Nuclear energy has always had an uphill battle when it comes to winning over the average person. Most people don’t know much about nuclear energy, so the phrase automatically conjures up visions of mushroom clouds and radiation sickness and Chernobyl. With our ever-dwindling fossil fuels, however, nuclear energy is probably something we’ll all have to take a long, hard look at in the not-too-distant future. Thankfully, Science (capital-S) is hard at work figuring out new ways to make nuclear power safer and cleaner. For instance, what would you say to swapping out your dingy old water heater with a certified nuclear reactor?
It sounds crazy, but that idea is actually proposed in a new video released by NASA’s Langley Research Center. Saddler with the weighty title of “Method for Enhancement of Surface Plasmon Polaritons to Initiate & Sustain LENR,” the video explains NASA’s research into creating clean nuclear energy that could be used to, for instance, power a home and heat that home’s water. Here’s the vid, then we’ll delve in more after the break:
If the prospect of having a nuclear reactor involved in heating your bath water makes you skittish, NASA Senior Research Scientist Joseph Zawodny is here to calm you down. As he explains, LENR (low energy nuclear reactions) involves adding neutrons to a raw material until it decays into a different element of the same mass. NASA says this process is cleaner than using traditional nuclear fuels:
[LENR] can be produced by raw materials such as nickel, carbon, and hydrogen. It has the demonstrated ability to produce excess amounts of energy, cleanly, without hazardous ionizing radiation, without producing nasty waste. This clean form of energy is also powerful, able to support everything from transportation systems to infrastructure.
The easiest implementation of this would be for the home. You would have a unit that would replace your water heater…. It would power the house, power the building, power the light industry. And then the waste heat would be used for environmental control and warm water.
It sounds promising, assuming you can move consumers past the ooga-booga factor of the word “nuclear.” Personally, however, I’m just waiting for my own personal Mr. Fusion.