A couple of weeks ago and again last week, Wired featured a nanocrystal that can absorb carbon dioxide. Discovered by scientists at UCLA:
The sponge-like material, called ZIF-69, promises to hold 60 times its volume in carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas scientists say is primarily responsible for climate change.
ZIF-69 is like a carbon dioxide trap, allowing only CO2 in, while screening out molecules with different shapes. Under pressure, the compound allows the carbon dioxide in, but not back out. Then, when scientists decompress the material, the gas is released, allowing scientists to dump the captured CO2 into a storage system.
But what is this storage system? Wired, again: “Right now, engineers are planning to inject the CO2 into the ground in a process known as geological sequestration.”
Of course, there are critics to this approach of combatting climate change — “a pie-in-the-sky idea that entrenched fossil fuel companies promote to stave off the implementation of truly renewable technologies like solar and wind power.” It's greenwashing, in other words.
Meanwhile, with this ZIF-69 greenwashing now commingling in our minds with Gross. Max.'s proposal to use nuclear power to help reduce CO2 emissions, we were reminded of a waste treatment reactor built by the Israeli firm Environmental Energy Resources (EER) that can turn “radioactive, hazardous and municipal waste into inert byproducts such as glass and clean energy.”
This technology will not make nuclear power plants any safer; it can only make their waste and collateral damages that much easier to eradicate — i.e., not carted away into distant storage sites where they remain dangerous; they are actually decontaminated — and in a manner that, we are told, “does not harm the environment and leaves no surface water, groundwater, or soil pollution in its wake.”
But the process does leave something in its wake:
The EER reactor combines three processes into one solution: it takes plasma torches to break down the waste; carbon leftovers are gasified and inorganic components are converted to solid waste. The remaining vitrified material is inert and can be cast into molds to produce tiles, blocks or plates for the construction industry.
In other words, you can use these carbon leftovers to build an entire city.
The morning after Russia's presidential election and the vodka-soaked celebration parties at the ruling oligarchy's palatial ballrooms, one of Putin's henchmen and now president-elect Medvedev's vassals — a Russian nouveau riche who made his multi-billion ruble fortune from oil and gas — inexplicably becomes afflicted with the Rockefeller syndrome. After nearly a decade of being a party to the environmental degradation and human rights abuses of post-Yeltsin Russia, he now wishes to make amends. He wants redemption.
He looks into donating a substantial amount of money to charitable organizations and philanthropic works. He meets with museum curators and trustees to see if they want him to buy for them that new expensive Old Master painting that's just entered the market or fund that new gallery wing for which they have been fruitlessly whoring themselves around. He even explores the possibility of creating a world class university from scratch. These may or may not undo his sins, but at least he will look his best in the amnesiac eyes of the future.
But then he reads something about EER's reactor. He immediately realizes that it could provide a way to clean up Chernobyl, where he was born, where he had spent the halcyon days of childhood and from where he was exiled by the 1986 meltdown of its nuclear power plant. He realizes that salvation awaits him there.
To save Chernobyl and his soul, then, he will raze everything down — offices, Soviet apartment blocks, hospitals, roads, pavements, gardens, playgrounds, schools, trees, forests, everything within tens of kilometers around the reactor — and scoop up everything else — soil, roots, bedrock, sewers, etc. An entire landscape surgically excised, as one would a tumor, and then incinerated.
And then using the harvested chunks of “lava-like rocks,” a new Chernobyl will spring forth from the detritus of interrupted lives — radiation free and inhabitable once again.
Twenty years from now, when this new city has been repopulated with former nuclear exiles and new gardens and verdant parks have sprouted — on a morning just like any other when the sun has just appeared in the horizon — the whole city will glow in bright emerald iridescence.