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Nuclear synthi-jetfuel plants wanted for US Afghan bases

Porta-reactors to make diesel from soldiers' poo?

OK, where are we going to find a whole lot of carbon waste here at Kandahar? Hey, what's that horrible smell?

"Biomass/waste materials" most probably alludes to the huge, odorous lakes of sewage which have accumulated next to some of the bigger bases in Afghanistan, much complained of by the resident servicemen. This could potentially be an excellent carbon source, and turning it into jetfuel would have the added benefit of making the bases pleasanter to be in.

That said, such a base's aircraft use huge amounts of fuel: if the local reactor were supplying all or most of it, even thousands of gutsy troops' output might not be enough to keep it supplied. Logistics officers might find that they had to run just as many troublesome convoys to get hold of enough feedstock (sewage, wood, crops, coal, whatever) as they formerly did to bring in fuel - probably more, in fact, as the feedstocks would be bulkier and heavier than the resulting JP-8.

But the electrical power savings would still be there: and any fuel which could be produced using local materials would ease the burden on the supply chain. It might even be possible, perhaps, to make diesel for ground vehicles as well as JP-8 for aircraft:

It may be assumed that the desired fuel end product is JP-8; however, responders should discuss the degree to which their fuel production technology could be used to produce other mobility fuels including gasoline and diesel fuels.

This sort of technology could also have serious implications outside the military, of course. Any nation with nuclear powerplants and a desire to cut carbon emissions and/or fossil fuel imports could use it for aviation; and potentially road transport too. Even if synthi-diesel and petrol can't be achieved, it would be a simple matter to make a road fleet run on jetfuel (compared to making it run on batteries or hydrogen, anyway).

A lot of people would rather be reliant on uranium supplies from Australia or Canada than on Gulf oil or Russian gas: and it would be possible to get a lot more reactor fuel by reprocessing existing waste stockpiles, though this might well face stiff opposition from people concerned over nuclear weapons proliferation**. Another advantage of uranium over fossil is that several years' national requirements can be stockpiled in quite small facilities, meaning that supply crises can easily be coped with.

Then, there would be massive carbon reductions for those primarily worried about global warming.

Some science-fiction writers have long assumed that the future human race would turn to this sort of technology. H Beam Piper, for one, wrote that "thermoconcentrate" juice would be made using reactors on worlds unfortunate enough not to have convenient underground reservoirs of almost ready-made fuel.

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