Most of the excitement surrounding the advent of cold fusion has centered almost exclusively on the technology as a way to solve the energy needs of mankind in the future, both near and far. But the technology brings other benefits to the table. One of course is the reported ability of cold fusion cells to transmutate elements on the periodic table one in to another. Besides being a fulfillment of the alchemist’s dream, this potential would provide many practical benefits, making important but rare elements on the periodic table more abundant, thus decreasing their cost and making them more readily available for any variety of applications. However, many cold fusion cells offer another option that may rival energy production in terms of importance, at least in the near term, with that being the ability to neutralize radioactive nuclear waste. Even if one day cold fusion takes precedence on the energy landscape, there will still be the problem of cleaning up the mess created by traditional nuclear power.
There is radioactive waste created by approximately 450 nuclear power plants currently in operation around the world today, as well as waste created by smaller reactors on military ships and submarines, experimental reactors on university campuses around the world, and nuclear waste created by a variety of other sources such as nuclear weapons manufacturing sites, etc. In fact, the use of radioactive substances in any variety of applications is more ubiquitous than many of us realize, with each producing an accompanying amount of waste that is hazardous. dangerous and extremely problematic to dispose of. And let us also not forget about nuclear disaster sites like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima (and those are the ones that we know of), which have created problems in terms of management that mankind really has no idea how to handle, bedsides attempting stop-gap measures like entombing these sites in copious amounts of concrete and hoping that someday a solution for those ticking time bombs will be fortuitously stumbled upon. Well, mankind may already have a viable option to this problem and its name is cold fusion (or LENR if you’re a stickler for semantics).
To my knowledge, the ability of cold fusion cells to neutralize radioactive nuclear byproducts and waste was first reported with James Patterson’s Power Cell of the mid 1990s. On the American television Good Morning America in 1997, ABC science editor Michael Guillen had James Patterson prove it. A cup of uranium in water was measured for radioactivity and the Geiger counter measured over 300. In this demonstration, the radioactive water was cycled through Patterson’s cell and the radiation was reduced by 50% in a matter of a few hours. A point of reference, uranium normally has a half-life billions of years. The fact that the Patterson cell was able to neutralize the sample by 50% in such a short period of time is indeed remarkable. This demonstration was recording using time-lapse video but, unfortunately, and somewhat inexplicably, that video is nowhere to be found anywhere on the Internet. However, a transcript of that program is available here. It is mentioned that trials of this technology were to be carried out at the Hanford Site, a nuclear facility dating back to the days of the Manhattan Project, which at one time housed 9 nuclear reactors and 5 plutonium processing complexes. Needless to say, the site is one of the most contaminated nuclear facilities in the world. It is unclear if testing of the Patterson Power Cell every occurred at Hanford and, if so, what the results were.
However, it is known that only 2 years later, in 1999, Dr. George Miley was granted a peer-reviewed U.S. Department of Energy contract for a study to “verify previously tested electrolytic techniques to remediate radioactive nuclides.” As many know, Dr. Miley had at that point been working with James Patterson and his company, CETI for many years, having been hired as a consultant to independently verify Patterson’s work in 1995, the same year he was awarded the prestigious Edward Teller Metal in physics. Dr. Miley’s contract with the DOE was to verify worked previously done, not to merely test a hypothesis for the first time. Unfortunately, this study was never performed because the DOE canceled the funding before the study was even begun. After the funding was originally granted, the DOE convened a review panel of 6 to anonymous reviewers to look over the proposal again! This panel voted against moving ahead with the study. While members of this panel remained officially anonymous, it is reported that one of the reviewers was none other than Dr. John Huizenga, an anti-cold fusion crusader and a member of the DOE review panel that initially rejected cold fusion in 1989. For more details about yet another blatant example of cold fusion repression, see the article about this episode written by the late Dr. Eugene Mallove here.
Besides James Patterson and Dr. Miley, other researchers who have explored the ability of cold fusion cells to neutralize radiation include Widom-Larsen co-author Lewis Larsen. He explores the possibilities in an article written in November of 2008 entitled LENRs for Nuclear Waste Disposal. Unfortunately, one has to be a paying member of the Institute for Science in Society (ISIS) to read the full article, but the link above does give a solid overview including technical details.
Since NASA believes that WLT is the key to explaining to anomalous heat production in cold fusion/LENR cells, one has to wonder if they are also exploring the radiation neutralizing effects of the technology as well, or are they only concerned about their space planes and what not. While it may not be in the scope of NASA’s mission to explore technologies that neutralize radioactive materials, it would be highly irresponsible to all but ignore this aspect of the technology. But, then again, NASA ignored the anomalous heat production in their replication of a Pons-Fleishmann cell in 1989 because they were mostly looking for neutrons, so I wouldn’t not want to assume anything.
Of all the interesting claims regarding cold fusion and nuclear waste remediation, perhaps the most interesting is that of the GeNIE cell of Global Energy Corporation. One of the leading scientists for this company is Dr. Frank Gordon, formerly employed by the US Navy’s SPAWAR. Many probably remember Dr. Gordon from the 2009 presentation at the University of Missouri Twenty-Year History of Lattice-Enabled Nuclear Reactions (LENR) – Hiding in Plain Sight, in which he detailed the Navy’s 20 year history of LENR research, including 23 year peer-reviewed papers. Between the time of that presentation and the shutdown of SPAWAR cold fusion research in late 2011, Dr. Gordon joined the staff of GEC. The GeNIE reactor being developed there is deemed a “hybrid fusion, fast-fission reactor.” This reactor neutralizes radioactive waste by using it as a fuel, without producing hazardous waste itself. The reactor also is able to use natural, unprocessed uranium. The technology behind the reactor is that pioneered by Dr. Gordon and his associates at SPAWAR, as detailed in the presentation referenced above. According to the company’s website, their experiments are repeatable and have been replicated by others. Additionally, the company claims their experiments “provide direct evidence that nuclear reactions are involved, including the production of high-energy neutrons.” No further details are currently available and the above information was posted 6 or 7 months ago, in late 2011. GEC seems to be taking the Piantelli approach and remaining low-key until the i’s have been dotted and the t’s have been crossed. Hopefully, the wait will not be too much longer because the world needs this technology now.
In a video taken in the spring by one Barry Simon of the NANOR cold fusion device at MIT, Dr. Peter Hagelstein was asked if it was true that cold fusion devices could indeed neutralize radiation (see the 9:00 minute mark of the above video). Haglestein applied affirmatively, although he did not specifically qualify if the NANOR possessed this capability. Neither have Rossi or Piantelli discussed whether their cells are able to do this. However, given that this capability is seen in the different types of cells mentioned above it may certainly be the case. Whatever the mechanism that allows cold fusion cells to produce heat by means of a nuclear reaction without producing harmful radiation, is most likely the same mechanism that enables these cells to neutralize radiation produced by nuclear fission in traditional nuclear reactors.
As been pointed out before, the obstacles that face cold fusion currently are now as much about politics, public perception and the ability to get people to “buy in” to it (both literally and figuratively), as they are about the viability of the technology itself. Given that, any additional benefits that it can bring the table, besides virtually inexhaustible, cheap, green energy, will certainly be of benefit. The fact is, cold fusion does face competition in the energy market from both traditional sources and others currently being developed, but it has virtually no competition in terms of its ability to neutralize radiation and radioactive waste. That fact alone makes it worthy of serious consideration and funding, both public and private.