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Reply #137: 200 km^3 a day. We probably do that now. [View All]

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Dogmudgeon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-24-07 01:04 PM
Response to Reply #135
137. 200 km^3 a day. We probably do that now.
There is a complete desalination industry that operates around the world. It is not a popular technology in North America, but California has debated using it for half a century. There is even a movie that gives an entertaining background on their water problems -- Chinatown. Israel also uses de-sal to irrigate a whole lot of desert.

It takes a lot of energy to move 200 km^3 of water each day. The tides and the sun do it every day -- to several more orders of magnitude of seawater than my small example. And efficient chemical extraction from million-to-one substance concentrations are performed routinely -- even by junior-high-school students.

There are hundreds of patents for extracting metals, including uranium, from seawater -- at natural concentration, as a concentrated slush, and as salt. Ion exchange resin is not required by many of them. However, most resins are re-usable for a long time. It may, indeed, be the best way to separate uranium.

Earths (e.g., zeolites) are also usable for the process. Several patents exist in this field, too, and they have uses for cleaning up spills of nuclear material -- even those which are more scary than dangerous.

Adding water to salt is a very simple technology. It has been around since before 1990. LONG before 1990.

Now, if you want to talk about "monumental environmental disaster(s)", you will have to consider this in some kind of context:
  • The damage to be done by one to ten million offshore windmills (vs onshore siting) (no concern shown for potential and real damage)
  • Existing desalination plants around the world (minimal scattered damage; some local ecological enhancement)
  • Burning of billions of tons of fossil fuel each year (major damage ongoing)
  • Oceanic die-off due to increased temperature (major damage ongoing)
The waste water is, indeed, altered. And it is either pumped inland for irrigation, or it goes right up into the atmosphere. Perhaps a case can be made that valuable desert ecology is being ruined, but the world's deserts are all expanding rapidly, and it is not being viewed as a sign of environmental health.

In addition, when we are done with the uranium and thorium, we can judiciously scatter it back into the ocean (dumping it in one place just won't do). It is chemically the same element, even though it will contain one millionth of the radioactivity.

Every time there's a press release that solar cells can be printed out on a cheap inkjet printer with a magic solar buckyball cartridge, the anti-nuclear world goes ga-ga. I describe existing technology, not particularly exotic, yet it can't be done, and it will be disastrous anyway.

But I do not think these are informed objections. They are rhetorical roadblocks designed to discourage people who are unaware that these things are not just possible, but proven over the last century. Desalination, solar and otherwise, is currently being done on a large scale. Industrial-scale materials separation is a thriving industry. Nuclear energy provides a 20% chunk of our electrical energy, and we built most of our nukes in a period of less than a decade.

The only things holding back large-scale nuclear energy use are fear and massively subsidized petroleum.

--p!
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