Embracing Nuclear Power
This episode is brought to you by World Anvil. When it comes to adopting nuclear energy, the saying goes that the best time to plant a reactor was yesterday, and the next best time is today. So today we will be looking at Nuclear Power, and how and if we should finally embrace it as a major energy source after decades of controversy and association with nuclear weapons. This episode comes out on August 5th of 2021, 76 years after the first and only use of atomic weapons in warfare, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th of 1945 respectively. A full human lifetime has passed since then, and we’re still not sure how many people died during the attack itself, or from radiation-related illnesses afterward, but most figures put it at well over 100,000.
Thankfully no other atomic weapons have seen battlefield use, though that would have been surprising to most folks who lived during the Cold War that followed. I was 10 years old when the Berlin Wall fell, an event that is usually seen as the end of the Cold War in much the same way Hiroshima and Nagasaki are seen as the end of World War 2, and prior to that it was taken as a given by so many people that atomic warfare would be the death of our civilization - and probably sooner than later. Taken in that context, it makes sense why nuclear energy seemed to be an easy sell during the cold war, when nuclear technology was already being mass produced, and is at least partially at fault for much of the anti-nuclear sentiment we saw in the years that followed. There are rational reasons to fear using nuclear energy, but also a lot of irrational ones too, and many that maybe straddle that gap. For those who remember living under the looming fear of impending nuclear war, the desire to scrap every bomb and powerplant could be understandable.
If you’re going to title an episode Embracing Nuclear Power, it generally won’t shock folks that it has a pro-nuclear theme, but we also aren’t going to bury our heads in the sand about potential problems with nuclear power, or the advantages of alternative technologies. There’s a lot of bad arguments against nuclear power, but there’s some bad ones for promoting it too. For instance, a lot more folks have died mining coal and drilling for oil than in all of our nuclear accidents combined.
And while those numbers would be dramatic to quote, it’s also not a terribly fair argument against those technologies, let alone solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal. A lot of folks have died in accidents building, maintaining, and installing those power sources too, but the entire line of reasoning is flawed. Coal Mining deaths in the US have dropped from over 2000 a year a century ago to about 10 a year today. Part of that is due to advances in technology, and more serious efforts at workplace safety, but a lot of it is simply a result of practice and knowledge. Any technology is going to have risks associated with it, some obviously a lot more than others, but we often can’t know how to properly control and mitigate those risks until we’ve experienced enough of them to understand where they exist. Sadly, it’s hard to do any sort of risk analysis without a significant amount of firsthand experience, and statistical analysis only works with data.
We also need to keep in mind that statistics can also be used to distort real risks, and it’s downright contemptible how some anti-nuclear advocacy groups warp the dangers to suit their agendas. However, that also doesn’t justify nuclear advocates fighting fire with fire, so to speak, and it’s unfortunately common to see folks advocating for nuclear by overplaying the dangers of the alternatives. The reality is that none of our current energy generation methods are particularly risky to their workers compared to how many die just driving to their job and back, which we all treat as actuarial noise in our modern lifestyle.
It’s also important to consider that those risk-related statistics are hardly static. I’ve heard folks say that solar power exposes its workers to skin cancer, and in some sense that’s probably true, since solar panels are generally installed in sunnier places, necessarily outdoors, and likely during the daytime, meaning that the folks doing that work get more sun and thus potentially more skin cancer than someone working in a different sector. But even ignoring how many jobs are out in the Sun, and the apparent health benefits of sunlight, should that turn out to be a real risk, we could just make an effort to encourage the use of sunscreen and UV protective clothing by folks in the industry.
So to recap: while we’re fairly free about being pro-nuclear on this show, as we go through some of the potential options for nuclear energy and its integration into our society, we’ll refrain from using fear of its alternatives as a motivating argument. Nuclear could only become a main power generation option if folks were comfortable with it. Between the constant bashing of renewable sources, and the fact that much of our current grid depends on things we feel we know and understand, it’s unsurprising to see an attitude toward sticking with the status quo and the devil we know, rather than taking a risk on something new. And on that note, let’s start by discussing the safety through distance or NIMBY option of distant and large reactors.
NIMBY, short for Not in my Back Yard, is the concept for folks wanting something, like garbage dumps or wind turbines, but nowhere near their own house. One way to allay fears of nuclear is just to have it far from where folks live in large numbers. We’ll be discussing small reactors today too, but smaller is often less efficient in raw economic terms. Often bigger power plants generate more power per unit of fuel too, but an awful lot of your construction and operating costs also don’t scale up evenly with size. For example, you usually would not need to double your security guards, parking lot size, roads to the facility, or a hundred other minor factors by having multiple reactors at the same site, or a reactor that’s twice as big. One of the problems with putting a bunch of reactors in the middle of a desert or tundra is that while people may not live there now, workers and their families would have to move there, as would a lot of the support personnel, and everything that comes with supporting a community, from convenience store clerks to teachers and doctors.
Being remote also means you’ll lose a lot of power to transmission on wires. A lot of what gets generated at a power plant is lost before reaching your electric outlet, and the longer the distance between power plant and consumer, the more will be lost. In many ways having a large reactor is the most attractive path for deploying nuclear, since it lets us run maybe a dozen big sites far from human habitation, not in anyone’s backyard except for those who pay for the mortgage of their backyard by working at said power plant. So how do you make it easier to place power generation far from habitation? If the big concerns are transmission and isolation, we’ll have to look toward superconductors for transmission, and robots for the labour.
Superconductors are still a developing technology, where the cost of production is changing quite a lot each year. Since new technology for the manufacture, maintenance, and installation of superconducting power lines is constantly emerging, it’s hard to say when we’ll hit the point where it’s practical to replace existing infrastructure with its superconducting equivalent. Another recent technology currently being used to reduce losses over long distances is Ultra-High Voltage DC transmission, or UHVDC, and while it’s not as efficient as superconductors, it remains practical and cost-effective given our current capabilities.
But while using better trunk lines make large remote nuclear plants more attractive economically, it also does the same for solar. It’s always a clear sunny day somewhere, and the places with the clearest and sunniest days tend to be rather remote and uninhabited, like the desert. As we’ll see today though, we’re not interested in an exclusively nuclear future, but rather one in which it simply plays a very big role. No single existing power source is likely to be the cure-all by itself, and a single power source also has the added downside of lending itself to monopoly or cartel behavior in its production. As for making things safer, robotics are likely to play a big role in the future of nuclear power, as they likely will in other sectors of the economy as well. This applies not only to what we might immediately imagine, in terms of avoiding direct exposure, but to other areas also.
Many issues with nuclear waste come from the production of tons of barely irradiated safety gear, and unlike high-level waste, which we’ll cover soon, such contaminated equipment can’t be reused, forcing us to issue new gear each time someone enters the relevant areas of the plant. But a robot doesn’t need to constantly replace its protective layers, or be decontaminated before going home. We can even use other robotic systems to perform remote maintenance on the contaminated robots, adding yet another layer of protection in defense of outside contamination. 90% of nuclear waste is this type of low-level radioactive waste, with intermediate waste like decommissioning reactor parts making up most of the remainder, and the high-level waste being the least common. That 90% contains less than 1% of the radioactivity, but it’s an expensive logistical problem from the constant use and disposal of equipment that robots can potentially solve. Putting more robotics into play lowers the dangers and the costs, both direct and secondary, improving the economic viability of nuclear power.
It’s also likely to help with public perception, since using robots would remove much of the risk to humans, and many of the dangers presented by human error, which has historically played a major role, and is still seen by some members of the public as an insurmountable barrier to safety. Of course, much like superconducting trunklines, better robotics also improves other power generation options, especially renewables, where manufacturing or maintenance represent a big chunk of the cost. That’s important to consider, since one objection I’ve heard regarding nuclear power is if it’s so economically advantageous, and if we’ve made so many safety and operational improvements in recent decades, why aren’t we using more of it? There are many reasons for the absence of nuclear growth, but one of the simplest is that while improvements have been made for nuclear power, we’ve also improved everything else. For instance, in the half century from when we landed on the Moon till now, the fuel efficiency of the average vehicle went from 13 miles per gallon to 22, a 70% increase, while solar power went from being a novelty item mostly seen on hand calculators, to a major form of power generation today, being more efficient per panel and vastly cheaper to produce. So while it’s true that nuclear has been improving across the board, this is true of its alternatives, as well. Speaking of those little solar hand calculators of my youth, part of the reason you don’t see many solar powered hand devices anymore has to do with the development of better batteries, and the invention of other technologies which allow us to complete many tasks on our smartphones or the cloud.
Potential advancements in wireless recharging and improvements to batteries overall might strongly impact the future of handheld and portable devices, and we might also see nuclear emerge in an ultra-tiny form. The suggestion of having a small nuclear reactor or RTG in your pocket might raise some concerns, so it’s probably wise to put those dangers into context with a quick look at the different kinds of radiation. Of the 4 major types of ionizing radiation, alpha, beta, gamma, and neutron, one of the least damaging and dangerous is beta, coming in under gamma’s weaker cousins X-Rays and UV light.
Beta particles consist of electrons and their antimatter counterparts positrons. The best example of beta radiation is the Banana Equivalent Dose, a unit of measure mostly used to make it clear how omnipresent radiation is and how minimal its impact typically is. Bananas contain a lot of potassium, which has many isotopes, one of which is Potassium-40 with a half-life of over a billion years, typically decaying into Calcium by emitting an electron. This electron gets spat out rather fast, and is like a little bullet slamming through the delicate machinery of organic cells. But because it’s an electron, it interacts with nearly everything, and so it gets absorbed by any molecule it happens to encounter pretty quickly. In machinery terms, think of a human cell as an incredibly delicate bit of glassware or clockwork, a bullet will break something if it zips through, but if that glassware or clockwork is housed inside a mountain bunker, someone shooting the side of that mountain with a pistol isn’t going to do much apart from chipping at some rock.
In this analogy, humans have a layer of dead skin playing the role of the rock; alpha and beta radiation just can’t penetrate it, while neutron and gamma radiation are more like cannonballs or bunker buster missiles. For this reason, beta emitters aren’t really a concern when it comes to radiation sources. There’s also a lot of potassium in your body, stored in places like your bones. This includes potassium-40, which even now is decaying and doing some amount of damage. As we noted in our Sleeper Ships episode, where we contemplated freezing folks for the long journeys to other solar systems, if you freeze someone for a few thousand years they will absorb a lethal dose of radiation during their stasis, just from the slow decay of isotopes like potassium-40 inside their own body. But even ignoring your skin as a protective layer, a thin sheet of aluminum foil or nearly anything else will stop beta radiation dead in its tracks.
But why does all this matter? While it’s safe and easy to contain, beta radiation is also fairly easy to use for power generation, its electrons and it converts easily to electricity. Instead of using thermocouples to generate power from the heat of the nuclear decay, we can use semiconductors instead. Because of the relative safety, such devices are potentially ideal for implanted medical applications, and other low-power devices. There are a lot of beta-decaying isotopes out there, but for compactness you want something that decays a lot faster than potassium-40 at over a billion years. Carbon-14 is a nice option, as it’s created in the graphite blocks of graphite-moderated reactors, and has a half-life of 5700 years. This is the method employed in the nuclear diamond batteries you’ve probably heard of, and which we discussed a bit more in our episode on Portable Power.
Another option which was briefly discussed in our episode on Graphene is using it to directly capture the kinetic energy of alpha and beta decay particles, and convert it directly to power that way. In fact, that technology is being actively researched today. Speaking of graphene, we also discussed graphite-moderated reactors, and what reactor moderation was, in our episode “The Future of Fission”, where we delved into more of the actual function of reactors. Today we’re more interested in how nuclear might find its way into more common usage.
On top of being generally safe, one of the big concerns with anything nuclear is that it could somehow melt down. This simply isn’t possible with radioisotope batteries, though even with the lack of safety issues, I suspect a lot of folks would have concerns over holding a smartphone with an atomic power supply next to their head, especially given all the anxiety folks already have about microwaves and radio signals from their phones. I think the way these enter regular usage is probably with implanted devices, where any concerns of radiation are minimal compared to battery toxicity concerns or infection risks of skin-breaching devices, like a power jack piercing the skin, or from surgeries to replace a worn-out battery. Implanted devices are also less likely than consumer gadgets to get burned up in an accidental fire, to become litter, or to be improperly discarded in the general purpose waste stream, and it’s fair to acknowledge that casual disposal of radioactive objects - even weak and short-lived beta emitters - would be a concern. Although handily they would be easily detected and removed from garbage dumps, or even garbage trucks, as radiation detectors are quite cheap and compact. This idea of radiation used for medical applications is already normalized to some extent, with most folks knowing about radiation therapy for cancer, and few people have issues with going for an x-ray.
There’s also a lot of very low draw devices where something as simple as a radioisotope generator is ideal, but they are specifically for more remote applications, and so don’t strike me as a path toward humans embracing nuclear in their daily lives, whereas for medical and cybernetic implants, you are embracing such power supplies in a very literal sense. So that’s the mega-huge option and the micro-tiny-option covered, and as for its role in space travel, we examined that in more detail in our episode the Nuclear Option. But what about the smaller modular reactors? What about Thorium? And can it run your car? Now years back there was the notion of a Thorium car making the rounds on social media, and while that was nonsense, atomic cars are technically possible.
However, it's hard to get a reactor down to a size that small and still generate enough power safely, where you can throttle the reaction rate so it’s providing only as much power as needed. It's much more viable for things like trains, where they spend far more time in motion, and have more room for batteries to charge or drain for use in tandem with the reactor. It also gives you more space for the reactor and its shielding. Plus let us be honest, none of us really would want to trust the average driver with a kilogram of radioactive material.
I don’t see much likelihood for something smaller being used, like atomic buses or trucks, but I could imagine atomic freight trains being viable since in addition to having more space for the reactor and batteries, they’re also on rails and have fewer risks associated with them than road-driven vehicles. It's also technically an option for airplanes, especially big ones, but the safety concern here and for trains is less about danger to the passenger than spreading of radioactive material in a crash. I also suspect that many people might be made uncomfortable travelling in such a vehicle. Another option might be large nuclear-powered cargo ships, particularly since this technology is already in use. The US concepted it back in the late 50’s, and the Russians have a few nuclear-powered icebreaker & shipping hybrid vessels currently in service - but the problem with it is simply retraining the workforce to nuclear standards.
If that can be done, much of the infrastructure to implement it is already in place, thanks to the demand for nuclear-powered military vessels, so it might just be a matter of will, time, and economics. So I wouldn’t expect atomic vehicles to be the pathway for nuclear power getting into our lives more casually - at least, not directly. Indirectly speaking, electric vehicles powered by nuclear energy are already a thing, especially in countries like France, which has the second highest nuclear power production on the planet, a close second to the entire US, and the highest per capita production by far. But once larger nuclear vehicles have taken hold, it could potentially spread to smaller applications.
I’m a physicist; I’ve worked with radioactive samples, including plutonium, since I was a teenager. I know how it works, and I’ve lived near a nuclear power plant for most of my life. Riding on an atomic train or plane wouldn’t bother me, even in terms of a possible vehicle accident. All that heavy metal flying around at high speeds is a lot more lethal than the radioactive material itself, and if the housing were to crack open you can evacuate the spot and send in robots to clean up the easily-detectable radioactive bits. People can learn to relax around radiation, as we do around fire, and we shouldn’t assume a constant anxiety about all things nuclear is inherent to humans anymore than we worry constantly about using flammables like gasoline or natural gas constantly flowing around us in our vehicles and homes. Fire still kills far more people than nuclear power ever has, but most people don’t get anxious roasting marshmallows.
We’re not just talking today about how we’ll get to be comfortable with nuclear power, but what forms it will take if we manage to achieve that level of comfort. It’s possible people might someday carry around a belt-strapped power plant as casually as we carry a phone or wallet today, if that comfort level were high enough, because we could make things that small, and being the source of your own wireless power grid has some advantages. But let's get to probably the most commonly discussed scenario these days for nuclear power to grow into our society: SMRs or small modular reactors. First, I should note that the term “small” is very relative, and what we’re mostly talking about when we say small is the total amount of power generation compared to larger existing plants. A classic nuclear power plant looks like a big, almost monolithic industrial site , usually with a massive concrete cooling tower, and employs about a small town’s worth of people.
SMRs generate less than 300 Megawatts, and some designs for Very Small Reactors are only 15 megawatts. We’ve just discussed nuclear power options in the sub-megawatt range for vehicles, and in the milliwatt range for medical implants, so something generating enough power to supply thousands of homes doesn’t seem small, much less very small. So too, when we say modular in this case, it mostly relates to construction and maintenance. With a modular reactor, much of this work could be done off-site in a controlled factory environment, then shipped as modules for assembly at the power plant site, speeding up construction and repairs, and enhancing both efficiency and safety.
Factory production also means economies of scale and standardization in production, reducing the one-off construction costs and overhead associated with many larger power plant designs. As an additional boon, maintenance and quality control also improve with the standardization and mass production you get from producing modules. I’ll add as an aside that 3D printing might see a role in power plant construction too, an expansion on what we see with Oak Ridge’s Transformational Challenge Reactor program 3D printing that reactor’s core. 3D printing allows remote fabrication, where hazardous materials might be a factor, and we can make big 3D printers that print whole buildings too. This might rival the advantages of off site construction, but another advantage to modular forms is that you can pull out an entire section and replace it, or move things elsewhere for safe recycling and disposal. I think the popular view of SMRs when they show up is a reactor you could carry in the back of a truck or on a train car for rapid deployment, and while there are some models in development along those lines, I should note that this is not what’s generally meant when the topic’s discussed.
The upper end of SMRs, like the 440 Megawatt Rolls-Royce SMR, is around half the size of a big power plant, but it still has a construction time of years, and the plant itself takes up 4 hectares or 10 acres, which is only a tenth the size of most existing plants, but still about 9 football fields’ worth of space. So it’s not something you can easily put in the middle of an existing city, albeit nobody is really clamoring for building them that close. But it’s hardly huge, and we have plenty of shopping centers that dwarf that; your typical Walmart plus parking lot is bigger, and this is still at the larger end of SMR designs. On the smaller end, we can start discussing thorium, though a full discussion is too large of a topic for today. Now it isn’t that Thorium reactors are inherently smaller than uranium or plutonium ones, but the theory is that they offer advantages in fuel chemistry with molten salts, and in security of nuclear materials. “Meltdown-free” reactors are a technology we technically already have, they just haven’t passed the licensing for commercial construction and use.
But they do exist - molten salt, liquid metal, and gas cooled reactors are all pushing through to begin construction within the next 10 years. As we retire all the old reactors that might plausibly meltdown, public fear of it happening will hopefully go away, leaving us mostly with the remaining concerns about security, excess waste, and mining. Worries over people stealing enriched uranium or plutonium from power plants are rather overblown in the first place, with the real concern being the theft of the material while it’s en route to or from the site. You don’t send a commando team or group of thieves into a reactor to grab fuel rods, that’s not going to work out well for them, or anyone else involved. However, it might be a bigger concern for small reactors with presumably less overall security. Also most of the time, when someone is talking about thorium and security, they actually mean energy security, in that thorium is a lot more plentiful and geologically available than mineable reserves of Uranium, and so it offers more security of supply in the long run.
But in terms of nuclear proliferation, Thorium is also quite attractive, as it’s much harder to utilize for any kind of weapons production. Note I said harder, not impossible. The thorium fuel cycle produces Uranium-233, in fact it’s the Uranium-233 that’s doing the power production.
The Thorium is simply there to absorb neutrons, so it can move from the naturally available Thorium 232 into Thorium-233, which then Beta decays into the short lived Protactinum-233, in turn decaying into Uranium-233. Ironically one of our big improvements in nuclear technology is using lasers to separate the different isotopes, an idea that’s been thrown around to clean up high-level nuclear waste, but which would also make separating Uranium-233 from Uranium-232 much easier, allowing for Uranium-233 based nuclear bombs. In the past the US tested a Uranium-233 based warhead, and found it was otherwise too tricky to make and too inefficient to be practical, but laser separation might minimize the benefits of thorium from a nuclear proliferation standpoint. All that being said though, you’d still need some very high-end gear to even make such an attempt, so it’s worth repeating that it would certainly still be difficult and expensive. I’ve been asked a lot over the years to discuss Thorium-based nuclear power in more detail, but I don’t want to shoehorn that discussion into today’s episode, which is already longer than average, so we will give Thorium its own dedicated episode a bit later in the year.
For the moment, that covers the basic function, advantage, and concern. The thorium fuel cycle has a lot of pros and cons, but also shows a lot of promise. The exact function of classic and modern uranium reactors is discussed in more detail in our episode The Future of Fission, but the reality is that how they work isn’t terribly relevant to whether we use them more in the future, or how we might convince folks that we should. Fundamentally, the issue is in convincing folks that radiation is mundane, and not some dangerous phantasmic boogeyman.
It’s everywhere around us, and really just particles moving quicker than normal, bouncing around till they get absorbed. There’s no perfectly safe reactor, anymore than there’s a perfectly safe combustion engine. Trying to convince folks it’s safe by statistics isn’t likely to sway them, because we don’t really process dangers in that way, and it’s more in how they poke at us psychologically.
Necessity and familiarity are what let us handle fire and knives constantly without excessive concerns, and that’s one reason why communities around these power plants have really high approval of them, compared to communities that aren’t. I’ve spent most of my life living in sight of one for instance, and never realized how much distrust other communities had of them till I went away to college to learn physics, so it wasn’t a deeper knowledge of physics and radiation that made me feel comfortable with them, nor most of my neighbors who aren’t physicists or nuclear engineers. As to necessity, that’s a bit debatable in truth, because solar is shaping up to be a viable mainstay for power generation. It’s just that the two of them together, fission plus the sun’s own fusion giving us sunlight and wind, especially in tandem with better batteries and superconductors, offers us true energy security.
There’s enough uranium to last us a long time, centuries, even without using breeder reactors, seawater extraction, or Thorium, all of which offer far more. If we can’t get fusion working by then, then it probably can’t be done, and we’d then have to switch to solar exclusively at some point. But that’s okay too, since space-based solar is great at Earth’s orbit. See our episode Power Satellites for more on that. A good case can be made that we’ll have good solar or even fusion long before we run out of fissionable material, or even conventional fossil fuels.
Some might argue that investing into a fission-based power infrastructure simply switches focus away from other renewables in what is often perceived to be a deadline or race to get off fossil fuels. But as I touched on earlier, while I think we should use more fission power, I don’t think that all arguments against it are irrational either. There’s also the argument that we should instead be investing our power infrastructure money in fusion research, in a type of “Manhattan Project” to free us from energy production waste, but there’s no guarantee that it would succeed, or that it would free us from that waste, as a reminder, nuclear fusion produces radiation too.
Ironically, one of the most fear-mongering concerns about nuclear energy – that it will encourage weapon proliferation – is also the one I believe to be the most inaccurate. It’s a strange way to think of it, but I’ve always thought of the fight against nuclear proliferation as a bit of a lost cause. There’s no particular secret to building an atomic bomb, and any nation with a handful of decent physicists and engineers could throw together a decent design in short order if they couldn’t just steal or buy one from another power, so it’s always been more about keeping the enriched material away. The thing is, 3D printing, robotics, and improvements in material processing, not to mention in conventional explosives and switches, make building bombs vastly easier than it was in the 1940s and 50s, so I don’t think you can really keep a modern nation from having one except by threats and coercion, and given that atomic bombs are often seen by nations as the ultimate defense – people can only play so rough with you if you’ve got them – I tend to think of preventing nuclear proliferation by controlling fissionable materials and enrichment processes as a bit of a lost cause in the long term and that other methods will have to be utilized. Presumably soft power and other techniques can be effective, given that most nations could have nukes if they wanted but still don’t have them, and there’s really not much point in having them secretly if your intent is to use them as deterrence. Possibly not the most cheerful note to end on, but if that turns out to be the case, it might be that the reason we embrace nuclear power is the same one that probably encouraged us during the cold war.
If having nuclear power plants isn’t seen as increasing the odds of anyone getting the bomb, then a lot of the concerns about those power plants will simply go away. Admittedly, it does leave the door open for a lot of other concerns, but once we can move past that initial fear, I suspect it’s likely that solutions for those issues will be easier to find. And while we can speculate all day about what improvements we will make to solar or wind, or when fusion might finally be ready, all those improvements are speculative at best, and we never really know how the economics of it will work out until it’s actually done. We have nuclear now, and we’ve had safer and more-efficient designs for decades, but we’ve resisted using them largely because of fear. So far, our aversion to nuclear hasn’t made us any safer, or kept us away from nuclear war.
Instead, it’s led to a continued reliance on an ever-dwindling supply of fossil fuels whose environmental and health effects outweigh any of the risks that even the harshest critics have levied on nuclear. The time to switch to nuclear power isn’t tomorrow, or a decade from now if alternative energy sources don’t pan out as well as we’d hope. The time was decades ago, and it could have brought us much more prosperity and much less environmental harm. But because we missed a great chance then, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t adopt nuclear energy now, merely that we should take the opportunity while we have the chance for cheaper, cleaner sources of power. All that’s holding us back is our willingness to use it; we’ve never been cowards about dangerous technology, and shouldn’t let ourselves flinch from something as tiny as an atom.
Something that probably represents one of the biggest background sources of resistance to nuclear power is just how much media we have showing post-apocalyptic wastelands, though they happen to make for some great fiction. From video games like Fallout, to classic pen and paper role playing games like RIFTS. Now odds are pretty good if you’re a channel regular you’ve watched or read a lot of scifi and fantasy, rattled around your fair share of 20-sided dice, and dreamed up some worlds or stories for your own amusement or possibly for a novel. A lot of the time, the hardest part of turning your ideas into a game or story is simply having a good worldbuilding toolset that lets you quickly create and easily organize all the ideas going through your head, and if you’re running an RPG, of making it easily accessible and clearly understandable to your players. That’s where World Anvil, the award-winning worldbuilding toolset, comes in. Over the years I’ve helped create settings for books, video games, and tons of RPGs, and World Anvil is that tool for creators I’ve always wished for.
It’s quick and easy to learn, for you and your players, but has so many additional handy features, and has an amazing set of tutorials walking you through how to use them that also inspires you in many new ways to use them to improve your setting. World Anvil’s tools lets you quickly create settings and flush them out to very deep and interactive levels, everything from leaving notes on maps and smaller maps to alternate timeline tracking for your world’s history. Whether you’re managing a campaign or writing a novel, whether you’re making city or dungeon maps or family genealogies, whether it's scifi or fantasy genres, World Anvil lets you forge your setting better and easier than anything I’ve ever worked with before, and it has a free version so you can share it with others, and selectively, so they’re not seeing secret content. And you can also incorporate ways to monetize your content, such as Patreon or Kofi or your own storefront. World Anvil offers wikipedia-like articles for your world setting, interactive maps, timelines, an RPG Campaign Manager and a full Novel-Writing Software, all the tools you’ll need to run your RPG Campaign or write your novel, and never lose your notes again! If you’d like to give World Anvil a try and let it help you forge new worlds, just click the link in this episode’s description! So this wraps us up for today but we’re just getting started for August, and next week we’ll look at what the next space station after the ISS will be, before we have our mid-month Scifi Sunday episode: Alien Artifacts & Xenoarcheology, on August 15th.
Then in two weeks we’ll look at Fusion Propulsion designs and concepts for Spaceships before closing the Month out by heading all the way out to the Edge of the Universe, on Thursday, August 26th, then we’ll have our Monthly Livestream Q&A on Sunday, August 29th at 4 pm Eastern Time. If you want alerts when those and other episodes come out, make sure to subscribe to the channel, and if you’d like to help support future episodes, you can donate to us on Patreon, or our website, IsaacArthur.net, which are linked in the episode description below, along with all of our various social media forums where you can get updates and chat with others about the concepts in the episodes and many other futuristic ideas.
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