We're running out of juice, as it were. So, what energy source is the most efficient to use in everyday life
Deffinitly nuclear energy the only draw back is the relatively small amount of nuclear waste that needs to be stored. Personally I'm hoping we move over to using mostly nuclear fission while we sort out the kinks with nuclear fusion.
2019 France is supposed to turn on its fusion research facility.
Start researching it then? Oh boy that sounds a bit late
It all sounds like a small bit of waste compared to coal and whatnot but I don't think anyone who has posted here thus far has had the luxury of living in a uranium mining district or dump zone. Usually the same place and in the current economic situation, under the guise of the Northern Territory Intervention which was started by John Howard in 2006 by basically calling black men pedophiles in order to suspend Native Title and the Racial Discrimination Act and effectively institute apartheid. For uranium.
I'm going with solar, based on plant photosynthesis. It's got a ways to go yet but it is going to be sooo much better and its actually making headway. (see Trevelyans thing below for a small taste)
BTW Some of the richest sources of uranium also happen to be in Kakadu and other lovely World Heritage nature zones. You know, the most beautiful comparatively untouched awesomeness, Croc Dundee visited? Yeah, all that - gone - if we just let uranium miners do what they want. Miners in general are already ruining 10s of 1000s of years worth of rock art. We're talking the oldest art the world here.
Don't know about thorium though....and I just realised someone mentioned it below....
Fusion, not fission.
Fusion is the act of fusing hydrogen atoms together to form helium (neither are radio active) and it is what powers the sun. The problem is the threshold is high required temperate 40,000,000 kelvin.
I can understand that people unfamiliar with nuclear fusion confuse it with fission. But I recommend you look into it.
One really cool idea is photosynthetic paint. Of course no one's saying it's possible any time in the near future, and there are decades of research to be done, but still, very cool.
The only thing with photosynthetic paint is that it's only going to be alleviation, not a reliable source on its own. As far as I understand, the sun gives off 1 kilowatt of energy per metre of surface at ideal conditions (clear day, directly overhead). Assuming that the paint has 100% efficiency, that's enough power to power 10 100 watt lightbulbs. Which is nice, but there are many things in your house that consume much more than that and would require huge swaths of paint.
That said, the paint (if affordable) would be able to generate some electricity and decrease the amount of energy required from other sources.
So if the price is right, there's no reason not to.
Here's what I hope is going to be unfolding for our energy production and storage over the next decade(s). The first step is a better and more efficient form of energy production through liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LIFTRs), which is a low temperature fission reactor making use of liquid salts and thorium as the fissionable material over our traditional uranium reactors. The advantages here are both efficiency and temperature. Thorium fission occurs at a much lower temperature that happens to be perfect for keeping the fluoride salts in a liquid state. This translates to being able to extract up to around 98% (+/- a few percentage points) of the fissionable energy out of thorium at lower temperature. This is a dramatic improvement out of the few percent energy efficiency out of uranium. Uranium fission generates a tremendous amount of heat meaning that the fissionable uranium must be removed from the reactor before getting too hot and causing a melt-down. This is why large reservoirs of water are required to cool uranium fission reactors. Thorium reactors do not require these large reservoirs meaning they can be compact. Also, thorium is super abundant in the Earth's crust, so not only is it offering higher efficiency (and therefore much less waste), but it is nearly inexhaustible as a resource. For more, see this cool TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/kirk_sorensen_thorium_an_alternati...
While LIFTR reactors offer a new method of efficient fission reactors that could act as a wonderful transition away from fossil fuels and the more risky uranium reactors, I think we still have a responsibility to move toward green energies as well. The best possibility for these are wind and solar, but they suffer from our current lack of energy storage technology (think batteries). Most of the electricity you use was generated within seconds of it's use. So, when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing, there is a real problem with wind and solar energy as a viable source. The current work around is that while power is being produced by wind and solar energy, is pumping a reservoir of water from a low elevation to a high elevation that can be later drained through turbines to recoup some of the energy. This method is terribly inefficient with significant loses at each step. Also, if you happen to live in a desert region where water is hard to come by, you are out of luck. What is required to make wind and solar viable is grid level storage. A promising technology here is liquid metal batteries (see this TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/donald_sadoway_the_missing_link_to...), which would offer up to 2 megawatt hours of energy storage in a compact, safe form. This type of technology makes it so wind and solar energy can be stored for use when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining at the current costs of electricity.
These two types of technology improvements, energy production through LIFTRs and energy storage through liquid metal batteries, are what I think is a very promising energy future for the world (and actually a Moon Colony or any extraterrestrial energy needs).
Kirk Sorensen is a smart guy, no arguments about that here. I do have a few problems with his argument though. Modern Light Water Reactors are extraordinarily safe. Just take the example of Fukushima. An earthquake and tsunami of unbelievable magnitude hit those reactors, wiping out nearly everything in their path and taking the lives of almost 15,000 people. No one died due to the radiation that was released, (even amoung the people working at the site), and those reactors were built in the 1970's. Newer reactors are even safer, and stricter regulations in the U.S. would have prevented that situation from happening. Second, "thorium fission" does not occur at a lower temperature, fission in any substance occurs at the temperature of the material. Molten salt and liquid metal reactors can be made using Uranium or Thorium, it's not exclusively a Thorium attribute. Both Uranium and Thorium produce incredible amounts of heat, and both require heat to be removed in order to prevent melt downs. Uranium does need to be enriched in order to go in a light water reactor, but fast breeder reactors do not need to use enriched uranium and can actually used used nuclear fuel (waste) as well. Two of these reactor types are the Travelling Wave Reactor (partially funded by Bill Gates) and the GE PRISM reactor. With these two technologies, no more mining for uranium (or Thorium) will be needed for hundreds of years, and the volume of waste will be reduced by 95% while making it highly radioactive for 300 years instead of hundreds of thousands. I'd argue that small modular reactors, along with innovative fast reactor designs, can power the world cheaply, cleanly, and safely, while not causing increases in weapons proliferation.
wave and otec energy is the future. Some combination of them or some way to extract heat energy directly from the air similar to OTEC except using the air.
There is a new form hydroelectric power source being developed in Norway, which is based on the principle of osmosis. We've had a prototype running since 2009, but I haven't been able to find any recent updates as to how successful they've been or what sort of obstacles they're currently facing.
The principle is that wherever fresh water meets saline water energy is released. If you separate the two kinds of water with membranes, then freshwater will seek to penetrate the membrane in order to equalize the level of salinity. This increases the pressure in the saline chamber and is thus used to drive a turbine. I theory it possible to achieve a pressure equivalent to that of a 120 meters (390 something? feet) tall waterfall. Pretty insane right?
However I recently read that a new super-membrane has recently been invented. I can't remember what it was made of, maybe it was made of graphene? Apparently it enables free flow of H2O, but rejects pretty much anything else, even Helium which is kind of a freakish ability since Helium is much much smaller than water molecules.
I heard of that. I wonder how well it works???? Enquiring minds want to know. Damm broke my G button.
I think that it would be naive of us to believe that any one source or technology will be able to solve our future energy problems. We will need to diversify. Our best chances lie in simultaneously investing in in different technologies, as this gives us the greatest flexibility and security.
That said, I do not believe nuclear will play any significant role. The risks are very high (at least with any of the kinds of reactors that are viable options today), and while these risks might be manageable, the cost of managing them are so high that I have a hard time seeing how nuclear will be cost effective. Because the cost per watt of renewable energy, especially solar, is steadily falling, and quickly at that.
There are a many challenges with incorporating larger shares of renewables into the grid however. Therefore, as mentioned above, better storage will be vital, in the forms of batteries, hydrogen, pumped water or something else (or probably all of them in a mix). This need for storage can be minimized though, through for example smart grids that direct the energy demand to balance it to the supply, large grids that can transport the energy long distances, and through a diversified supply where a lot of different kinds of sources work together to keep a steady flow.
However, maybe the most single most important part of the solution is the amount of energy we use. Today, copious amounts of energy is wasted in the rich parts of the world due to simple wastefulness. A lot could be done to cheaply increase the efficiency of our energy use. However, increased efficiency often leads to more use, which offsets the efficiency gains. That means we will have to change our lifestyles. In one way or the other we will have to force ourselves to simply use less energy. So far we have treated energy, regardless of the source, as a resource we can always get more of, and that kind of thinking will inevitably have to come to an end.