The Bloom Box and Nuclear Energy 02.28.10 Search

Major Changes in Energy are Coming, Driven by Political Risks


The Bloom Box is at best a temporary diversion. The big transition is towards electricity and away from Arab-controlled oil. And nuclear power will return, like it or not.

The Bloom box is a fuel cell, and it requires fuel, most probably natural gas. There is no free lunch. Something is transformed in order to release electricity. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, temporarily abundant but not a long-term solution to the problem of unlimited energy demand on a finite planet. How solar energy can be used as a fuel for the Bloom box is unclear, except as biogas from decomposition of organic materials, which is limited at best. The nation is heading towards an electric future, so such technologies will have a role to play.

The recent renaissance of nuclear energy is part of the electrification of the American energy mix. As long ago as the late 1970s it was clear that nuclear would eventually re-emerge as a major energy source for the U.S., once it became obvious to many that oil has a political Achilles' heel and nuclear does not. With the rapid deployment of hybrid and electric vehicles, the search for non-Arab electricity sources takes on new urgency.

What has stalled nuclear power has been the shadows of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, and the "not in my backyard" political stance that has blocked responsible long-term storage of nuclear wastes. France and earthquake-prone Japan have shown that it is possible to use a much higher percentage of nuclear power than the U.S. does, without destroying the nation, and the time is ripe for an authoritarian "just do it" decision on nuclear wastes. If we can land men on the Moon, we can glassify nuclear wastes, encase them in concrete coffins, and place them in the sub-ocean trenches that slowly move ocean-bottom materials safely towards the center of the Earth.

The possible risks of meltdown will be compared to the known risks of international oil-based poltical blackmail, and the known risks will be assessed as higher. Look into the pathetic state of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and you will see thousands of extremist madrassa schools blooming like flowers in the desert after a rain. These schools are funded with the enormous oil profits we supply to Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations. Their perspective is long-term: they see a future 60 years out when those schooled in anti-American fanaticism will overrun the Arab world and focus on bringing down the hated America.

Oil will be diminishing, and natural energy sources like solar, wind, and off-shore current generators will be ascending. And, like it or not, nuclear energy is coming back.


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