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By Charles Rhodes, P. Eng., Ph.D.

This web page provides a simple metaphorical story to illustrate the major energy problem facing mankind which is thermal runaway caused by combustion of fossil fuels.

The Holy Bible contains the legend of Noah and his ark. According to the legend Noah's belief in God gave him the foreknowledge that there would be a great flood which would cause a mass extinction. According to the legend Noah acted on that foreknowledge and, in spite of ridicule by others, built an ark. The subsequent flood caused a mass extinction but the ark saved Noah's family and mating pairs of every land animal species.

Today belief in physics and in particular the law of conservation of energy gives us the foreknowledge that due to excessive combustion of fossil fuels planet Earth is approaching a condition of thermal runaway which will:
a) cause a rapid 17.5 degree K increase in the Earth's atmospheric emission temperature;
b) cause increasingly violent ocean storms;
c) melt the polar ice caps and warm the ocean causing an 80 m rise in sea level; and
d) cause thermal extinction of large land animals.

However, today there are still numerous politicians, including many Repubicans in the USA and many Conservatives in Canada, who:
a) deny the physics of global warming;
b) deny the experimental evidence of a high atmospheric CO2 concentration, melting of polar ice caps and a rising sea level;
c) deny the physical properties of water and the physics of thermal runaway;
d) ridicule those who advocate appropriate preventive action; and
e) put their near term self interest ahead of the welfare of others, including their own children.

The essence of science is that the laws of physics are independent of both position and time. Denial of these laws, including the law of conservation of energy, is denial of reality and the price of that denial may be human extinction.

The available choices are:
1. do nothing which soon leads to human extinction;
2. adopt only renewable energy which at best can sustain only about 1/4 of the present world population.
3. invest in Liquid Sodium Cooled Fast Neutron reactors in combination with nuclear fuel recycling which together can sustain the existing world population for thousands of years without use of fossil fuels for energy production. However, this choice requires a major commitment to public science education.

Every day of delay in widespread implementation of Fast Neutron Reactor supplied nuclear energy makes the accumulation of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere and oceans worse. The time frame for natural processes to restore the atmospheric and ocean CO2 concentrations via formation of fossil fuels and carbonate rock is hundreds of thousands of years.

It is unrealistic to expect individuals to abandon use of fossil fuels until they have economic non-fossil alternatives. Hence the major issue for governments today is rapid construction of sufficient new sustainable nuclear power capacity. The present unwillingness of elected governments to address this issue will likely cause the end of the human race as we presently know it. A major cause of this governmental unwillingness is corruption of the education system, the news media and the government itself by fossil fuel producers.

Delays will also reduce the available inventories of the fissile isotopes U-235 and Pu-239 which are required for starting the contemplated Fast Neutron Reactors. Hence continued delays will make recovery from thermal runaway impossible.

This web page last updated June 20, 2018.

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