Nuclear Power We Might Be Able to Live With
All existing nuclear plants, and the planned $13 billion ITER hot fusion project, are based on the "atoms for peace" idea of adapting military bomb technology to civilian use. The tens of billions in research dollars that have been spent have clouded the judgment of leaders in the nuclear science community causing irrational denial of the work being done at low energy levels.
The disasters in Japan prove that these grandiose attempts to generate power from bomb technology are misguided.
The scientists that perform peer reviews and make up government advisory panels are all recipients of government largess. As a result, promising low energy nuclear work has been driven underground and forced to create its own journals and finance its own research.
Now, from Italy, comes the stunning news that Low Energy Nuclear Reactors (LENR) are, suddenly, a practical reality consistently generating significant power.
Focardi and Rossi recently had a public demonstration of a desktop-sized reactor that produces 11 kW of net power for extended periods of time. Both the fuel and residues are clean and free of radioactivity. The fuel is nickel powder and a tiny amount of hydrogen. A gram of nickel generates 2000 kilowatt-hours in this prototype.
On January 14, 2011 a public demonstration was held at the University of Bologna with about 50 attendees.
The U.S. press totally ignored this momentous event. It had been burned before by the “cold fusion” announcement in Utah an 1998. What most people don’t know is that the declaration that cold fusion was “junk science” was really “junk criticism,” encouraged by powerful interests. Much like the “climate skepticism” of today.
You may not have heard that the Fleischman-Pons experiment has been replicated thousands of times by many researchers and that Fleischman has greatly increased the power output in a lab supported by Toyota. In fact, in 2009, DARPA issued an analysis report reversing their previous negative position on cold fusion. Engineering has trumped science. We now know how to make low energy reactions generate power, but there are still many mysteries in the explanation.
I was originally very skeptical when I read this report on the demonstration. But, when I searched back in the literature, I found that Dr. Focardi has been publishing strong results with nickel-hydrogen fusion since 1994. A 1996 paper reported two cells that ran 300 days producing 250 and 167 kilowatt-hours of excess heat.
Andrea Rossi is an inventor and businessman who hired Dr. Focardi in 2007 as a consultant. He has been financing the entire development with his own money.
Rossi's design uses a nickel powder with catalysts instead of nickel sheets. It is therefore capable of producing much more power. In 2010 they jointly published a paper that reported six different experiments with durations of up to 52 days. The longest experiment used 19 kWh of energy input to produce 3768 kWh of output energy. Output/input power ratios as high as 415 were obtained but, in the interest of safety and stability, the device demonstrated on January 14th runs at a power gain ratio of only 15.
The blue box used in the demonstration is now being mass-produced in Florida for delivery to a Greek licensee in October 2011. One hundred such units will be connected in series/parallel arrangement to make a one-megawatt demonstration power plant. These are being produced at Rossi's expense under an agreement that the Greek customer, Defkalion, pays only if performance specifications are met.
Rossi is betting his own money on success and therefore has no incentive to mislead anyone to raise money.
Rossi has been very responsive to critics, answering questions freely on blogs. When skeptics suggested fraud, he even allowed a physicist at the University of Bologna to modify the test setup and examine the insides of the reactor. He reran the demo for 18 hours with a non-boiling output measurement setup. The 18 kW power output obtained for 18 hours neutralized the skeptics, who had suspected a hidden battery.
The University of Bologna is a top university with graduates like Copurnicus, Marconi and Galvani.
Of course, this all seems too good to be true because, if they really deliver, we will be on a path towards virtually free energy. While this will be a blessing to mankind, it is terrible news to many rich and powerful interests. To understand what I mean, please listen to this fascinating interview about the academic-government complex with Eugene Mallove, the PhD MIT graduate who blew the whistle on data manipulation in the MIT failure to replicate cold fusion. He can also be seen on this 60 Minutes show and this BBC show about cold fusion.
Be prepared for a bloody battle as the vested interests fight to keep their lock on the federal funds, expert committees and journals. This may be the “black swan” event we have been waiting for that will rescue us from disaster and significantly change our world into a cleaner, safer place.
Thomas R. Blakelees is the president of the Clearlight Foundation. He holds an engineering degree from CalTech, and is author of a number of books, as well as being a prolific inventor and serial entrepreneur.
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