Skip to main content

About this book

The enormous public interest of specialists as well as of engaged and concerned citizens in the energy problem can be understood in view of the fact that the future of national and world-wide economy depends on the availability of sufficient primary energy. The questions arising are: which forms of primary energy exist principally? by what means and at what cost can they be brought to useful application? and what is their possible role in the present and future energy scenario? Another reason which may not be so obvious, but which eventually may prove to be of great importance as far as public acceptance of energy technologies is con­ cerned, lies in the fact that the existing conscious or subconscious fears arising from confrontation with scientific and technological progress - to which even for the educated layman intellectual access is diffi­ cult - have been sublimated onto the energy problem and especially onto the problem of nuclear energy. Un­ like other developments, the emergence of nuclear ener­ gy has brought to our notice the ambivalence of ad­ vancing science and technology, which may either be used peacefully or misused militarily. Nuclear energy can help to overcome the increasing hunger for energy in the world, but it can also lead to the extinction of human life from the surface of this plant. More and more, mankind is confronted with chances and risks of new discoveries.

Table of Contents


The Physical Concept of Energy

Man used nuclear energy from the sun long before the physical concept of energy became known. In the form of electromagnetic radiation solar energy travels through interplanetary space, in the form of chemical energy it is stored in organic materials on the surface of the earth. Collected over large areas and through periods of months in plants, solar energy is transformed into muscular power of man and animals. By integration through decades in wood and through millions of years in coal solar energy provided the fuel for steam engines, the last energy technology of the pre-scientific era. Solar energy is transformed into kinetic energy of air and thus may drive windmills, it is also transformed into potential energy of water and thereby may power water mills.
K. O. Thielheim

Resources and Reserves of Fossil and Nuclear Fuels

The drastic price hike for petroleum — ca. 1500% since 1960 — has made it clear to everyone that there are limits to the availability of this source of energy. Therefore, efforts have been increased in the search for and utilization of other sources of energy. It has been, and still is, necessary to develop new processes to guarantee the supply of energy, the basis of economic stability and growth, for the medium- and long-term future. Starting points of such considerations are the following questions: What quantities of non-renewable raw materials exist? How long will they last? For this reason global surveys of reserves and resources of energy raw materials have been made. The number of such surveys has increased during the past several years. The results of these surveys may differ in details, but the overall picture is of the same order of magnitude. The limits are visible and thus the limits of growth as well. Nevertheless, these limits are not menacingly near, and they can be pushed even further into the future, if the necessary efforts are made.
F. Bender, K. E. Koch

Synthetic Fuels

The availability of natural gas and crude oil can, in the future, no longer keep up with the increasing demand. There will inevitably be a global shortage of crude oil supplies in the 1980s and of natural gas supplies in the 1990s. This, now widespread realization, that was slowly growing discernible approximately 10 years ago, has triggered off energetic reactions.
W. Peters

The Carbon Dioxide Problem

The climate of the earth depends to a great extent on the composition of the atmosphere. Atmospheric components play an important role regarding different kinds of energy transports (interaction with sunlight and thermal terrestrial radiation, atmospheric circulation) which determine the earth’s heat budget and thus the climate.
H. Oeschger, U. Siegenthaler, T. Wenk

Electricity and Heat from Thermal Nuclear Reactors

During the last 20 years, the utilization of nuclear energy by means of nuclear reactors has gained great importance worldwide. In the European Community the nuclear share in power generation has continuously increased despite various shades of antinuclear climate and has now reached a value of 14%. (In France 1981:37%).
W. Oldekop

High-temperature Reactors

It is a generally realized fact that the structure of energy technology is changing, mainly characterized by the fact that crude oil, the principal raw material for generating energy is being substituted by other long-term energy sources. In Fig.1 the historic development of energy consumption in fractions of primary sources of energy is depicted. One can see that, starting with the consumption of renewable energy sources in the late middle ages, first coal, then crude oil and gas were and still are the most important energy resources of mankind, and that, starting from the year 2000, a new energy technology will obviously be needed to be able to meet future energy requirements. These connections are, however, not only characterized by the fact that new forms of energy have to be found but also that the required amounts of energy are by far more than those consumed till now, meaning that a completely new problem arises here. How much more energy will exactly be required can be easily and clearly assessed, there being no need of complicated and intricate system analytic statements to be able to predict these quantitative changes. It is generally accepted that the worldwide population will considerably increase (up to 8–12 billion) in the future and that the living standards of the future population must at least be raised somewhat in comparison with the present average living standard in order to guarantee a stable worldwide social order for the future.
R. Schulten

Technology of Fast Breeder Reactors

Unlike light-water reactors (LWR’s), heavy-water reactors (HWR’s) and high-temperature gas cooled reactors (HTGR’s), breeder reactors with a fast neutron spectrum (fast breeder reactors, FBR’s) have compositions of materials in their reactor cores and breeding blankets which do not greatly slow down neutrons after collisions with atomic nuclei. In FBR’s, neutrons generated by nuclear fission with an average kinetic energy of approximately 2 MeV are slowed down only to an average kinetic energy of about 100 keV by elastic and inelastic collisions with the atomic nuclei of the fissile and fertile materials (uranium-plutonium mixed oxide), the structural material (steel), and the coolant (sodium or helium gas). Most of the nuclear reactions of neutrons and atomic nuclei take place somewhat below this energy range. Besides nuclear fission and elastic or inelastic collisions mainly capture reactions in the U-238 fertile material are of interest. Due to these capture reactions, fissile plutonium is produced through subsequent nuclear reactions (Fig.1). If a mixture of plutonium-239 (fissile material) and uranium-238 (fertile material) is used as a fuel in the reactor core, nuclear fission and capture continuously destroy Pu-23 9 fissile nuclei; at the same time, however, neutrons are continuously captured by atomic nuclei of U-238 (fertile material) so that new artificial fissile nuclei of Pu-239 are generated.
G. Keßler

Fast Breeder Reactors in France in 1979

The French energy situation can easily be characterized by three figures:
  • 3% of the world energy consumption
  • 0.7% of the world energy production
  • 0.11% of the world proven energy reserves
Domestic energy reserves are largely unbalanced compared to our own needs.
M. Rapin

Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Fissile material represents one of the fuels which are presently used for electricity production, but with respect to fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas), nuclear fuel presents two major differences:
  • it must undergo several transformations, starting from the raw material, so that it can be introduced in nuclear reactor cores in the form of fissile subassemblies,
  • after in-core iiradiation, during which part of the fissile material has been burnt, the remaining fissile element (235U), or the one which has been produced by irradiation process (239Pu), can be eventually recovered and reused in nuclear plants.
M. Rapin

Deposition of Radioactive Waste

In the peaceful use of nuclear energy radioactive wastes of all categories occur which have to be safely disposed of. Taking into consideration the safety as well as the economic aspect of the various possibilities for final disposal, the one in salt formations of the deep geological subsurface is to be considered as the safest. This applies in particular to the countries of Western Europe with their high density of population and their rainy climate.
E. Albrecht

Nuclear Fusion with Magnetic Containment

View into the interior of the ASDEX vacuum vessel during a typical tokamak divertor discharge in natural colour. The bright parts correspond to the surface part of the plasma which is deflected into the upper and lower divertor chambers which act as “vacuum cleaners”. On the right hand side the trace of an injected pellet consisting of solid deuterium is seen. The left end of the trace corresponds to the point where this pellet is completely evaporated. A part of the trace is mirrored on an observational plane mirror
A. Schlüter

Laser-Driven Nuclear Fusion

Energy is set free not only by fission of heavy nuclei but also when the lightest nuclei fuse to form heavier ones. Such fusion processes are the energy source of our sun and other stars. Great effort is being expended in many laboratories all over the world to make this energy source available for the future energy needs of mankind.
S. Witkowski


The earth can be considered from a “material” point of view as a closed system, there being practically no exchange of material with external sources. However, this is not the case when considering “energy.” The earth is continually subject to energy exchanges with the solar system, namely energy from the sun impinges on the earth’s surface and is partially reflected.
D. L. Vischer

Solar Power Plants

Fossil fuels are not inexhaustible. When this, due to the so-called oil-crisis, was realized by large sections of the public, the search for alternative sources of energy began; alternative also to nuclear energy, the qualities of which were not incontestable. The most promising candidate was solar energy, which has already long been used in its subordinate forms: timber, wind, and hydropower. The direct exploitation of commercial energy from solar radiation through power plants is, however, more problematic than is generally assumed (Fig.1).
H. Treiber

Electricity from the Sun — Photovoltaics

The worldwide activities in research and industry, with considerable state participation aimed at exploiting solar energy to supply electric power, has to be seen within the context of strategies directed to a long-term solution of energy problems. Newly awakened interest in utilizing mankind’s oldest source of energy results from its outstanding qualities such as inexhaustibility, positive environmental quality of energy conversion, and decentralized availability.
E. F. Schmidt

Exploitation of Wind Energy by Wind Power Plants

In their efforts to exploit renewable sources of energy many countries are increasingly turning to the development of wind power plants.
S. Helm, E. Hau

Tidal Power Stations

On 26 November 1966, General de Gaulle, President of the French Republic, opened the Rance Tidal Power Station. Thus an old dream, that of harnessing tidal energy, first suggested as long ago as 1739 by the engineer Bélidor, started to come true. It was also the fruit of some 20 years of patient efforts by a French team that is now scattered.
R. Bonnefille

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is the natural heat of the earth. The total amount of heat stored within our planet at temperatures above the climatic mean annual temperatures at the surface is of the order of 1031 J. This quantity of energy is inexhaustible by any technical use (the present technical energy consumption of the world is of the order of 8 TWa = 2 x 1020 J).
O. Kappelmeyer

Demands and Resources of Energy in the Present and Future

Future energy supply prospects have changed drastically in the 70s and particularly over the past 2 years. The 1972–74 oil crisis had for the first time made the oil consuming countries aware of the danger of their considerable dependence on oil. But once the oil flow was running smoothly again and oil prices had stabilized, it was believed both that there was adequate time to make the structural adjustments of energy economies and that a satisfactory rate of economic growth could be achieved in the 80s.
U. Lantzke, E. Meller

Energy Strategies

The energy problem in Industrialized Countries is threefold:
First, it is a price problem.
The rise of crude oil prices caused a trade imbalance in most of the industrialized countries. Severe economic and political consequences are expected and a worldwide economic crisis may develop.
Second, it is a problem of energy availability.
It has become apparent that the world or at least a major part of the industrialized countries could suddenly be confronted with an interruption of a significant amount of the oil supply. The danger of wars initiated as a result of this is increasing.
Third, it is an acceptance problem.
The difficulty of getting people to understand the measures necessary for solving the energy problem grows continuously; political consensus on the subject is rarely achievable. The controversy has already taken on the character of confrontation. Political stability could earnestly suffer the consequences.
P. J. Jansen


Additional information