Elizabeth May, you know, she may be saying… Our infrastructure is designed for cheap and abundant energy. So, no surprise, there's lots and lots of waste. What you want to do is improve productivity with which we use energy. …and I would probably agree with her, "We should pursue more energy efficient lifestyles," absolutely. When you look through the whole hierarchy of choices and options that we have and we have a long list of options that work quite well, nuclear energy is down the list because it's not terribly reliable, it's hugely expensive capitol cost, very few jobs created and it only produces electricity. It's about 14 years from when you project forward to when it's built and it's famous for cost overruns. The risk of accidents, long lived nuclear waste that has to be kept out of the biosphere for a quarter of a million years. The risk of nuclear proliferation for use in military terms, you don't even have to look at those issues for nuclear to fail.
We should pursue more energy efficient lifestyles, absolutely. How far can we go, though? Will it be enough to make it so that we don't need to have better and newer forms of energy generation? I don't think so. I don't think even close. If we're willing to only sacrifice 160 million people around the world due to the effects of excessive CO2 emissions, on 2011 start reducing CO2 emissions by four percent a year January 2011. Well, are we doing that? If we have 9 billion people then we need to get down to an emission level of 1 ton of CO2 per capita per year. 1 ton. That's 100 gallons of gasoline. Population is the 800 pound gorilla in the room that nobody wants to talk about. 2.3 births per woman the stable decreasing populations if we could bring countries to that level of prosperity, $7500, we begin to solve our population problem.
Prosperity is related to energy. If we can bring people to about 2,000 kilowatt hours per year of electrical energy, they have a chance of achieving prosperity. Prosperity depends upon the rule of law, good government, property rights, education, but electric power is a critical element of prosperity today. Developing countries know this. Energy in coal use is growing rapidly in all the developing countries. They want to achieve that level of prosperity and they're being supported by Peabody Coal. Ozone and particulates from coal burning power plants kill 60,000 Americans a year. A million asthma attacks, a million lost workdays every year. That's part of the cost of coal that they don't tell you about when they say "Oh, it's only, you know, ten cents a kilowatt hour." We can all pretend to be global warming deniers because that's probably not going to be the main problem. The main problem, because of all the CO2, is that 40% of it, from the last 200 years or so, is in the ocean. CO2 makes carbonic acid in the ocean. Animals that provide the base for the entire oceanic food chain, if the pH of the water becomes too acidic calcite will remain in solution, they cannot built their skeletons.
If the plankton fail, as they're already being observed to fail off the Nordic coast in the North Atlantic, then the entire food chain in the Earth's ocean can fail. Nations resist carbon taxes. We need energy cheaper than from coal. All the nations, in their economic self-interest, will choose it over coal. People get most of their energy from solar power. The sun fuses hydrogen to helium, releasing energy, falling on the Earth, causing rain, growing plants. Those plants were trapped under the earth and became petrolium, natrual gas. We get our energy from the sun, but almost all of it was delivered 200 or 300 million years ago. There's even an older energy source available to us from supernova. As stars run out of hydrogen they collapse. A star 5 billion years ago burned out. In the collapse were created all the heavy elements, including uranium and thorium. The heavy water reactor will use about 0.
7 percent of the uranium's energy value, and the light water reactor will use about half of one percent. They both do terrible. At normal pressures, water will boil at 100 degrees Celsius. This isn't nearly hot enough to generate electricity effectively. So water cooled reactors have to run at over 70 atmospheres of pressure. You have to build a water cooled reactor as a pressure vessel. The number one accident people worry about… Pressure is lost, water that's being held at 300 degrees Celsius flashes to steam. Its volume increases roughly by a factor of 1000. If you don't get emergency coolant to the fuel in the reactor, it can overheat and melt. This is what drives the design of this building. If this happens, all the steam is captured in this building.
The reactors we have today use uranium oxide as a fuel. It's a ceramic material, chemically stable, but not very good at transferring heat. If you lose pressure, you lose your water, and soon your fuel will melt down and release the radioactive fission products within it. So they have a series of emergency systems designed to always keep the core covered with water. We saw the failure of this at Fukushima Daiichi. They had multiple backup diesel generators, and each one probably had a very high probability of turning on. The tsunami came and knocked them all out. People sometimes say "Is nuclear energy safe?", and the first thing I say is "Which one?" There are thousands of different ways to do nuclear energy. Is a car safe? Well, which one? I had the good fortune to learn about a different form of nuclear power. The liquid fluoride thorium reactor. We can fully burn up the thorium in this reactor versus only burning up part of the uranium in a typical light water reactor.
It's not based on water cooling and it doesn't use solid fuel. It's based on fluoride salts as a nuclear fuel. You have to heat them up to about 400 degrees Celsius to get them to melt, but that's actually perfect for trying to generate power in a nuclear reactor. Here's the real magic – they don't have to operate at high pressure. They don't have to use water for coolant and there's nothing in the reactor that's going to make a big change in density. Unlike the solid fuels that can melt down if you stop cooling them, these liquid fluoride fuels are already melted. In normal operation, you have a little piece of frozen salt that you've kept frozen by blowing cool gas over the outside of the pipe. If there's an emergency and you lose all of the power to your nuclear power plant, the little blower stops blowing, the frozen plug of salt melts, and the liquid fluoride fuel inside the reactor drains out of the vessel through the line and into another tank called a drain tank. In water cooled reactors, you generally have to provide power to the plant to keep the water circulating and to prevent a meltdown.
But if you lose power to the LFTR, it shuts itself down all by itself without human intervention. A staggeringly impressive level of safety, even if there is physical damage to the reactor. You can see that uranium-235 is on par with silver and platinum. Can you imagine burning platinum for energy? And that's what we're doing with our nuclear energy sources today, we're burning this extremely rare stuff, and we're not burning thorium. It's so energy dense that you can hold a lifetime supply of thorium energy in the palm of your hand. We could use thorium about 200 times more efficiently than we're using uranium now. Because the LFTR is capable of almost completely releasing the energy in thorium, this reduces the waste generated over uranium by factors of hundreds, and by factors of millions over fossil fuels. We're still going to need liquid fuels for vehicles and machinery, but we can generate these liquid fuels from the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and from water, much like nature does.
We could generate hydrogen by splitting water and combining it with carbon harvested from CO2 in the atmosphere, making fuels like methanol, ammonia, and dimethyl ether, which could be a direct replacement for diesel fuels. Imagine carbon neutral gasoline and diesel, sustainable and self-produced. Older folks like me will recall a day when earphones didn't look like that. The whole trick has been the invention of a little magnet based on neodymium, neodymium-iron-boron magnets. Extremely powerful magnets, and they use a rare earth mineral called neodymium. One of the places they find application is in the generators that sit on top of windmills. Because if you are going to put a generator on a windmill you want it to be as lightweight as possible.
Global demand for neodymium has gone pshow! Currently it is all being mined in China. Now why am I talking about neodymium? Well, because thorium is always found with heavy rare earth elements. If you remember your periodic table, the lanthanides that column above the actinides, those are all the rare earths. Thorium policy in all western nations undermines the successful development of a domestic rare earth market. All of the rare earths that most western mining companies are willing to process are what they call bastnasites or carbonatites. They select these rare earths not because of the absence of thorium. The only operating rare earth mine that just opened up this year produces essentially the lighter half of the lanthanide scale and in fact does have some monazites, which are a thorium rare earth enriched mineralization, which they dispose of. If Toyota really wants to build a million battery packs, in the end, if they don't find a solution to the heavy rare earth problem, they'll be building them inside China. First, China provided rare earth elements very cheaply to everybody in the world by their cheap labor, lack of enforceable environmental regulations, and their appreciate currency.
Essentially, consolidate and control the rare earth market. And then they said, "Well, now all of you are coming to our door to buy our rare earths. We don't want to sell the raw material anymore. Our manufacturers can buy it cheaper than your manufacturers." They impose a huge export tax on rare earth elements. So, one had a choice to accept a huge tax and an increase in the price of the product or relocate factory into mainland China and buy rare earth elements on the local market without tax. It's a strategy and it's working pretty well. Manufacturers which use rare earth elements in their products relocated their manufacturing base inside China. The jobs in manufacturing transferred into the Chinese mainland. They've moved all the way up the value chain and are actually able to leverage their position into capturing other countries I.P. Almost every known way to extract rare earths from their mineral concentrates means that thorium just literally drops out like a rock and you have it.
So while you're meeting the world's rare earth demands, thorium is free. So it's going to be the most valuable commodity in the world with almost no value. Let me tell you how this stuff was discovered. There was a guy named Glenn Seaborg who worked at Berkeley Labs in California in 1942. Coming off discovering plutonium he thought, "I wonder if we can hit thorium with a neutron and turn it into something." You got to remember, fission had been discovered three years earlier, so they were still in the very beginnings. Seaborg looks at his grad student. This is December 1942, and he said, "You've just made a $50 quadrillion discovery." Grad student was like "Uhh!" Seaborg was absolutely right. He knew how abundant thorium was in the crust of the Earth.
And he realized that through this process you could catalyze the burning of thorium indefinitely. Why do we care? Here's why we care… Because every kilogram of fissile material will produce as much energy as 13,000 barrels of oil. Nuclear fission is a million times more energy-dense than a chemical reaction. Thorium was set aside. They by and large said, "We're going to go the plutonium route." One of the reasons why was they had developed a great deal of understanding about plutonium from the weapons program. They had made the stuff. They had worked with its chemistry. They'd made fuel out of it. They go, "We get this. Thorium? We haven't really messed with thorium. It would be like starting over." He did make one convert – Alvin Weinberg.
Weinberg got it. He got the big picture. "We need thorium. We need thermal reactor. We need liquid fuel. I see it. I see what we've got to do." The navy has built their nuclear submarines ut the Air Force wants to build a nuclear powered bomber. Weinberg was a practical man and he said, "Huh, that the purpose was unattainable if not foolish was not so important." "A high temperature reactor could be useful for other purposes even if it never propelled an airplane." He knew that to make the nuclear airplane work, they couldn't use water cooled reactors. They couldn't use high pressure reactors. They couldn't use complicated solid fuel reactors. They had to have something that was so slick, that was so safe, that was so simple, that operated at low pressure-high temperature, and had all the features you wanted in it. It is simply too radical, too different, too completely out of the ball field of everything else for it to be arrived at through an evolutionary development.
It had to be forced into existence by requirements that were so difficult to achieve, and then nuclear airplane was that. Here's this amazing work that was done before I was even born. This was about 10 years ago. I got in the car, I lived in Alabama and I was able to go up to Oak Ridge then talk to some of the people there. And I said "Hey, I've heard that you guys long time ago did this really, really cool thing. What's going on?" and they're like "Yeah, long time ago we did a really, really cool thing and everybody that did it is either retired or dead now." I'm like "Oh, well, that's not good. What can we do?" and they said "Well, they wrote a lot of papers and they wrote a lot of reports." And PDF'd – not everything but most of it, about two-thirds of it. So, I had this stack of CD's and I thought "Oh!" Send a copy to the Secretary of Energy, send a copy to the Director of National Labs, send it all out to these different places just sure they were going to get CDs from a random person and change national policy.
I mean, of course, right? China's doing LFTR, even as we speak. Where are they getting the blueprints? Or are they developing them? Well, I mean they've probably got a whole bunch of stuff from the PDFs on my website. It's been in the public domain for an awful long time. I just made it a little easier to get. The Chinese, who apparently have had a more far-sighted approach to thorium for quite some time than we have, have been stockpiling it for years, as they mine for rare earth. This is the most important thing that's going to happen in the next 24 months, and whoever gets that is essentially going to control the destiny and the roll out of energy for the foreseeable future. You can't have the world move on without you with what, for all practical and measurable purposes, is a safer form of energy. Why are we sustaining an energy system that was the byproduct of the Cold War? They need to be able to realize the promise of thorium. But, I'd also like to see us succeed, you know? We were working on this stuff a long time ago, we made great progress on it.
We set it down in 1974 for kind of dumb reasons, and I think it's high time that we picked that thread back up again. We used 5 billion tons of coal, 31 billion barrels of oil, and 5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, along with 65,000 tons of uranium to produce the world's energy. I have a friend who's trying to start a rare earth mine in Missouri. "Jim, how much thorium do you think you'll be pulling up a year?" And he goes, "I think about 5,000 tons." 5,000 tons of thorium would supply the planet with all of its energy for a year. And he goes "And there's like a zillion other places on earth that are just like my mine. It's a nice mine, but it's not unique. While efficiency is worthy of being pursued and we could probably all knock 25 percent of our energy consumption out, that's not nearly enough to eliminate the need for fossil fuels. To eliminate the need for fossil fuels we'd have to knock out 90-95% of our energy consumption.
And when you're cutting that far, now you're cutting really into the bone. You don't see wind and solar as… We have been trying to put solar and wind online for decades. It is still on the order of about one percent of total energy production in the United States. Wind is quoted in terms of its capacity. Like you'll say this is a three megawatt windmill. If I have a 3,000 megawatt nuclear plant, 1,000 of these windmills are equivalent to one of these. The wind is only blowing about 15 percent of the time, one out of six. That correlation becomes absolutely meaningless now, because one is running all the time and the other one is only running one out of six times. If you had a car and you thought "I'm going to go out and get in my car and turn the ignition, and I have a one in six chance the car's going to turn on.
" How useful would that car be to you? The wind industry says, "That's OK, Chelsea, you need to have six cars." You want reliability, and we need the exact same thing in energy. Energy is all about reliability. Can we address those concerns by using batteries which are making great advances with nothing more than a laptop? It's a very, very expensive proposition to use battery backup for the grid. It has not ever been able to be accomplished on a grid level before because of how much it costs to store a watt hour in a battery. This is a valuable piece of equipment, and it has relatively low power consumption. A lithium-ion battery is perfectly appropriate for something like this. But not for the grid. You're not even looking at lithium-ion, you're looking at cheap batteries. You know, you're looking at like lead-acid, really cheap batteries. Because you need a lot of them. It's better to get a bunch of lousy ones than to get a few really good ones. Generating here, no its generating here… intermittent power from multiple sources? And that is another fantasy.
That we are going to run all of these mostly redundant power transmission lines arount. If you want to make a power transmission line, you want to make the economic case pay off for you. You have to show how electricity is going to be thrown into that line almost all the time. Otherwise, it's not worth building, it costs too much money. So the idea that "OK, there's going to be a wind farm here, there's going to be a solar array here, and there's going to be a wind farm over here, and one of these three at any time will be working, but we'll have power transmission lines to all of them." I mean that's just nonsensical. People who propose that haven't run the numbers. People don't want to see power plants and power transmission lines.
They will fight tooth and nail against power transmission lines. We need to have a reliable energy source that is close to where the energy is needed to be consumed. We have a three year environmental assessment process in Canada to build a nuclear reactor and we have a weekend to produce a coal plant. Coal and gas plants are able to release radioactive materials into the environments in much greater amounts than a nuclear plant would ever possibly be allowed to because they are considered what's called NORM, Natural Occurring Radioactive Materials. For instance, when you go frack a shale and you pull gas out, a lot of radon comes out with that too. You burn the gas, that radon's being released. Nobody counts that radon against the gas. If they did, the regulatory commission would shut the gas plant down, same with coal. Coal contains small amounts of uranium and thorium. They go up the stack, they're dispersed. That's why they can't tell you how much waste they produced.
Yeah, and they spend a lot of money to make sure that regulatory agencies do not regulate NORM. Even if linear no-threshold was actually true – let's say for a minute it was true, and this was the reality of the world. You would still be much better off establishing an entire world powered by nuclear power. The reason why is because of the radioactive releases from coal. You would want to shut down coal so you could have nuclear, because coal releases more radiation than nuclear by several orders of magnitude. The notion that there is no safe amount of radiation is not a substantiated or even an accurate statement. A sunburn is radiation damage. That's radiation burn. We don't call it that, but that's what it is. Your body is responding, trying to prevent further radiation damage, ionizing radiation to your skin and your cells, and it's generating melanin, which is a natural shielding mechanism. You don't want to let anybody get too much radiation dose at any one time and the radioactivity that we get from nuclear reactors is extremely small in comparison to the radioactivity we're getting from other sources.
The biggest one being radon. There's a radioactive gas that's coming out of the ground all the time. You're breathing it right now. It is responsible by far for the majority of the radioactivity that your body receives. It's just the planet we live on. Inside the earth, thorium and uranium are decaying, and they're decaying very slowly, but there's a lot of them and the earth is big. They produce most of the heat that drives the internal processes of the earth. They produce the heat that drives plate tectonics, they produce the heat that drives the generation of the magnetic field. The magnetic field is deflecting the solar wind. If you don't have a magnetic field deflecting the solar wind, over billions of years your planet ends up like Mars.
Because the solar wind will strip off a planet's atmosphere without the protecting nature of the magnetic field. So if we didn't have the energy from thorium inside the earth, we would be on a dead planet. A fun thing I tell people, I say, "What's green energy?" They go, "Geothermal is green energy." Do you know where geothermal comes from? No. It comes from decay of Thorium inside the earth. Is geothermal renewable? Yes! OK, then Thorium is renewable. "No, it's not, you're using it up!" Well, you're using up Thorium as it decays inside the earth, too. So any argument for geothermal, if it is rigorously pursued, is an argument for the renewability of thorium as an energy resource. You can say, "Dude, it's green energy." "What!?" If you're concerned with the environment, then you want to be aware of what the power density of any source is. Anybody who's trying to sell you biofuels, or this kind of thing, what do you do about the thermodynamic inefficiency of combustion engines? Fuels, that you burn, is down in here.
Whenever we burn something, we're using a very inefficient process. Thermodynamics typically gives us about 30 percent of the energy when we burn fuel. So every time you put a dollar's worth of gas in your car, kiss 60 cents goodbye, because it's going to go out of the exhaust pipe as heat. And we waste 10 percent of what's generated in transmission lines. So whenever they talk about these remote solar farms, or remote wind farms or anything, you have a debt of 10 percent that you're paying from now on, forever. You're never going to get that energy back. Five megawatt, top of the line Siemens wind mill, takes 10 acres. At five megawatts per 10 acres, that's half a megawatt per acre. If you move up to fission, you got hundreds of thousands more watts per square foot, per acre, per pound. Whatever. And if you move up to fusion, you get another 10,000 times that. Fusion we don't have to wait for, because fission is good enough for us, particularly with the thorium cycle.
A nuclear article will be written. Author of the article will go to me, or Rod Adams, or John Wheeler – somebody who's kind of known as a public advocate for nuclear. And then to go find the other side, Ed Lyman, or Jim Riccio of Greenpeace, or one of these other guys. Now contrast this with an article around solar, or wind, and I look for this all the time. I'm always trying to see, is there another side in those articles? There's never another side. "Such and such a company has announced they're going to put 50 megawatts of windmills in this site. World rejoices." They've chewed up half the mountain to put the windmills up there. We're offering to buy back solar energy from people who produce it at 35 to 50 cents a kilowatt hour.
I mean, that's obscene. But they're subsidizing technology until it gets more efficient. When all of these tariffs are reduced, the things that we're supposed to encourage, and jump start an industry, the industry collapses. Solar industry in Germany and in Spain is in utter collapse because of the projected removal of feed-in-tariffs because these are simply not economical sources of energy. The subsidy may be well intentioned to try to get the industry to get going on its own but that's usually not the way things work. George Monbiot, who writes in The Guardian, he has recently come out very strongly in support of nuclear power because of what happened at Fukushima Daiichi, how if survived the earthquake and the overall effect has been nothing compared to the death and loss of life from the tsunami. Well, he mentioned in an article that he wrote yesterday that he talked to Caroline Lucas, the head of the green party in the U.K. And he asked her why she would support subsidies on solar and wind.
She goes "I oppose subsides for nuclear but I support them for solar and wind because nuclear is an established industry and solar and wind are still developing industries, and they need public support in order to flourish." And so George, a very smart guy, said "Will you support research into thorium reactors, which could provide a much safer and cheaper means of producing nuclear power?" No, because thorium reactors are not a proven technology. On an individual level we are seeing a lot of people change their minds. But at the organizational level we're not seeing any change. The people who run the environmentalist organizations, and that's unfortunate. It's tough for people who are further up the food chain in these organizations to come out and make public policy statements. A lot of people get it one-on-one but they're afraid to be the first one to stand up and say "Ra-ra-ra, let's go do this." It's a lot easier when you feel like everybody else is behind you. Well, pretty soon you'll be gone and there will be somebody in who will think about nuclear.
Why are appeals to technological advancements always made with regards to solar and wind? It's going to get better it's going to get cheaper, it's going to get more efficient. Don't worry about what we have now, cause it's going to be better next year. But yet nuclear is assigned this position back in the '50s where it can never get better, it can never incorporate a new technology, it can never improve and we won't even entertain if it does get any better. Nuclear right now means water cooled reactor, uranium oxide solid fuel, poor fuel efficiency and steam turbine. That's what nuclear power means right now. So people look at Fukushima Daiichi and they go, "Is this the end of nuclear power?" and I go, "No, it's not the end of nuclear power, there's a zillion other ways to do nuclear power.
" Maybe there's a better way, if you can figure out how to do this better, I will be happy to get off LFTR and go do whatever that is better. This is the best way I've be able to come up with so far. Is it safe as it sounds what's preventing North American governments from actually creating the reactor? What's the scary thing about it? Ah, you're thinking like me 10 years ago, you're looking for a reason why not, I don't think there is a reason why not. There may be a reason why they may not be excited to do it. But there's no reason why they can't do it. If I'm a company that's building CANDUs or light-water reactors, what competitive advantage do I have by pursuing this other direction? Probably don't have any.
All their money now is coming off fuel supply contracts. That's how GE and Westinghouse make money on nuclear power today, they don't build reactors, they sell fuel. Now 30 years ago they were building reactors, but that's not really going on right now. Come on now you say, "Guess what I got a reactor it's got no fuel fabrication to it," you just upended their business model. I think that we have to do this or we're going to continue to have wars based on trying to get ever and ever more scarce fossil fuel resources. We'd like to think of our march forward into progress as a march forward and a linear thing. But human beings have been superstitious and fearful for most of their history. An era of enlightenment has been a relatively short space of human history, and by no means assured that it will continue in that manner. I really believe that if we don't have access to affordable and clean energy, we will revert. We will go back to the way humans had been for thousands and thousands of years, which is where the powerful and the rich oppress the masses, who live terrible lives trying to provide things for just a few people.
We will literally not only revert to barbarism but revert to social institutions like slavery. And I mean that with all seriousness. You only have a limited amount of money, you want to reduce greenhouse gases, so you want to apply the dollars in ways that reduce greenhouse gases the most while creating the most employment possible for that investment. But, all the jobs that they create have to be built into the price of the power they provide. Yeah, it would provide a lot of jobs but it's at the expense of the people that use the energy. If we can provide an energy source cheaper than from coal, all the nations, in their own economic self-interest, will choose it over coal. Nuclear energy is not terribly reliable. No human can control the output of a solar panel or a windmill. You get what you get. It's a turbine that we just take from a gas plant and suspend it from a big scaffolding, a tower, and surround it by giant mirrors in the desert.
If a cloud passes over, or during the evening, the utility wants a base load. And the way that we're going to deliver that base load is by powering it with gas. We're building these all over the country, and one of the questions we ask, we need about 3,000 foot in altitude. We need flat land, we need 300 days of sunlight, and we need to be near a gas pipe. Hugely expensive capital costs. Here are four independent proposals to build molten salt reactors and their dates. The median is $1.98. Boeing makes a $200 million item every day. Producing reactors has a lot of the same quality control issues – strength of materials, corrosion, quality, documentation, regulation, life safety – all those things that we also worry about. And when it parts with gas is, it's rather inexpensive to build the plant. The fuel is most of the expense.
So you look at a LFTR for one to two dollars a watt, you're looking at a full cost there, because the fuel cost is so close to zero that you can safely ignore it. Nuclear energy only produces electricity. All our reactors today use steam turbines, because they're based on boiling water, running a steam turbine, and then condensing that water. That's why we have big cooling towers. That's why we have to place our reactors by rivers or lakes, is because we use this steam turbine power conversion system. Now we don't use that because we're stupid, we use it because the limitations of pressurized water mean that you can't get it all that hot. I mean, the reactor just doesn't get that hot. With this reactor, we can get up to more like 700 or 800C, and at those temperatures, the gas turbine turns out to be a better fit. And you can get about 50 percent conversion efficiency with a gas turbine. So you can generate electricity from the gas turbine, and you've got to cool the gas, you know every thermodynamic cycle has to reject waste heat.
If you're near a coastal body, you can take sea water in, and you can desalinate it, so even waste heat from the system doesn't have to be wasted. Well, why aren't we desalinating sea water today? Well, some places we are, but usually it's because it's really expensive. We're burning fossil fuels to desalinate sea water. That's not a good idea. In this case, almost no economic penalty to desalinate sea water. Or we can configure it, not to produce electricity, but to dissociate water. You can make ammonia out of hydrogen, which could be a fuel. It's also a fertilizer. Ammonia production consumes more than one percent of the entire world energy budget today. It's about 14 years from when you put the project forward to when it's built, and it's famous for cost overruns. May of 1961, Congress funded Camp Century in Greenland. The assembly is still subcritical.
We began to transfer the fuel elements one by one, and started loading the reactor core. The reactor was operating under the ice 18 months later. Here's the AP1000 being built in China, the containment around it. You can see a little red man, he's about the same size as the fireball reactor. The scale is massively different. The Brayton cycle uses an inert gas, so you don't have to worry about steam explosions, you get more efficiency out of the turbine side, and the turbines are smaller and cheaper to build. The risk of accidents We can achieve safety for less cost because we're moving to passive safety rather than engineered safety. We see this trend with reactors like AP1000 but the LFTR can take it to a much higher level. Commercial nuclear energy around the world has a very good safety record even if you include Chernobyl.
The number of deaths from nuclear power plant accidents is less than a hundred around the world, ever. Just last year we had a natural gas explosion at a clean energy facility in Middletown, CT that killed seven people, a coal dust and methane explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine which killed 29 people, and a methane explosion in Deepwater Horizon that killed 11 people. San Bruno fire, which was a natural gas pipeline running underneath a neighborhood and it blew up and killed about eight people and destroyed 50 homes. Why don't you pick on gas transmission? Why don't you pick on all these other sources of actual deaths? Long lived nuclear waste that has to be kept out of the biosphere for over a quarter of a million years. Really most of that waste is unburned fuel. There are ways to reprocess it and burn more of it, but it's quite expensive and it's not economically advantageous in today's reactors. The breakthrough in going to fluid fuels means you don't have to reprocess or recycle, you leave the nuclear fuel in the reactor until it's burned up. They remain in the salt and they decay in the salt until they give off all their decay heat. Here's our transuranics – these figures show 10^-7, 10^-4, 10^-7, 10^-9 grams, this is teeny teeny production.
A thousandths of a gram of these dreaded materials in 10 years of operation. This is good. Waste profile, much healthier. The risk of nuclear proliferation. The proliferation hardening on this one, U-232, we've got protactinium. It sends out a bright gamma cascade, so if somebody tries to run off with it we can catch them pretty easily. You don't even have to look at those issues for nuclear to fail. The petrochemical industry, the hydrocarbon industry spends a lot of money advertising. They believe in wind and the sun. Exxon is talking about growing algae, all kinds of alternatives. You'll never hear a hydrocarbon company talking about nuclear. You'll see an awful lot of stories of somebody in the gas or oil industry working against nuclear and trying to raise the barriers of entry. That's a simulated nuclear fuel pellet. It's as much energy as a ton of coal, 147 gallons of oil, or 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas. How can the hydrocarbon industry allow that to be used effectively on the marketplace? If you're making money selling hydrocarbons, you're going to make less money.
Maybe I'll never see it happen in my life, but somebody will do it. Once people have learned how to do it, they'll keep using it, because it will make that much of difference. It looks so good to me. I'm asking the world what am I missing here. Tell me what I'm missing. What I've found, to my great gratification, is other people who are a whole lot smarter than me have looked at it and said, "This looks darn pretty good, why aren't we doing this?" We can be competitive with China on making patents on things that weren't thought of in the 50's and 60's. But, if we wait, Americans, Canadians, and Brazilians will be buying LFTR and molten salt technology from China and paying them the royalties. We buy a lot of things from China already. It's not as if we're not buying enough things from China. We are definitely keeping them busy. Let's go develop thorium. And not fight over limited resources. If we don't do it, it will still be happening.
It will just be happening in a place like China. We will be seeing LFTRs being built in the future, make no mistake. A lot of environmentalists who are always trying to drive us towards using less energy, because all that energy's coming from the consumption of fossil fuel. Well, let's say your energy's not coming from the consumption of fossil fuel. Then you could use more energy, and you could use more energy to accomplish things that you are not able to do right now. Break up carbon dioxide. Dissociate water. Make fertilizer, grow crops, all that. So much energy, an abundance of energy, that it would drive the price down to the point where the only oil we'd be taking out of the ground would be the easy to get to oil. And there's not going to be any more environmental devastation than there already is. If we didn't have to worry about energy, we could think of so many more things to do. If there was a lot of it and it was cheap and it was not harmful to the environment, what would you do that you're not doing now? The thing that caught my eye when I was still in high school was the idea of a space solar power satellite. Gerard O'Neill The High Frontier.
His idea was we were going to go build these colonies. It was going to be like living in a shopping mall in space. You know and, have a little home in the tube. And uh, I don't think we're ready to live in space yet. We have not learned how to live in a way where we recycle much more of our… I mean, if you want to live in space, you've got to recycle everything. With the energy generated from the liquid fluoride thorium reactor, we could recycle all the air, water and waste products within the lunar community. But I had a question. But I had a simple question. If it was such a great thing for a community on the moon, why not a community on the earth, self-sustaining and energy independent? We live much better lives today because we have learned how to use carbon. OK, what about thorium? Thorium has a million times the energy density of a carbon-hydrogen bond. What could that mean for human civilization going out thousands, tens of thousands of years into the future? Because, we're not going to run out of this stuff. Once we've learned how to use it at this kind of efficiency, we will never run out.