionable heavy elements occurring in nature — like uranium and thorium. These elements are very rare elsewhere in the universe, where hydrogen and helium make up 99 percent of available elements.

Thirdly, the Earth is unique in the large amounts of "deuterons," or heavy hydrogen atoms. Across the universe, approximately 2 in 100,000 hydrogen atoms are deuterons, but on Earth the ratio is 1 in 5,500. The Pacific Ocean alone contains 10 to the 42nd power of these exceptional atoms.

Maybe you're asking right about now . . . "What's this all about, professor Pat?" I'll tell you. It's about human survival on this unique planet. I've been studying with a group of scientists and physicists about the three sources of energy on which our future depends. And only one is our ultimate hope.

The third choice, the one we're familiar with, but the weakest one, is energy produced by chemical reactions that generate heat by "burning" hydrocarbon fossil fuels. These fuels were created through photosynthesis in combination with the processes of plant and animal life, from the energy provided by the sun. Though some scientists estimate the age of the rock we call Earth at 4.6 billion years — others warn us that the 300-year period we're living in now will soon have depleted usable fossil-fuel reserves.

It's absolutely imperative that, during whatever time we have left, man must use his intelligence and reasoning abilities to master the second and first choices of energy — because fossil fuels are finite and cannot be replaced or reproduced.

Beginning to get the picture?

The second — and interim — choice is energy produced by the atomic reaction of splitting heavy elements such as uranium, element 92, isotope 235, or thorium element number 90, isotope 232. This is almost "Greek" to me, not my training by a long shot, but I'm motivated to learn what I can, while we can.

Thorium 232 is relatively abundant on Earth. Uranium 235 is far less abundant. It's estimated that there is enough usable thorium 232 on the Earth to provide the energy consumed by the United States, at current usage, for the next 1,000 years. But that's just the United States, a small part of this planet.

However, the splitting apart of elements in a man-induced atomic reaction is contrary to nature and the way our universe was formed. Regardless if you believe the creation was created by the hand of God or a random "Big Bang" event, the Jewish and Christian scientists I am learning from have shown me this creation of the universe and our blessed Earth came to be through the fusion process. The creation is a process of building by combining elements, not splitting them apart.

The splitting of atoms results in many problems such as nuclear radiation, long-term dangerous radioactive waste, possible explosive chain reactions, meltdowns of fuel cores (as in Fukushima and Chernobyl) and the ominous uses of atomic energy to wage war and annihilation.

So what's our answer . . . our only answer?

The first choice and long term our only hope is energy produced by the process of nuclear fusion, wherein two light element atoms are fused into a slightly heavier atom, along with a corresponding release of dynamic energy. To scientists (and I'm not one), a well-known and understood example is the fusion reaction of D (hydrogen 2) + T (hydrogen 3) > He4 (helium) +17.6 MeV (energy units) + n (neutron). There are many other fusion reactions, each having distinct advantages and disadvantages.

This appears to be the very process, the "big bang" if you will, by which God initiated — or created — everything we know.

This is also the fundamental process of the sun, which is generating the energy giving us life right now.
Here's the main point: Our earth has enough heavy hydrogen (deuterium) to power the entire world's energy literally for eternity.

So controlled nuclear fusion is nature's first choice for energy, because:

• It follows the laws of the creation of the universe;
• It has none of the negative aspects associated with fission, or the splitting of atoms;
• It is virtually an unlimited source of inexpensive power (once it's developed and running), capable of supplying 100 percent of the Earth's annual — and ongoing — energy requirements.

A final thought. Animals and humans were given different natures, in Hebrew "nefesh" and "neshama." Nefesh is the animal instinct toward survival, comfort and reproduction. Neshamah is the higher nature, a reflection of God himself, that sees the bigger picture and realizes how interconnected — and interdependent — we all are.

Actually, we humans have both natures, often in conflict with each other. As the the renowned scientist/author Dr. Gerald Schroeder observes, "When the two natures are in sync, great goals can be reached."

That's my hope in writing this column.




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