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Power Science

Thorium, the Next Nuclear Fuel? 710

Posted by Soulskill
from the plenty-on-the-auction-house dept.
mrshermanoaks writes "When the choices for developing nuclear energy were being made, we went with uranium because it had the byproduct of producing plutonium that could be weaponized. But thorium is safer and easier to work with, and may cause a lot fewer headaches. 'It's abundant — the US has at least 175,000 tons of the stuff — and doesn't require costly processing. It is also extraordinarily efficient as a nuclear fuel. As it decays in a reactor core, its byproducts produce more neutrons per collision than conventional fuel. The more neutrons per collision, the more energy generated, the less total fuel consumed, and the less radioactive nastiness left behind. Even better, Weinberg realized that you could use thorium in an entirely new kind of reactor, one that would have zero risk of meltdown. The design is based on the lab's finding that thorium dissolves in hot liquid fluoride salts. This fission soup is poured into tubes in the core of the reactor, where the nuclear chain reaction — the billiard balls colliding — happens. The system makes the reactor self-regulating: When the soup gets too hot it expands and flows out of the tubes — slowing fission and eliminating the possibility of another Chernobyl. Any actinide can work in this method, but thorium is particularly well suited because it is so efficient at the high temperatures at which fission occurs in the soup.' So why are we not building these reactors?"
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Thorium, the Next Nuclear Fuel?

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  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:07PM (#30622870)

    Even Iran wants nuclear power for this reason.

    You sure it isn't because their oil production has peaked and is now declining alarmingly quickly?

     

  • Problems (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SteveAstro (209000) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:13PM (#30622954)

    I am working on the very periphery of the problem, designing equipment to measure the properties of hot radioactive molten fluorides - in the region between 900-1700 C, for European nuclear researchers. Clearly one of the problems which should be obvious is that we are looking at cutting edge material technology to work at these temperatures and neutron fluxes !

  • Why move to Thorium? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kestasjk (933987) * on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:15PM (#30622984) Homepage
    Uranium is also abundant and safe, but it's a lot better known than thorium. Thorium is promising, but there's no need for an alternative nuclear fuel at the moment (and probably won't be for a very long time). The nuclear fuel isn't what caused the Chernobyl disaster, it was the reactor, and huge amounts of research has been invested into new uranium based reactors with all sorts of properties making them safer and cheaper.

    Thorium looks good and should be researched, but with nuclear fuel we're spoiled for choice. The idea that we need to find a new nuclear fuel for safety or cost reasons only damages the chance of people getting behind the fine technology we have/are-developing now.
  • by Rehnberg (1618505) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:17PM (#30623006)
    I brought this article up in my government class a few weeks ago (we spend more time discussing what the government is doing than how it's set up), and I couldn't convince a single person that this new kind of reactor was safe. Let's face it: years of not building reactors combined with years of scare tactics from our government about other countries building reactors can't be undone with science. Propaganda > Science
  • Re:zero-risk? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:18PM (#30623010)

    yeah true but so what who cares. I live relatively close Chernobyl the effects of that meltdown has been way overestimated. New research on the matter shows that we where of by 10-100 times in our estimations on the effects of Chernobyl. Nuclear is not nice to humans but it's not such a big deal to our environment. Animal in Chernobyl shows to be at good health, they are in-fact more immune against cancer than animals living in less radiated areas. If we humans want a clean environment and still have the energy there is not many other choices to go with.

  • Because... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by perrin (891) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:23PM (#30623062)

    The debate has been ranging here in Norway lately, since we hold a lot of the world's known reserves of the stuff (as opposed to many wild guesswork assumptions about possible reserves around the world). The reason why not more reactors are built is quite simply because the technology is not there yet. By most accounts, a functional prototype reactor is 20 years away. It is a very complicated technology, and more difficult to engineer safely than uranium reactors that we currently know a lot about. Several studies, for instance from MIT, cast doubt on whether thorium reactors will even be cost effective. Extracting thorium from the ground is harder than for uranium, and the enrichment process is more difficult and costly. Thorium will also produce dangerous, radioactive by products, and if you have enrichment capabilities for thorium, it is not a far step further to produce weaponized plutonium.

    So it may be the future, but apparently no silver bullet.

    All this is IANANP (I Am Not a Nuclear Physicist) so I guess someone reading ./ can answer this better than me.

  • Re:Gimmick (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:38PM (#30623228)

    Imho the problem is not primarily safety of operation, but safely storing radioactive wastes for thousands of years without the risk of contaminating the environment / water. Well, at least here in Germany they had contamination after a few decades, because their salt mine wasn't such a good place as they thought ... Ok, they didn't care much if it was safe I guess, it was only meant for testing purposes but got filled with lots of waste, when they wanted to get rid of it.
    I wonder, how cheap nuclear power really is, if they include the billions of tax money that are spent to get rid of nuclear waste and cleaning up those places and repairing the damage, if something goes wrong.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:39PM (#30623234) Journal
    Lets assume that was the case. Then why worry about creating the fuel, even though it is easy to get, prior to building your first reactor? Seriously, their behavior is not one that is worried about energy, but about other issues. Even if their oil has peaked, it will be many decades before a real impact is made. Instead, they should be worried about building up other industries, than about building enriched uranium and plutonium.
  • by jjohnson (62583) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:42PM (#30623262) Homepage

    Reduced waste is one of the reasons for using Thorium: Not as much, and it decays to safe levels in decades, not centuries.

  • by theguyfromsaturn (802938) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:45PM (#30623290)

    And I think I remember a report from a few weeks back on BBC saying how we have been consuming more Uranium in existing nuclear plants than we have been producing... if it hadn't been for stockpiles we wouldn't have been able to run currently existing nuclear plants. It is very coincidental that we not speak of this "alternative fuel".

    It is also a very bad news when people talk about the "boom in tar sands" as a good thing. Tar sands are expensive (energy wise) to exploit, and wouldn't be put into production in any kind of massive scale if better sources of oil existed. It is a very bad indicator of the state of the energy supplies.

    I've noticed that ever since global oil production peaked in 2008, there has been a "flurry of green initiatives" in the news worldwide. Under the pretense of showing increased concern about the environment, I have no doubt that it reflects more a state of panic of the higher ups that the warnings so long ignored have come to be true.

    Sadly any alternative source of energy, requires time to develop and deploy, and will itself become an energy sink during that development/deployment phase. That is why those who first warned of peak oil, and general limits to growth, also mentioned that it was necessary to start preparing for the peak BEFORE it happened, one or even two decades before if possible. The current salvation is the slowed down economy, but it won't last forever, and demand will soon hit the ceiling again... which will likely cause further economic hardships, which in turn will have a direct influence on the development and deployment of alternatives.

    It's a catch 22 scenario. I just wish we'd had 40 years forewarning so we could prepare. Wait, we actually did. And we haven't even started talking about the population problem yet. Maybe if we keep ignoring it, that problem will also go away without any kind of hardship for anybody. (and yes both problems WILL take care of themselves even if we ignore them, just like global warming will too, in the same way that mother nature always uses to take care of such problems... the human species, along with many others, may not like how she does things, however, which is why maybe we could have tried to engineer our way out of it by alternate means).

    But who am I to talk? I'm sure that our government/corporate overlords, under the wise guidance of conventional economists know better. So no need to fear.

  • by mudetroit (855132) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:56PM (#30623406) Journal

    There are tons of reasons why "fuel based technologies", which is really an odd statement as even most of renewable energy sources are fuel based on some level, primary among them is we still have a fairly large shortfall between the world energy demands and its energy producing capacity. A situation that will only get worse as we increase our capacity for creating energy ironically enough. It would be irresponsible to not work the problem from every angle possible. This means working on solar, wind, nuclear fission and fusion, and even better fossil fuel facilities, for now. As well as on working on increasing our efficiency in consuming and delivering energy.

    Neither side of the great energy debate wants to hear it, but we are decades away, at best, from a real solution to the problem. And attacking the solutions you don't like don't gain anyone a thing. If you think one solution is the best one then do what you can to support it. Technology wars are won by one side winning via whatever merits, not attacking opposing technologies.

  • Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by arthurpaliden (939626) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:57PM (#30623416)
    Because 'Big-Uranium' bought up all the patents and made them secret. ...... Just like 'Big-Oil" bought up the super-dooper battery patents.
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:00PM (#30623456)

    hen why worry about creating the fuel, even though it is easy to get, prior to building your first reactor?

    National security? If you rely on someone else, you are left at their mercy. They can just turn off your economy. This is actually a problem which Europe is facing with respect to Russian gas.

    Even if their oil has peaked, it will be many decades before a real impact is made.

    Declining revenues happen immediately, how would you fancy a 30 year recession? How long would it take to build a Nuclear based infrastructure? It'll take decades.

    Instead, they should be worried about building up other industries

    Without energy, how would they run these other industries? Everything is based on energy, our primary energy source just now is oil.

    Iran may well be after the bomb, but I haven't seen any evidence that they're doing anything more than planning a move away from oil. i.e. more foresight than most western governments.
     

  • by mweather (1089505) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:02PM (#30623494)

    National security? If you rely on someone else, you are left at their mercy. They can just turn off your economy.

    Bingo. Iran doesn't want another country to do to them what they did to the West in the 70s.

  • by CdBee (742846) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:04PM (#30623518)
    Well given that they're just down the street from a state with a serious racial prejudice problem and nuclear weapons, I can hardly blame them for that. As far as I''m concerned either both Israel and Iran should have nukes, or neither should. Imbalances in that part of the world usually lead to genocide
  • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:10PM (#30623580)

    We want a decentralized energy production to become independent from big energy companies and to produce the energy more safely

    Without realizing it, you've stuck upon the real psychological motivation behind the "decentralized everything" movement: it's political. It's a reflective reaction against the complexity of modern society, and against globalization.

    Every honest intellectual person knows that sometimes centralization is desirable. Centralization is cheaper, more efficient, and often cleaner and safer as well. It's a lot cheaper for one building on campus to generate steam than for shack to have its own heater. It's easier to scrub the output of 100 coal plants than that of 10,000 automobiles.

    Yet there are otherwise-intelligent people arguing for community-run, small, decentralized infrastructure even where it's batshit insane, like for nuclear power plants. This is not the product of honest reasoning, but an expression to live out the fantasy of living in a commune in the woods.

    You want to stem the power of large corporations? I'm with you. Regulate them. But sometimes scaling up an operation is a no-brainer.

    The attitude that small is always beautiful is the product of a small mind.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:13PM (#30623616)
    Except for the fact that Israel is accountable to the free world. If Israel does something to make the rest of the world mad, they suffer for it. They took some heat for some of their attacks on Gaza. Really, Israel using nuclear weapons will be much more justified than the Soviet Union or the US having or using them. Israel has been attacked over and over again, is a small country and has very few allies in that region of the world.
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:15PM (#30623656)

    India has Thorium reactors today.

    Really? Can you show me a photo of a commercially operating (today) Thorium reactor?

    There are certainly designs and plans and prototypes and test reactors.
     

  • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:17PM (#30623668)

    India [rediff.com] seems to have come to the complete opposite conclusion with their thorium reactor.

    It makes sense too, given that thorium requires no pre-processing and produces reactor-grade Uranium as its primary byproduct. By using the Uranium as well (which they have found difficult to import) they extend the life of the cores out to two years, which is practically unheard of.

  • by naasking (94116) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [gniksaan]> on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:22PM (#30623740) Homepage

    Because we're scheduled to run out of easily mined Uranium within the next 10 years [technologyreview.com], unless the US's military stockpiles are released. Thorium is far more abundant, is safer since it can't be weaponized and it's meltdown-proof in liquid salt reactors, and more importantly, is much, much more efficient as a nuclear fuel. So I disagree with all of your points, save one: Uranium is not abundant or safe, but I grant you that Uranium is more well known; it's infamy can also be considered a problem however.

  • by Nadaka (224565) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:24PM (#30623766)

    An Israel armed with nukes can destroy a couple Iranian cities. An Iran armed with nukes could wipe Israel off the map, and that is exactly what they have publicly stated their goals to be. The only question is, would they be willing to sacrifice the Dome of the Rock and a couple Iranian cities to do it? Maybe I am just a horrible pessimist, but I don't like those odds.

  • India and thorium (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:27PM (#30623790)

    and yet, despite all you say, the supposedly incorruptible Manmohan Singh [*] bent over backward to do a deal with the US that is -- in the long term -- clearly very bad for India if you consider energy independence combined with foreign policy independence. He's accepted an unprecedented level of interference from the US... oops I mean "inspections", we're now committed to buying hundreds (thousands?) of billions of USD worth of equipment from the US (most of the drooling over this deal was from US companies in that line, naturally), and there's no mention of Thorium anywhere on the horizon as far as these bozos are concerned.

    [*] to be fair, I think he's still incorruptible; it's just that fornicating Italian female canine has such an influence over him... What bothers me is that President Kalam, who had been talking up Thorium for years (IIRC) and criticising the nuclear deal (albeit gently, considering his status), suddenly veered around and said yeah this is good for India. Now *that* is an achievement. I do believe Indira Gandhi herself could not have budged this man from saying what he believes, so how the fIfc {see above} managed that is beyond me...

  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @02:03PM (#30624230)

    You are under the misguided impression Iran's biggest enemy in the region is israel. It is not. It has yankee troops on two borders, and has the Saudi's to contend with for leadership as the per-eminent Muslim state. The rhetoric against israel is just that, rhetoric with some token proxies causing a fuss to make it look like they're doing something. The real prize is to destabilize saudi, who regularly publicly toy with the idea of being nuclear armed.

    Who do you think the saudi's are buying all the F15's to protect themselves against exactly? Not Israel. And until the yanks are out of Iraq it's an arms race between Saudi and Iran to see who gets to seize control of the place the moment the last yankee boot is out of there. The iranians and saudi's have been and will perpetually be at each others throats. Iran is too relatively powerful (compared to Saudi) to be ignored, but too small compared to the Sunni world to risk ticking them off too much - and they need a strong defence to prevent the Sunni's from trying to wipe the idol worshipers out to deal with this problem once and for all.

    Complaining about israel is the middle east equivalent of westerners complaining taxes are too high, every now and then someone comes along and makes some token changes to policy to win political support, but basically everyone knows the game and is not out to rock the boat too much. Admittedly there is a real danger than you'll get some idiot in charge who actually believes all of the rhetoric, but that is not presently the case with Iran.

  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Cwix (1671282) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @02:14PM (#30624346)
    Hmm 100 years.. give us time to make lotsa solar panels and wind turbines before we run out, not saying we as a collective will have the smarts to do that, but it will give us an opportunity to advance our technology to a less finite resource. Just cause it will eventually (potentially thousands of years) run out isn't a viable reason for not using it.
  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cheesybagel (670288) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @02:21PM (#30624416)
    There's only so much coal in the world as well. But we have been burning it for centuries and there is still more.

    There's only so much carbon fibre in the world to make windmills too.

  • Re:Gimmick (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @02:35PM (#30624536)

    How is this some arbitrary statement with no backup material at all insightful? Is this insightful:

    With the potential for vacum energy extraction in the coming decades, history will show that pumping money into developing thorium reactors was silly as nuclear energy was just a temporary stop gap measure. Far better of would society have been if the money had been spent on developing a better massage table.

  • by that this is not und (1026860) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @02:47PM (#30624664)

    They ensure Palestine is essentially a ghetto without real blowback.

    You're confusing the matter. The Arab States ensure that the Palestinians remain in ghettos. Little holding camps within the Arab States that the refugees cannot escape from. They do this because they view the Palestinian refugees as a weapon to use against the West.

    It's an appalling situation, and the Arab States are responsible for it. 'Palestine' didn't even exist as a nation. Just a bunch of arabs who lived in that area.

  • Re:Because... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cheesybagel (670288) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @02:54PM (#30624730)
    India has low uranium reserves, but plenty of thorium reserves. That is why they are researching the stuff. Norway is spoiled by having petroleum reserves, so it is hardly surprising they do not give the matter much consideration.

    AFAIK the problem is not that thorium energy production is unfeasible, rather that it is poorly researched.

  • by thsths (31372) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @03:13PM (#30624906)

    > Especially when there is no spare money to procure a wholly new reactor type.

    Well that is the problem - and it is mainly because of safety regulations - which are a political area. We all know that the conventional nuclear reactor has a lot of safety issues, but it is certified! Getting a Thorium reactor to the same level of documentation and acceptance would be an expensive and lengthy process. As long as most countries have a de facto moratorium on nuclear reactor construction, there is no money in pushing new technology.

    And man - on a technical level Thorium is so much superior that there is really no contest at all.

  • by Nutria (679911) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @03:22PM (#30625002)

    Iranians are not suicidal virgin seekers.

    You don't become the leader of a theocracy by being moderate.

    The real reason is that Israel is at odds with middle east

    Being a tiny sliver of a nation, surrounded by enemies (do you not remember how many times Israel has been invaded?) who vastly outnumber you and hate your guts does tend to generate well-justified paranoia.

    and cannot see another rising power.

    Sure they see another rising power. With missile to reach Israel and "soon" nukes to attach to them.

    From what I've read (not on FNC), most Iranians are not anti-US, but they are firmly anti-Israel.

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr. Spork (142693) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @03:31PM (#30625092)

    Sorry to break it to you, but there are only so many years that the sun will be burning and the wind will be blowing. So these aren't sustainable either, right? The truth is, there is a practical method for extracting Uranium and Thorium from sea water. Japanese research shows we could do this for about $120/kg of Uranium - which, if burned completely in a reactor produces a great deal of energy. Since Thorium is more abundant, it should be cheaper.

    And the nice thing is that even if we used seawater Uranium to provide 100% of the world's energy (inc. transportation), the rivers of the world would still be adding more Uranium to the oceans each year than we could ever remove. So nuclear fission is not indefinitely sustainable. It's only sustainable as long as rivers keep running to the sea, which is on the same order of magnitude as the life cycle of sun-type stars.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @03:41PM (#30625202)

    This is so true.

    But who am I to talk? I'm sure that our government/corporate overlords, under the wise guidance of conventional economists know better. So no need to fear.

    Maybe the solution is called Technocracy [wikipedia.org]. If I knew how to start a global revolution, I would do it right now.

  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @04:28PM (#30625708)
    Yeah, which brings up another important point: The Thorium does not need to be enriched - you just throw natural Thorium into the reactor and it works. This means fewer dual-use enrichment plants (the kind we want to bomb in Iran) so a much lower proliferation risk. But also: Much lower fuel cycle costs.
  • by SD-Arcadia (1146999) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @04:30PM (#30625730) Homepage
    I suggest anyone seriously interested in our energy future to take the time to go through this report called "Technofixes" by CorporateWatch UK
    http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/?lid=3126 [corporatewatch.org.uk]
    According to this report, only wind and solar come out as having the potential to be both socially desirable and effective in combatting climate change. Hypothetical 4th generation nuclear reactors, even if decided upon, would be too little too late because it takes long to deploy at great up-front cost, and the waste problems remain unsolved (despite what you may hear about the magic of breeder reactors etc.)
  • Re:Why? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Der PC (1026194) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @05:19PM (#30626182)

    Um... and you think the parts just happen to exist in their usable form in the earths crust, eh?

    We just dig up a usable wind turbine ?

    Not so.

    The carbon footprint of making one 60m high wind turbine is approximately the same as the carbon footprint said wind turbine will save in fossil fuel in its lifetime. The addition of pollutants like solvents, heavy metals and other bi-products adds insult to injury.

    Best of all is that these products are all finite resources as well.

    So which heap do you want to dig from ?

  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Vintermann (400722) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @06:51PM (#30627044) Homepage

    > The carbon footprint of making one 60m high wind turbine is approximately the same as the carbon footprint said wind turbine will save in fossil fuel in its lifetime.

    No. Not even close. Orders of magnitude wrong.

  • Re:Safety (Score:3, Interesting)

    by naasking (94116) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [gniksaan]> on Saturday January 02, 2010 @07:29PM (#30627396) Homepage

    Molten fluoride salts are not known for safe handling.

    Experience suggests otherwise [wikipedia.org]. Any dangers due to fluoride salts are more than compensated by the fact that the reactor does not suffer from steam explosions or regulation complexities of a light water reactor. Furthermore, several molten salt reactors have been built and run for extended periods of time. This technology is proven.

    And fusion is at least 30 years out, I guarantee you. The only promising fusion possibility is Brussard's Polywell, and if that pans out, we're talking about a whole new untested technology that will take decades to refine.

    Thorium is tried and proven right now.

  • by snowwrestler (896305) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @08:14PM (#30627764)

    Centralization is to some extent the direct result of specialization within society. Nuclear power is extremely complex and to work in it, one needs highly specialized training. The direct result is that only a small subset of the population will ever be able to build and operate nuclear power plants, and thus nuclear power generation will always be highly centralized. The same is true of coal power or natural gas power generation, or, for that matter, food and clothing production. The less time I spend managing these things myself, the more time available to me to improve in my own chosen area of specialization.

  • by c6gunner (950153) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @09:19PM (#30628228)

    It's not just about getting oil for ourselves, its being able to control it for everyone else. It's also about using up someone else's oil before taking desperation measures for our own.

    Ah, yes, invading other nations "to take their oil" isn't a "desperation measure", but investing in domestic industry is. What world are you living in?

    I think the expectation was that everyone was surprised about the apparent "ease" of Afghanistan, and assumed that it would translate to Iraq

    Nobody with any understanding of the situation was at all surprised about the ease with which the US took Afghanistan. We were a bit surprised by how quickly Iraq folded, though, and were quite surprised that they didn't use any gas or chemical warfare.

    That's all irrelevant, though. By the time of the Iraq invasion, the US had already been involved in the Afghanistan effort for almost 2 years. Therefore the people planning the invasion - even if they were completely incompetent - would have had to know that their military commitment to Iraq would be 2 years at a minimum. Given the projected figures for Afghanistan at that point, they would more likely have been planning for a 6+ year effort, although they would have underestimated the force levels required. Therefore it would still have been MUCH cheaper to invest in domestic industry, instead of going overseas to steal other peoples resources. Your argument makes absolutely no sense.

    If you think that first world nations fight wars over resources, then you really don't understand globalization. We fight over ideology, we fight to project power, and we fight to maintain our dominance and increase our security. If we want resources, we fucking buy them because it's a hell of a lot cheaper. Of course, some countries that we're interested in will also happen to have natural resources. In such cases it makes sense to try and secure some of those for our own use. However, that doesn't mean that the natural resources were the reason for the invasion - they may simply turn out to be a fringe benefit.

    I say "may be" because, if you look at the Oil deals that Iraq has been making, you'll notice that the US is getting the short end of the stick.

  • by OrangeCatholic (1495411) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @01:03AM (#30629408)
    Who exactly is arguing for community-run nuclear power plants, anyway? People want fuel cells, solar and wind so they can get off the grid, and get over the guilt of contributing to the pollution problem. Distributed power generation is potentially the biggest game changer since gasoline (which, ultimately, was also a massively distributed power generation scheme - see the automobile). Gasoline enabled the suburbs and the settlement of vast interiors of the US.

    Distributed electricity generation will probably result in another renaissance of rural development, and ultimately the telecommuting society that was envisioned 10-15 years ago.

    Oh, and a "commune in the woods" is also known as a "town." I'm pretty sure that before this plot of land had a desk and a computer, it was full of, you know, trees.

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