Climate change is moving fast, we need to move faster.
We believe that human civilization, for all its faults, is worth preserving. We believe consciousness, for all its shortcomings, is what enables beauty to be beautiful and life to be lived with gratefulness. We believe our planet would be called Water rather than Earth if we had enough of a perspective on what's essential for our survival. We believe the oceans are threatened by human activities, from over fishing to plastic pollution, but that the worst culprit is unchecked warming.
We believe every generation before us faced a moment of reckoning, but faced it with courage, sacrifice, and determination. We believe that climate change is our generation's greatest challenge, and that we have to rise to the occasion as one humanity by defying the status quo and striving for innovation. We believe humans love challenges and that together we will find a way to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. We believe this fight will be so immense, so global, so beyond our current understanding that it will necessarily birth a new age of enlightenment.
We want to be actors of that change, engaged and passionate.
Energy is life, it’s what allows us to think, to move, and even to love. All the energy that we use, from food to oil, originated from a single moment of creation, the Big Bang. In turn, matter amalgamated itself into stars and planets, giving rise to life through an exquisite balance of water and light (electromagnetic energy to be precise). Every material object we use required energy, from mining to manufacturing to transportation. Our modern life is energy-rich.
Humanity has experienced three major energy eras: first, the invention of fire; second, the harnessing of animal power for farming; and third, the industrial revolution with the discovery of fossil fuels. Now, we have to transition under pressure into a fourth era which is still technologically hazy. Traditionally, we have transitioned upward in power density: oil is more energy dense than coal which is more energy dense than wood. At harvest, one hour with a tractor has replaced a full day with a horse.
Currently, renewable power sources, such as wind and solar, have lower power density than fossil fuels and much lower density than nuclear. If we can solve the safety and long-lived waste problems of nuclear energy, then humanity can continue to climb up the ladder of energy density, increasing quality of life for the benefit of all
Waste is life's byproduct. Without life there would be no waste, there would be no soil, no trees, no animals, no us: our planet would be as barren as the moon. Waste should be embraced, but instead we turn away in an instinctive reflex of disgust. Yet, embracing waste has enabled humans to create beautiful cities with the invention of sewage system, or to make soap, still the greatest life saving creation of mankind, from ashes of wood fire. Slimy, decomposing waste is what makes water lilies blossom.
Long-lived nuclear wastes stand unique in the catalogue of human-created waste as these materials are hazardous over such an unfathomable duration. The challenge they present is immense and essential in our ethical responsibility to future generations. Facing this seemingly intractable quandary is an unavoidable necessity that we hope will bring positive advances.
Transmutex's carbon-free energy process relies on thorium, a common metal, which is considered a waste by-product from rare-earth mining. It is also found in high-concentrations in the coal ashes of power plants. Thorium is considered waste because it is mildly radioactive and currently has no use. We hope to transform it into the energy equivalent of soap through the magic of science. As a bonus, thorium marries well with long-lived nuclear waste to transform them into more "civilized" short-lived elements that will decay within 300 years, less time than it takes for CO2 to dissolve in the atmosphere, or for a plastic bottle or a cigarette butt to degrade in the ocean. Producing carbon-free energy at scale using existing nuclear waste is the gauntlet we throw down to our imagination.
Twenty-five years ago, a team of maverick scientists from CERN under the genius guidance of Prof. Carlo Rubbia, Nobel Laureate (1984), set to revolutionize carbon-free energy production by combining the two widely unrelated technologies of nuclear reactors and particle accelerators. Although based on the nuclear science explorations by Ernest Lawrence (USA - Nobel Laureate 1939) and Nikolay Semyonov (Russia - Nobel Laureate 1956), the concept of directing a beam of protons onto mildly radioactive fuel to produce clean energy had never been tried before. The now legendary First Energy Amplifier Experiment (FEAT), conceived by Prof. Rubbia, successfully demonstrated the fantastic potential of this process for scalable carbon-free energy production.
But that was before the emerging awareness of climate change, so effectively embodied by Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" in 2006, before the cancellation by President Obama of the Yucca Mountain radioactive waste storage facility in 2009, and before the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011. Before all that, who wished to challenge the status quo ?
It takes a lot of pressure to enable anything revolutionary to truly emerge. Penicillin was adopted only because of World War II, twelve years after its discovery, and antibiotic treatment of ulcers earned Barry Marshall the Nobel Prize after a twenty-year fight against the medical establishment's orthodoxy. Technical progress is fueled foremost by fortitude and mettle, with only a dash of evidence.
Today, as we face the staggering scale of the necessary change to our societies to mitigate climate change, trying something entirely new has become a necessity.
It's time to be mavericks.