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Thursday, April 01, 2010


In a request for information issued yesterday, Pentagon scientists say they would like to hear proposals for "deployable nuclear reactor technologies for the generation of electrical power and military logistic fuels (JP-8) in forward land based and maritime military operations".

JP-8 is standard US forces jet fuel, regarded as relatively easy to synthesise from commonly available ingredients compared to the other main military fuel, diesel.

Boffins at the US Naval Research Laboratory have already developed processes by which it would be possible to make JP-8 using carbon dioxide and hydrogen extracted from sea water. The process would require a lot of energy, but in a US naval context this might not be a problem: American aircraft carriers have powerful nuclear reactors to drive their propulsion and catapults, which would have plenty of surplus grunt whenever full-speed launch operations weren't in progress...

Pentagon RFI has this to say:

Technical approaches to fuel production should accommodate a broad range of hydrogen and carbon feedstocks (water/seawater, biomass, waste materials, etc). Concepts that involve carbon capture or sequestration should be well justified in terms of technical feasibility ...

"Biomass/waste materials" most probably alludes to the huge, odorous lakes of sewage which have accumulated next to some of the bigger bases in Afghanistan, much complained of by the resident servicemen. This could potentially be an excellent carbon source, and turning it into jetfuel would have the added benefit of making the bases pleasanter to be in.
From The Register (H/T Ivan)

Now if the armed forces are doing it that doesn't mean it is commercially feasible in normal life. They are doing it for remote places (Afghanistan, deep ocean) where transporting jet fuel is as or more expensive than the stuff itself. However the sort of small reactors they use don't have the economies of scale of commercial 1000 MW reactor either. Best of all, because reactors produce at a flat rate day & night the electricity they can produce after midnight isn't much use.

If "boffins" have already produced the technology to do this on a major scale then it can clearly be applied to nuclear power stations & civilian "bio-mass" disposal works & at rates which, depending if the nuclear plants' costs are largely engineering ones or multiplied by politicians parasitism,

Nuclear can not only now* supply us with all the cheap electricity we want but also with oil & hydrogen fuels. And it solves our big waste problem.

*Well as soon as we build them.

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