The Alternative to Nuclear Energy
The most significant new energy development of the past hundred
years has been electricity generation with nuclear reactors. This complex
technology was stamped out of the ground in a couple of decades because of a
guilty conscience of scientists and the
government for having
created nuclear weapons. Under the banner of “atoms for peace” Eisenhower
promised that the nuclear sword would be beaten into a nuclear plowshare.
The “atoms for peace” campaign soon ran into trouble. A chief
concern became the proliferation of nuclear arms. Where there are nuclear power
plants, there exists the possibility of producing plutonium for weapons of mass
destruction. This alone is sufficient reason to halt the construction of
further nuclear power plants. But it was for additional problems of the nuclear
industry that new plant construction in the
virtually ceased in the
At the present rate of consuming uranium, which is the primary
nuclear energy source, the estimated reserves of this rare metal will last for
only about fifty more years. It may be too pessimistic an outlook, but it casts
serious doubts on any nuclear based long-term solution of averting global
warming, thought to be brought on by the burning of fossil fuels.
Nuclear energy is not economically competitive with coal, oil,
and gas fired electricity generators. A major burden of the nuclear industry is
the cost of radioactive waste disposal and the decommissioning of nuclear
reactors. Half a century has gone by and we are still waiting for a disposal
site for the most hazardous nuclear waste. A number of proposals have not
proved acceptable to a public which would like to ensure a safe environment for
the next 100,000 years.
Every nuclear power station leaks radioactivity into the
environment. Accidents have occurred with the loss of life, as in the
disaster of 1986.
Radioactive particles suspended in the air can circle the earth. They respect
no political boundaries and endanger mankind whether it benefits from nuclear
energy or not.
Scientists and engineers all over the globe have every incentive
to find a new source of energy which can be converted to electricity and is as
plentiful as nuclear energy, but has none of the latter’s troubling
disadvantages. I suggest such an energy source has been found in the hydrogen
bond energy of ordinary water.1 It can be set free as kinetic energy of small
water droplets which have the power to drive hydro-electricity generators. In
the course of time the atmosphere will restore the severed liquid bonds and
their extracted chemical bond energy. In this cycle from bond rupture in the
water turbine to the condensation of water in the clouds, the extracted
hydrogen bond energy is replaced in rain drops falling back to earth. It makes
hydrogen bond energy a self-renewing energy source, so long as the sun shines
The cohesion of liquid water is due to the inter-molecular
chemical bonding (H2O-H2O) between oxygen and hydrogen
atoms in neighboring molecules. This phenomenon was first discussed by the
American Nobel Chemist Gilbert Lewis in 1923. He coined the term “hydrogen
bond,” which must not be confused with the O-H bond inside the water molecule.
Lewis’ hydrogen bonds are chemical bonds. Like the chemical bonds in fossil
fuels, they store chemical energy. But unlike fossil fuel compounds, water does
not contain carbon atoms. Hence the liberation of hydrogen bond energy from
water is not a process like the combustion of carbon, which pollutes the
atmosphere with carbon dioxide.
That hydrogen bonds of water do contain a significant amount of
chemical energy was first discovered in 1994.1 Not until that time had water arc explosions been captured on high-speed film. The
filming of the explosions in the
, and in
all revealed the
ultrasonic pulse ejection of small fog droplets from water-filled arc cavities.
The ultrasonic fog traveled first through water and then through air. The
fragmentation of liquid water into droplets confirmed the rupture of hydrogen
bonds.1 The droplet velocity proved the
liberation of previously stored bond energy. This discovery has still to be
integrated into chemistry textbooks and the teaching of chemistry and physics.
Lewis’ oversight of the energy in hydrogen bonds continues to delude scientists
engaged in new energy research and their battle against global warming.
It is this hydrogen bond energy stored in the liquid form of
water which has the potential of becoming an alternative to nuclear energy.
This fact did not strike home until it was realized that hydrogen bond energy
is so plentiful that it does drive hurricanes.2 Two aspects of hurricanes have not been satisfactorily explained without hydrogen
bond explosions. One concerns what is happening in the cyclonic storm at the
junction between the eyewall and the sea. This is the
location where the highest wind speeds have been measured and the storm rages
at full fury. The second mystery is the self-intensification which causes
hurricanes to become so powerful.
A rare photograph of the inside edge of a hurricane eyewall touching the sea has been published by Emanuel in
his fascinating book on the history and science of hurricanes.3 The photograph is reproduced in
Reference 2. It depicts the calm water level inside the eyewall of fog up to a vertical wall of water, perhaps 10 or 20 ft high, which
presumably is held back from the eye by centrifugal forces on rotating fog and
water. It is inconceivable that the normal phenomena of evaporation and
condensation, which must take place inside the eye, can raise so much water up
in the eyewall. Other forces and another mechanism,
unrelated to phase changes, must be at work.
The storm sweeping over the water inevitably rips droplets off
the ocean surface and thereby ruptures hydrogen bonds. Because of the intensity
of the wind, water will be dragged along to a depth of inches, if not feet.
Therefore hydrogen bonds will be ruptured by liquid drag forces not only on the
surface but also at some depth below the surface of the ocean. The result seems
to resemble some continuous explosion of water which shoots great quantities of
droplets into the air and simply lifts liquid water above the ocean surface.
This mechanism should be operative all over the hurricane area and it should be
strongest at the eyewall.
Emanuel writes that a mature Atlantic hurricane can extract
power of the order of 3 x 1012 watt from the ocean. It is roughly equal to all the electric power
being generated instantly on earth. The extent of this phenomenon substantiates
the claim that hydrogen bond energy is an alternative to nuclear energy. Energy
densities in nuclear reactors are much higher than those prevailing in the vast
volumes of hurricane clouds. Against this we have to weigh the dangerous
consumption of uranium in nuclear reactors instead of the limitless
availability of renewable solar energy from the ocean.
Water driven bond energy explosions in hurricanes bring the
hydroelectric turbine to mind. In this turbine the water drags metal blades
around the turbine axis. The dragging process subjects hydrogen bonds to
tension. Some of the bonds almost certainly must rupture. As in water arc
explosions,1 the nuclear repulsion of the
previously bonded molecules then accelerates molecules along the drag force
line of action. This effect should help to drive the turbine. The exceptionally
high efficiency obtained with the best hydroelectric turbines may, in fact, be
caused by the liberation of hydrogen bond energy.
The efficiency of hydroelectric water turbines has recently been
discussed in Infinite Energy.4 First we note that fossil fuel burning electric power plants
are at best 35% efficient. The poor performance of fossil fuel plants is
partly imposed by the laws of thermodynamics, as they apply to the steam cycle.
The hydroelectric system does not involve a heat engine. Therefore it can run
at a considerably higher efficiency than the fossil fuel plant. The efficiency
of large modern hydroelectric systems has been quoted as 85 to 95%. These
figures are said to allow for all energy losses originating from liquid flow,
pressure shock, bearings, and electrical and mechanical losses in the
electricity generator. Since the generator alone may be responsible for wasting
5 to 10% of its throughput energy, the exceptionally high efficiency of
hydroelectric schemes is not credible, unless hydrogen bond energy liberation
makes a contribution.
An important consideration in the upgrading of hydroelectric
water turbine4 is the very small amount of gravitational energy
stored in the water, which is supposed to be responsible for the generation of
all hydro-electricity. To appreciate this fact the gravitational energy, per
unit mass of water, must be compared with the hydrogen bond energy stored in
the same amount of liquid water. For a head of water of 1000 m, the ratio of
gravitational to bond energy is 1 : 200. At lower
heads the ratio is even smaller. At 100 m it comes down to 1
: 2000. Therefore to double the turbine output, less than 1% of the
available bond energy has to be added to the gravitational energy of the water.
In low-head hydroelectric schemes, such as tidal and wave power, less than one
part in a thousand of the bond energy has to be added to the gravitational
energy to double the turbine output.
Ample evidence for the liberation of hydrogen bond energy by
stirring water in a rotating machine is being provided by mechanical water
heaters.4 These commercially available machines
consist of a metallic rotor revolving inside a stationary metallic housing
filled with water. The internal surfaces of rotor and stator, which face each
other across a layer of water, are shaped so as to violently stir the liquid.
The action heats the water and the temperature of it can rise to above the
boiling point. Rotor and stator have been found to remain cooler than the
water, thereby proving the liberation of internal water energy by mechanical
In a recent book by Inslee and Hendricks5 on
’s clean energy future,
two young American politicians examine the prospect of building more nuclear
power plants. The authors knew nothing about the availability of internal water
energy. They claim that the reduction of greenhouse gases to acceptable levels
“. . .would require tripling total global capacity (of
nuclear plants) from the current 17% of electricity.” This growth would add
several thousand tons of plutonium to the world’s current stock of
approximately 1000 tons. Inslee and Hendricks see it as too high a price to pay
when other more promising options are waiting in the wings.
If we take the Inslee and Hendricks figure and assume,
hypothetically, that the addition of nuclear plants could be made in 2008, it
would mean that for 100% of all electricity generated, 34% would then have to
be generated by new nuclear reactors to stabilize global temperatures.
Approximately 10% of the world’s electricity is generated by hydroelectric
plants. If this contribution could be doubled with hydrogen bond energy in
improved water turbines, as suggested here, the new nuclear electricity
fraction could be reduced from 34 to 24%. This is a very worthwhile objective,
particularly since hydroelectric electricity is far cheaper than nuclear electric
In the long run it may become possible to expand hydroelectric
electricity generation with combined gravitational and hydrogen bond energy to
such an extent that no nuclear reactors are required to stabilize global
warming. It should be made the goal of a Manhattan-type project6 supported by
the U.S. Department of Energy. So we come to the question of how much research
and development effort has to be mustered to meet the Inslee and Hendricks
It would be convenient to start the project in the laboratory
with small water turbines in the 1 - 10 kW range. The experimental turbine can
be driven with an electric motor while water from a laboratory reservoir is
piped into the turbine. The power delivered by this motor will simulate the gravitational
power consumed in an hydroelectric system. Experience
with mechanical water heaters4 has demonstrated that the bond energy
transactions of the 1 - 10 kW range can be handled by a machine resembling a
water turbine. The essence of the research is to find turbine configurations
operating at optimum speed to double the electricity output compared to the
gravitational input at a given height of water head. When the goal of energy
doubling has been achieved with a small turbine, progressively larger turbines
should be developed. This R&D process does not appear to be excessively
expensive and may not require more than five to ten years.
1. Graneau, P. 2006. Unlimited Renewable Solar
Energy from Water, New Energy Foundation,
2. Graneau, P. 2007. “Hydrogen Bond Energy Drives Hurricanes,” Infinite Energy, 13, 74, July/August.
3. Emanuel, K. 2005. Divine
Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes,
4. Graneau, P. 2008. “Upgraded Hydroelectric Water Turbines,” Infinite Energy, 13, 78, March/April.
5. Inslee, J. and Hendricks, B. 2008. Apollo’s Fire: Igniting
Island Press, Washington
6. Graneau, P. 2008. “Manhattan or
,” Infinite Energy, 13, 77,