A fundamental need of modern society is energy. Energy production has always been a highly disputed human-environment issue. As humans, we require massive amounts of energy to function in the world as we know it. In 2010, the world consumed more than 10,000 terawatt hours of energy. Unfortunately, many of the ways in which humans produce energy are stressful on the environment.
Energy production methods like burning coal lead to increased carbon dioxide emissions, which is the primary cause of global warming.
There are numerous means of energy production, but renewable sources are typically more expensive due to high initial startup costs. This creates a dilemma where we need substantial amounts of energy production, but our world can only sustain a limited amount of damage before we break certain planetary boundaries. A sustainable high output energy source which minimizes costs would be the ideal solution to the problem.
I propose traveling wave reactors as the answer to the energy crisis. TWRs are a special type of nuclear reactor designed to run on “waste” product from traditional reactors. TWRs minimize the risk of creating enriched uranium for use in nuclear weapons due to the fact that the enrichment process is not necessary like it is for typical nuclear reactors.
In the United States alone, we have enough depleted uranium to power the residential United States for more than 700 years. Alternative energy methods need to be explored, and traveling wave reactors could help us reach a level of boundless sustainable energy.
The writer is a student at Penn State University.