CRAZY and ABSURD the Lunar Helium-3 mining is?
I think that fusion energy researches are a GIANT WASTE of TIME and MONEY (several Billion$$$ so far) since the (cold/hot/semi-hot) fusion is ONLY a scientific curiosity that NEVER will have any commercial applications, NOT EVEN if a fusion machine will (finally!) reach a stable, "self-sustained" reaction, because we DON'T NEED any fusion reactor AT ALL (as explained here).
At the (enbarrassing) scenario of the (failed) fusion research, now, somebody (scientists, newspapers, space forums, etc.) have added the "Lunar Helium-3" factor/dream/illusion (something like the lunar poles' water...) despite it's ONLY a THEORY so far, since there is NO EVIDENCE that our moon hides a so GIANT (one million tons!) He3 treasure!
There are only some scientits who "believe" that... 1. the He3 from the Sun STILL is on the moon surface, after BILLIONS years... 2. millions meteorites crashed on the moon have just "disseminated" the He3 on the surface rather than (as appears more logical) SLINGED this very light element in Space... 3. then, we can (really) find ONE million tons of He3 on the moon!
Then, they "believe" that, mining tons of Lunar-He3 and bring them to earth, will be "so easy and cheap" that He3-He3 energy could WIN on prices against oil, methane, coal, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, biofuels and geothermal energy!!!
well, just to inform them... EACH moon mission will cost (at least) $9 billion (including the shared R&D and fixed costs) to bring back to earth LESS THAN 100 kg. of moon rocks at a price of $90,000,000.oo per kg.!
However, we don't need any ("earth" or "lunar" fueled) fusion reactor AT ALL, since we ALREDY have many other simpler, faster and cheaper ways to produce ALL the energy we need to run our economy.
First of all, it's not true that fossil fuels are ending quickly (as lots of catastrophic claims suggest...) but oil and methane will be available for 50 years and coal for 250 years.
Of course, their prices will grow in next years due to wars, speculations and (mainly) the China and India's energy needs, but NOT for a lack product, also, the known "50-years" oil/methane reserves don't include the unknown (two+ times greater) reserves that will extracted in future from deep soil and oceans using new technologies.
The (claimed) fusion's goal is to produce enough energy (directly from D-He3 or He3-He3 reactions' protons) to cover great part of the world electric energy needs (about 17,450 TWh in 2004) but this is completely useless since to-day's renevable sources already have a price per kW comparable (or lower than) oil/methane/coal electric energy, with ZERO chemical emissions and ZERO radioactivity!
Turn (SOON) our economy from "oil-dependent" to "renevables-free" doesn't need so much money, since the "extra-energy" we must produce to CLOSE all oil/methane/coal electric plants, is only a reasonable PART of the electricity consumed yearly.
36% of the world's electricity is produced by nuclear plants, hydro energy and renevable sources (like wind energy that already produces over 1% of the world-wide electricity).
The wind energy installed capacity is now about 75 GW to reach 90 GW within the end of 2007 and over 160 GW in 2010 (then, over 2% of the world's electricity).
Since the non-hydro, non-nuclear and non-renevable electric energy is 64% of the total produced yearly (and 60 times to-day's wind energy) we can CLOSE all oil/methane/coal electric plants (simply) building (about) 60 times the existing wind energy turbines or 75 GW x 60 = 4500 GW of newly installed wind capacity.
Also, the (already LOW) investment, to cover ALL world electric energy needs, could be LOWER applying scale-economy systems in the production of so many turbines AND/OR adopting NEW (more "energy-dense") plants' designs like my "Wind Energy Skyscrapers" that could capture the high-speed/more-constant 300-up meters winds.
In other words, if, in the past years, we had spend the fusion researches' funds to build wind turbines, NOW we would ALREADY be COMPLETELY FREE from oil, methane, coal and all related problems: their very high (and growing) prices, global warming, pollution, international crisis, oil shortages, etc.
Of course, the Lunar-Helium3 fans could say that "one million tons of Lunar-He3 can give us thousands years of low cost energy"... but the Sun-derived wind energy WILL give us BILLIONS YEARS of SAFE and CLEAN energy at VERY LOW COSTS to be spend ONCE.
And (clearly) much more funny would be the fusion-fans' claims that "an He3 reactor will emits less radioactivity" and "will produce less radioactive waste" ...since ALL renevable energies emits ZERO radioactivity and produce ZERO nuclear waste!
Remember, that, EVERY DAY the global power of winds in the sky EXCEED the power of 100,000 nuclear energy plants!!!
This is an excellent article about the He3 used for fusion reactors, but, IF small amounts of He3, Deuterium and Tritium will be found on the Moon AND fusion reactor will REALLY work someday, they could be used only to produce power for lunar outposts or (maybe) for a fusion-based engine used in Mars travels (however, both are just sci-fi now...).
According to this Popular Mechanics article the real concentration of He3 in the ApolloXI rock samples was "13 parts per billion (ppb) by weight" then... "a patch of lunar surface roughly three-quarters of square mile to a depth of about 9 ft. should yield about 220 pounds of helium-3, enough to power a city the size of Detroit for a year".
That assuming the He3 will be available as deep as supposed in theory, because, if it will be only (e.g.) in the first INCH of soil, the moon's surface "processed" to collect 100 kg. of He3, should be over 75 square miles large!!!
However, extract 100 Kg. of He3 from 1.6 km. x 1.2 km. x 2.7 meters of lunar soil will be hundreds times more complex and expensive than process the same surface on earth!
And (of course) we can't do that only for Detroit... then, EVERY YEAR we must extract the He3 (with heavy and expensive infrastructures and machines sent on the moon) from THOUSANDS SQUARE MILES (9 ft. deep) of lunar soil and bring back it to earth with an (optimistic) cost of (at least) $10M per kg. or just $1,200 BILLION PER YEAR to carry 120 tons of He3, the amount of He3 to give ONE YEAR of electric energy to our planet, and that (of course) assuming the He3 fusion reactors will REALLY work, someday...
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