- Humanity may face an energy crisis as the world’s population rapidly grows.
- Nuclear power plants can generate bountiful, carbon-free electricity, but their solid fuel is problematic, and aging reactors are being shut down.
- A Cold War-era liquid-fueled reactor design could transform thorium — a radioactive waste from mining — into a practically limitless energy source.
- US engineers proved such a system works during the 1960s. However, the military canceled the project and it was nearly forgotten.
- Companies and governments are now trying to revive and evolve the design, but development costs, regulations, and nuclear-weapons concerns all pose hurdles.
The lifeblood of modern civilization is affordable, free-flowing energy.
It gives us the power to heat our homes. Grow and refrigerate food. Purify water. Manufacture products. Perform organ transplants. Drive a car. Go to work. Or procrastinate from work by reading a story about the future of energy.
Today’s cheap, bountiful supplies make it hard to see humanity’s looming energy crisis, but it’s possibly coming within our lifetimes. Our numbers will grow from 7.36 billion people today to 9 billion in 2040, an increase of 22%. Rapidly developing nations, however, will supercharge global energy consumption at more than twice that rate.