Jim Stringfellow: GRU's 19th century energy source

Published: Monday, January 3, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 31, 2010 at 11:44 p.m.

Writing on a subject one is not an expert in is certainly treading dangerous ground in this town.

Yet this humble businessman, perhaps like many of you, is absolutely fascinated with the subject of the energy future of the world, our nation, and of course our town.

So I read all the information I can on energy development research. And I keep coming up with thorium as by far the strongest possibility to provide the world's electricity for the next 100 years.

Thorium is an element found in great abundance on Earth, including our country. It is easy to mine and process. Combined with a minute amount of Uranium U235, a chunk of thorium about the size of a pickup load can provide a lifetime of energy to a town our size.

Used in present nuclear reactors thorium, incorporated into a newly developed fuel rod design, provides about 30 percent more power than uranium fuel at considerably less cost; in fact it is competitive with coal, our cheapest fuel source.

Further, thorium cannot be made into nuclear weaponry, resolving the nuclear proliferation issue. And disposal of nuclear waste becomes practically a non issue.

Thorium, combined with new power transmission technology, is going to totally transform the nuclear power industry. That might well include the possibility of building small, community-sized thorium-fueled plants.

Today we are experiencing a nuclear renaissance and thorium fuel is going to lead the way. Senators Harry Reid and Orrin Hatch are strong proponents of thorium and have proposed legislation to create a thorium office at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Testing is now underway in several of Russia's reactors and, as we speak, contracts are being drawn to provide thorium-fueled plants to the six United Arab Emirate countries.

So if all of this is true about thorium's future, what in the world is our City Commission doing signing a non-cancelable contract to build a wood-burning power plant here?

While the technology of power generation passes us by our ratepayers will be stuck with an expensive plant akin to a buggy whip factory, fed by an endless parade of diesel exhaust belching pulpwood trucks lined up on U.S. 441.

And where is GRU management on this whole fiasco issue? Now is when I yearn for the old-style utility managers like John Kelly and Bob Roundtree.

As for me I intend to continue to support Tom Bussing and his team in their efforts to stop this madness and encourage the reader/ratepayer to find out all you can on this issue and get involved before it is too late.

Jim Stringfellow is a lifelong resident of Gainesville.

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