15 June 1997
Solution of the Month
A new series within the Winsights series. For years, the
writer has been creating and conducting thinktanks using various methods
for creative problem-solving. On some occasions he has been able to run
several thinktanks at the same time in parallel on the same issue or
problem, each using different methods. --Perhaps the only place on Earth
where this has been done, and very instructive ABOUT those
This present series-within-the-series features, once a
month, a different apparent solution to one of the great "impossible"
problems of this country or of the world. Following its exhibit in
"winsights," the solution will then migrate to our permanent homepage at
http://www.winwenger.com/ This present article shows us how to dispose of
our overflowing nuclear wastes...
Can We Make Part of the Problem
Into Part of the Solution?
Can the most nightmarish part of our environmental and
global pollution problem actually provide a major part of the
Let's look at power sources---
* There's only so much hydroelectric potential to go
* Conventional, fossil-fuel-burning power
--use up fossil fuels(!);
--pollute air and water;
--worsen our accumulating world greenhouse CO2 effect;
--if oil-fired, worsen our trade deficits and national
* Solar power, after many decades, we've never yet
managed to master the art or science of making economical on a large
scale. Hopes for space-based solar power have slipped another generation
further back with the successive retreats of plans for the U.S. Space
* Geothermal power pollutes air and water.
* Ocean waves and tidal inlets, after many decades we've
never managed to make into an economical power source.
* Temperature differences within different layers of
part of the ocean, after more than a decade we've not yet managed to
make economically feasible as a power source. Perhaps the same principle
could become feasible with the sharper temperature differences found in
groundwater in desert regions. (Aluminum and bauxite companies, and
municipal power companies in the southwest, please note!)
* Controlled fusion power seems more out of reach now
than when we first invented nuclear reactors, and "cold fusion" has gone
into the books as an example of myth and hysteria in science.
* Conservation of power, as relatively a power source,
has begun to bump into its limits. Thermal insulation of buildings has
run into radon. We don't seem to be able to push Detroit into much
higher fuel efficiencies. Social resistance to further measures is
climbing unless we radically adjust incentives. Only the computer
revolution has significantly reduced power demand, and how much further
can that aspect go?
* Nuclear reactors are not only directly dangerous a la
3-Mile Island and Chernobyl, but their greatest problem is the continued
accumulation of radioactive wastes, already far more than we've figured
out how to handle and potentially the most lethal threat to all life on
Earth. To build any more conventional nuclear reactors would be one of
the most irresponsible decisions in the annals of
--So what IS left? --Those very same radioactive wastes
The end product of radioactivity is heat. --Enough heat,
when brought together, to melt and pump sodium as a thermal conductor, or
oil or steam if less than that, to drive turbines or other
Can there be much doubt that, as a working power source, a
given set of radioactive "waste" would receive much more careful handling
than it does now as "waste?" Still dangerous, but the assembly of
radioactive wastes into "secondary," thermal reactors has to be counted as
a major safety improvement over today's situation.
Every unit of power generated from radioactive "waste" is
that much less greenhouse effect, that much less air and water pollution,
that much less fossil fuel used up, that much less foreign trade deficit
and dependency resulting from more conventional power
Unlike conventional nuclear reactors, such "secondary"
reactors from radioactive "waste" will not generate more such waste. In
two senses it will make less such waste, in that--
1. It moves stuff from essentially uncontrolled
"dumps" into much more carefully handled power plants; and
2. Its power can begin to replace conventional nuclear
power, thus reducing the rate at which further such wastes are being
Design and building of these "secondary reactors" will
also be a useful conversion of some of the technical resources of our
dwindling defence industry, and a good spur to our economy --perhaps
coming at a time most needed in our economic cycle!
In the 1940s and '50s we made the basic national decision,
echoed elsewhere, to build regular nuclear power plants and to treat their
non-power output as waste, rather than as part of a thermal, secondary
power retrieval system. Whatever the economics were then as regards such
secondary retrieval, those economics have certainly changed since, and the
whole issue certainly bears rethinking.
When we originally made that basic national decision, we
were in the throes of a technological fantasy about limitless clean
nuclear power. Fusion power was just around the corner, we had not yet
come to appreciate how hard it is to keep up safety standards in
large-scale enterprises and over long periods of time, and we'd certainly
not anticipated or come to appreciate the extent of the problem that we
are now posed vis-a-vis horrendously accumulating, dangerous, nowhere
safely disposable radioactive wastes. Each of these factors by itself
fully justifies we rethink that decision of not converting radioactive
wastes into secondary thermal retrieval power reactors. Taken together,
it's quite remarkable that no one is exploring the issue.
It looks like the main reason this recourse has lain
neglected so long, is that it is such an easy, low-cost way to both
generate power and to handle the wastes. It's not "cutting-edge;" the
romantic frontiers of technology have long gone far beyond it so no one is
looking there to make an exciting career. It's about as exciting as
burning garbage for power--which in fact it is! But what it could do for
our power needs colliding with our environmental needs colliding with our
political needs colliding with the needs of people living near where those
teeming-over wastes are being stored? --Now that does look pretty
--And whatever the economics were then; and whatever the
economics may be now: there is a very simple, direct and easy way to
change those economics for the better. Exempt from all taxes for a decade,
income from commercial exploitation of a long list of substances hitherto
known as dangerous and toxic wastes! (--Including radioactive wastes.) Tax
such income at half rates for the decade following and at normal rates
thereafter. To take advantage of the tax break, all sorts of uses will
come out of the woodwork to use up such "wastes." Any foregone tax
revenues during that interval would be many, MANY times made up for by
what we would otherwise have to spend in protecting and restoring our
livingspace from those dangerous wastes, and our absolute societal and
global costs saved would be many times more even than that!
Until World War II, a major part of the history of the
industrial revolution was a matter of each generation finding commercial
uses for the waste by-products and overlooked resources of the previous
generation. Since then we appear to have let matters in this regard get
away from us. The proposed tax incentive would bring us back in line with
this historical precedent, and further would be very much in line with
current social efforts to reclaim and recycle specific wastes such as
plastic and aluminum.
Conclusion: we should immediately proceed to study the
feasibility and simple design of secondary thermal recovery power plants
using some of our radioactive wastes. The wastes we are so anxious (and
unable) to control now should be made available to commerce under
appropriately controlled and well-understood conditions. We should also
begin immediately to determine how best to define and apply the proposed
tax incentive to encourage the commercial using-up of all sorts of toxic
and dangerous substances with which we've let our world become
Step One: please discuss this proposal with at least one
other person whom you respect.
Step Two: if this idea survives your Step One, please get
in touch with us either care of this publication or via our homepage at
http://www.winwenger.com or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org/ Be advised:
if more than two of you respond, depending upon the quality of response I
will give you each other's addresses and let you take matters from there.
We've too many apparent solutions, to too many of the seemingly impossible
great problems, to push for any one of these; moreover, our efforts are
toward equipping the free individual to be better able to solve problems
around him, and empowering him to do so. If anything is going to be done
with this proposed solution, YOU are the one who will have to do it. If
you have reason to care about the nuclear wastes problem or about this our
suggested approach to it, please get in touch.
Step Two-and-a-Half: ANY proposed new solution to ANY
major problem is, by definition, controversial. If this one stirs any
interest at all, I expect to see as much flak on it as on my space-launch
invention released this June 26. Flak there will be. Some of it may be
justified. If you have criticism of this solution, please send it to me
together with permission for me to publish it in a future column -- which,
if its good, I very well might and thank you!
Getting At Your Own Einstein
Some Ways to Get At Your Own Real
Albert says: to practice some form of my Deep
Thought Method: Let your imagery play, examine it as closely as
possible to see what you can learn from it. We say, practice
Socratic forms of Einstein's Deep Thought Method. While observing
these free images, describe them in detail to a listener; be
surprised at what comes up for you.
Here are a few of the many additional ways to bring
up your own very real genius to enrich your life:
1) Find ways to "get on a roll," stay on a roll, get
back to being on that roll, until more falls into it.
2) Find ways to verbally describe "the
indescribable:" where you have to "reach" to convey an effect, is
your growth zone.
3) Pick up on and describe subtleties and nuance.
These arise in parts of your brain usually offline from where you
are verbally focussed, conscious. Describing subtler impressions
reinforces more and more onto line with your immediate consciousness
those subtler regions of your brain, together with their
4) Improve the physical health and condition of your
a) Improve circulation to your brain;
nutrition to your brain;
c) Improve your brain's