- Nuclear "generators" for the home, car, and industry are claimed to be truly green, unlike faux-green nuclear "reactors" which emit no greenhouse gases, but create dangerous nuclear waste. Called nuclear-powered laser-turbine electricity generators, they harness harmless thorium ore instead of radioactive uranium.Nuclear power from reactors nudges enriched uranium into a critical mass that unless controlled can create a chain reaction that produces dangerous radioactive byproducts that must be kept safe from humans for thousands of years. Nuclear-powered laser-turbine electricity generators, on the other hand, harness the harmless radiation from the natural decay of thorium--an abundant natural ore.
"Our device is not a reactor," said Charles Stevens, founder of Laser Power Systems LLC, who has become sensitive to people calling his device a reactor. "Our device is a laser-turbine electricity generator that uses sub-critical thorium as its power source."
Cadillac hypothesized that a thorium fueled power plant in this concept car could carry enough fuel when manufactured to power it for its entire lifetime. (SOURCE: Cadillac)
Stevens started his research circa 1984 when he invented a laser that could be powered by rare earth metals. Over the years his research has worked its way up the periodic table to demonstrate how heavier and heavier atoms can produce lasers of increasingly greater power. Eventually LPS perfected a uranium-powered laser that produced their highest power yet. However, three-years ago Stevens decided to "go green" and throttle back from dangerously radioactive materials to thorium, which he claims is a safe source of nuclear power.
"Thorium can be use to power a laser that creates temperatures in excess of 3000 degrees," said Stevens. "We use it to heat water, which makes steam to drive a turbine that turns a generator to create electricity."
LPS currently has several prototypes of its thorium-powered laser-turbine generator. A 5 kilowatt unit is for general portable use, but its 250 kilowatt unit could substitute for an automobile engine. The automobile engine sized unit measures just 12-by-12-by-26 inches, weighs 500 pounds, and can produce the equivalent of about 335 horsepower. In addition, an electric automobile powered by thorium could be delivered with enough fuel to last its entire lifetime, since about one gram of thorium is the equivalent of about 7500 gallons of gasoline, and 8 grams of thorium could power a typical car for over 300,000 miles. LPS also has a 2.5 megawatt unit on the drawing board that could power about 5,000 homes with a unit about the size of a refrigerator.
LPS's proprietary thorium-fueled laser-turbine electricity generators, which are protected by 20 patents, use a Tesla coil to drive a spark-plug-like device which accelerates the natural decay of thorium. The emitted alpha- and beta-particles are used by proprietary electronics to stimulate a gas laser into emission in a sub-critical reaction that never emits dangerous radiation like gamma-rays.
According to Stevens, thorium is four to five times more abundant than uranium, with known worldwide resources available that could power everything on the planet for about 5000 years. After that, the Moon has massive deposits of thorium which NASA has already mapped, and which could be scooped up from the surface without the need for convention deep-mining equipment.