The Influence of Nuclear Energy on Transportation Fuels
Nuclear reactions are a potentially unlimited source of energy for the future. However, nuclear energy is not in a form easily used in transportation.
The only significant near-term influence of nuclear energy on transportation fuels is displacement of oil from the generation of electricity so that it becomes available for other uses. Currently in the United States, about nine percent of the electricity generated is from nuclear plants. By 1980, the nuclear portion will be between 15 and 20 percent and rapidly increasing.
In the mid-term (before the year 2000), nuclear energy may be providing process heat to coal gasification and liquefaction plants. Nuclear heat may be used to crack water into hydrogen and oxygen to provide feedstocks for chemical and synthetic fuel industries. Liquid hydrogen may become the fuel for large, long-range air transport. Also, nuclear explosives may be accepted as a means of stimulating production of otherwise uneconomical natural gas fields.
At some time in the future, use of fossil fuels for transportation will become uneconomic because of price pressure from other applications. How soon this will occur depends on many variables. However, nuclearly produced hydrogen, ammonia, and electricity are all potentially viable alternatives to carbon based fuels.
KeywordsNuclear Energy Coal Gasification Transportation Fuel Thermochemical Cycle Breeding Ratio
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