Amid trendy, unworkable schemes, a real energy fix

Peabody Energy CEO Gregory Boyce’s June 25 op-ed “Common sense on energy, economy, environment” claims that we need “clean coal” to save our economy. But by the time you add the cost of clean coal technology, coal is no longer such a bargain, and will still be a major contributor of CO2 pollution. None of the trendy “renewable energy” schemes are helping us because they are all too costly and unreliable and produce far too little energy. Our only authentic solution is to use physics to produce energy instead of chemistry.

The revolutionary liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) solves all of the major problems associated with nuclear power. LFTRs transform thorium into fissionable uranium-233, which then produces heat through controlled nuclear fission. LFTRs only require input of uranium or plutonium to kick-start the initial nuclear reaction, and as the fissionable material can come from either spent fuel rods or old nuclear warheads, LFTRs will inevitably be used as janitors to clean up nuclear waste. Once started, the controlled nuclear reactions are self-perpetuating as long as the reactor is fed thorium. LFTRs are highly fuel-efficient and burn up 100 percent of the thorium fed them. … The reactor works like a Crock-Pot; you keep the fuel cooking in the pot until it is over 99 percent burned, so LFTRs produce less than 1 percent of the long-living radioactive waste of light water reactors, making waste storage unnecessary.

LFTRs produce electric power by way of a waterless helium gas turbine system. The reactors are small and air-cooled, so they can be installed anywhere, even in a desert.  LFTRs will be manufactured on an assembly line, dramatically lowering costs and enabling electricity generation at a projected rate of about three cents per kilowatt-hour, which is cheaper than coal. An LFTR can never meltdown, because its fuel is already in a molten state by design. Coolant in LFTRs is not pressurized as in light water reactors, and the fuel arrives at the plant pre-burned with fluorine, a powerful oxidizer. This makes a reactor fire or a coolant explosion impossible. LFTRs do not require large, cavernous pressure vessels designed to contain an internal explosion of superheated steam, so LFTR enclosures are compact, which lowers costs.

 The U.S. has thousands of years’ worth of low-cost thorium fuel available from domestic sources, and LFTRs can be used to manufacture synthetic gasoline or high-energy methanol fuel. France’s Reactor Physics Group is the leader in LFTR research. If the U.S. committed a relatively modest amount of money to develop LFTRs in cooperation with France, a fully operational total energy solution might be possible within as little as five years, because most of the basic research has already been accomplished and is well-proven.

Eugene, Ore.

The writer says he has no financial interest in any energy-related business.

Understand your health to combat industry’s ills

From Jean Fairman

I am a healthcare provider, a cancer survivor, and a former member of the Clinton Health Care Task Force. I care deeply about affordable availability of healthcare insurance unfettered by prior illness; about ready access to quality neutraceuticals (without the second-tier treatment they now get, tax-wise, vs. prescriptions); and about the foot-dragging obstructionism of the FDA in sitting on new medical treatments to protect the pharmaceutical industry.

I am sick of the sway exerted by the pharmaceutical companies in ingraining their products into the education of new doctors and the ways they “educate” hospital staffs to utilize their products, accompanied by handouts of all kinds.

We need to bring forward functional and alternative approaches to wellness, and educate people about their bodies and health as a primary thrust. It’s not just all about insurance (and the outrageous profits many insurance companies reap).

Regarding President Obama’s objective of enabling every person to choose his or her own doctor and plan, this should be without one excluding the other.

The financial and human costs of the entrenched system are intolerable, tremendously unfair, and chiefly benefit those who can already well afford to do without the reforms the rest of this nation so desperately needs.

Bethesda, Md.

Government-run plans’ satisfied customers

From Brock Hansen

I write to support President Obama’s goal of healthcare reform, including the public option. Millions of Americans are covered by a “government health plan” today, including everyone on Medicare, Medicaid, Indian Health Service, Veterans’ Health Service, active military, government employees and retired government employees. We are overwhelmingly satisfied customers, and yet the specter of “government-run health plan” is being painted as the end of choice and quality care. It is not. Coverage for all will bring down premium prices.

Defined minimum benefits can be established by doctors, hospitals, consumers and insurance companies working together to negotiate a fair and affordable package. This is hard work, but worth the effort.