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Helium 3: The Next Great Energy Source
Makes Space The New Wild West

Posted by jkrog08, on 4-7-2008 @ 12:11 PM GMT

Let me start off by saying Happy Independence Day everyone!

Artist rendering of a "Moon mine"
Artist rendering of a "Moon mine"

Oil is in it's waning days ladies and gentlemen. It is no secret that our global energy crisis is getting out of control,and there is simply not enough oil left to sustain us for the next few centuries.No worries though as we have found the next great energy source as will be indicative in the ensuing "New Gold Rush" to come in the next few decades. What and where is Helium 3? For the greatest, closet source of Helium 3 simply look up at the moon tonight if watching fireworks. Yes right there in our own back yard it's our very own moon! So what is Helium 3 and why is it the next great energy source? Helium 3 is formed from the decay of Tritium (Hydrogen 3) and presents broad spectrum realistic opportunities for a new major energy source through advanced nuclear type fusion. Here's some more info:

UDAIPUR, India (AFP) Nov 26, 2004

A potential gas source found on the moon's surface could hold the key to meeting future energy demands as the earth's fossil fuels dry up in the coming decades, scientists said Friday.

Mineral samples from the moon contained abundant quantities of helium 3, a variant of the gas used in lasers and refrigerators as well as to blow up balloons.

"When compared to the earth the moon has a tremendous amount of helium 3," said Lawrence Taylor, a director of the US Planetary Geosciences Institute, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

"When helium 3 combines with deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen) the fusion reaction proceeds at a very high temperature and it can produce awesome amounts of energy," Taylor told AFP.

"Just 25 tonnes of helium, which can be transported on a space shuttle, is enough to provide electricity for the US for one full year," said Taylor, who is in the north Indian city of Udaipur for a global conference on moon exploration. Helium 3 is deposited on the lunar surface by solar winds and would have to be extracted from moon soil and rocks.

SOURCE: Space Daily

A single load of Helium 3 on the Space Shuttle could power the ENTIRE US FOR ONE YEAR! Now we are talking matter/antimatter annihilation energy releases, but with a much safer, non annihilating reactions that don't have the potential to destroy city blocks in gram amounts. Also there is not the huge challenge that is presented by storing antimatter as antimatter can not come into contact with matter or it will annihilate. Does no one else see the huge potential here for a revolution in energy? A truly clean, safe, efficiant, and powerful fuel source. And it's extraterrestrial at that! Meaning it will expand our space program globally many decades at the least, we will truly be using the Universe's own natural fuel. Okay,s o how do we extract it and what progress are we at right now in preliminary mining colonies?

To extract helium 3 gas the rocks have to be heated above 1,400 degs F. Some 200 million tonnes of lunar soil would produce one tonne of helium, Taylor said, noting that only 10 kilos of helium 3 are available on earth.

Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam told the International Conference on Exploration and Utilisation of the Moon on Wednesday that the barren planet held about one million tonnes of helium 3. 

"The moon contains 10 times more energy in the form of Helium 3 than all the fossil fuels on the earth," Kalam said.

However, planetary scientist Taylor said the reactor technology for converting helium 3 to energy was still in its infancy and could take years to develop. "The problem is that there is not yet an efficient type of reactor to process helium 3. It is currently being done mostly as a laboratory experiment. Right now at the rate which it (research) is proceeding it will take another 30 years," he said. 

Other scientists said the reactor would be safe in terms of radioactive elements and could be built right in the heart of any city.

"Potentially there are large reservoirs of helium 3 on the moon, said D.J. Lawrence, planetary scientist at the US Los Alamos National Laboratory.

"Just doing reconnaissance where the minerals are and to find out where helium 3 likes to hang out is the first step, so when the reactor technology gets to work we are ready and have precise information," Lawrence said.

"It really could be used as a future fuel and is safe. It is not all science fiction."

SOURCE: Spacedaily

So we know how to process it and know it provides tens of times more energy than the drying up fossil fuel. But current technology needs to progress for this to become economical. Let's take a look at how that research is doing:

Space based materials processing

In the long term, the Moon is likely to be very important in supplying construction facilities with raw materials. Zero gravity allows materials to be processed in ways impossible or difficult on Earth, such as 'foaming' metals, where a gas is injected into a molten metal, and then the metal is annealed slowly. On Earth, the gas bubbles rise and burst, but in a zero gravity environment, that does not happen. Annealing is a process that requires large amounts of energy, as a material is kept very hot for an extended period of time. This allows the molecular structure to align in the strongest possible way. Materials which cannot be alloyed or mixed on Earth because of the gravity field effects on density differences could be combined in space, resulting in composites which could have exceptional qualities. No one knows, because no one has been able to experiment along these lines on any scale. However, it is possible that a material or process will be identified which will be highly valuable on Earth, but impossible to make here.
Exporting material to the Earth
Exporting material to Earth in trade from the Moon is more problematic due to the high cost of transportation. One suggested candidate is Helium-3 from the solar wind, which has accumulated on the Moon's surface over billions of years, and which is rare on Earth. Helium is present in the lunar regolith in quantities of ten to a hundred (weight) parts per million, and 0.003 to 1 percent of this amount (depending on soil). 2006 market price for He3 was about $46,500 per troy ounce ($1500/gram, $1.5M/kg), more than 120 times the value per unit weight of Gold and over eight times the value of Rhodium.

In the long term future He3 may prove to be a desirable fuel in thermonuclear fusion reactors. Gerald Kulcinski's group at the Fusion Technology Institute of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has operated an experimental He3 fusion reactor for an extended period, on a non-governmental research budget, however the reactor has not achieved energy balance or breakeven.


John Roach 
for National Geographic News
December 4, 2006 
NASA plans to construct a solar-powered outpost at one the moon's poles, officials with the U.S. space agency announced today. The lunar base is expected to be permanently staffed by 2024. The outpost concept was chosen over a competing strategy similar to the 1960s and '70s Apollo program—a series of brief trips to the moon. The moon base will allow for sustained human presence on the moon's surface and help the agency prepare for future missions to Mars and beyond, explained NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale.

"It also enables global partnerships, allows for maturation of in situ resource utilization, and results in a path that is much quicker in terms of future exploration," Dale said at a press conference. The announcement was part of NASA's congressionally mandated strategy to meet U.S. President George W. Bush's "Vision for U.S. Space Exploration," a plan outlined in 2004.

National Geographic

Earlier this year, shortly after Russia claimed a vast portion of the Arctic sea floor, accelerating an international race for the natural resources as global warming opens polar access, China has announced plans to map "every inch" of the surface of the Moon and exploit the vast quantities of Helium-3 thought to lie buried in lunar rocks as part of its ambitious space-exploration program. Ouyang Ziyuan, head of the first phase of lunar exploration, was quoted on government-sanctioned news site describing plans to collect three dimensional images of the Moon for future mining of Helium 3: "There are altogether 15 tons of helium-3 on Earth, while on the Moon, the total amount of Helium-3 can reach one to five million tons."

"Helium-3 is considered as a long-term, stable, safe, clean and cheap material for human beings to get nuclear energy through controllable nuclear fusion experiments," Ziyuan added. "If we human beings can finally use such energy material to generate electricity, then China might need 10 tons of helium-3 every year and in the world, about 100 tons of helium-3 will be needed every year."The harvesting of Helium-3 on the could start by 2025. Our lunar mining could be but a jumping off point for Helium 3 extraction from the atmospheres of our Solar System gas giants, Saturn and Jupiter.

UN Treaties in place state that the moon and its minerals are the common heritage of mankind, so the quest to use Helium-3 as an energy source would likely demand joint international co-operation. Hopefully, exploitation of the moon's resources will be viewed as a solution for the world, rather than an out-moded nation-state solution.


So we now know that Helium 3 is sought after by all the major countries of Earth with NASA's Constellation Program, The joint Chinese-Russian Chang'e Program leading the way for the exploitation of the Moon. With an estimated 100 tons needed to power the entire planet and an estimated million plus tons on the Moon it is easy to see why this fuel source is so lucrative! Here is NASA's plan for mining the precious fuel:
NASA's planned moon base announced last week could pave the way for deeper space exploration to Mars, but one of the biggest beneficiaries may be the terrestrial energy industry. Nestled among the agency's 200-point mission goals is a proposal to mine the moon for fuel used in fusion reactors -- futuristic power plants that have been demonstrated in proof-of-concept but are likely decades away from commercial deployment.

Helium-3 is considered a safe, environmentally friendly fuel candidate for these generators, and while it is scarce on Earth it is plentiful on the moon. As a result, scientists have begun to consider the practicality of mining lunar Helium-3 as a replacement for fossil fuels.

"After four-and-half-billion years, there should be large amounts of helium-3 on the moon," said Gerald Kulcinski, a professor who leads the Fusion Technology Institute at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Last year NASA administrator Mike Griffin named Kulcinski to lead a number of committees reporting to NASA's influential NASA Advisory Council, its preeminent civilian leadership arm.

The Council is chaired by Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Hagan "Jack" Schmitt, a leading proponent of mining the moon for helium 3. Schmitt, who holds the distance record for driving a NASA rover on the moon (22 miles through the Taurus-Littrow valley), is also a former U.S. senator (R-New Mexico). The Council was restructured last year with a new mission: implementing President Bush's "Vision for Space Exploration," which targets Mars as its ultimate destination. Other prominent members of the Council include ex-astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Schmitt and Kulcinski are longtime friends and academic partners, and are known as helium-3 fusion's biggest promoters. At the Fusion Technology Institute, Kulcinski's team has produced small-scale helium-3 fusion reactions in the basketball-sized fusion device. The reactor produced one milliwatt of power on a continuous basis.

So we now have the US, Russia, and China's plans for mining Helium 3. How close to reality are the reactors? Well that will greatly be sped up if it's confirmed that large amounts of Helium 3 are indeed on the Moon
Professor Kulcinski
Professor Kulcinski's lab is running the only helium-3 fusion reactor in the world. He has an annual research budget that is barely into six figures and allows him to have five graduate research assistants working on the project. Compared to what has been spent on other fusion projects around the world, the team’s accomplishments are impressive. Helium-3 would not require a tokomak reactor like the multibillion-dollar one being developed for the international ITER project. Instead, his design uses an electrostatic field to contain the plasma instead of an electromagnetic field. His current reactor contains spherical plasma roughly ten centimeters in diameter. It can produce a sustained fusion with 200 million reactions per second producing about a milliwatt of power while consuming about a kilowatt of power to run the reactor. It is nuclear power without highly radioactive nuclear waste.
Let's get the funding to this man! Although I think he will get it in a few years when the US realizes China's going to get Helium 3 first if we don't jump on it first. Either way I think the funding will come in a few years when we get more detailed information about the exact amounts on the Moon. Either way I believe within 30 years oil will be near obsolete and the world will be running on Helium 3 mined from the Moon. Here is some more information I would like to share with you:
JET Tokomak

The Energy

That 1 million metric tonnes of He3, reacted with deuterium, would generate about 20,000 terrawatt-years of thermal energy. The units alone are awesome: a terrawatt-year is one trillion (10 to 12th power) watt-years. To put this into perspective, one 100-watt light bulb will use 100 watt-years of energy in one year. That's about 10 times the energy we could get from mining all the fossil fuels on Earth, without the smog and acid rain. If we torched all our uranium in liquid metal fast breeder reactors, we could generate about half this much energy, and have some interesting times storing the waste.
The Value
About 25 tonnes of He3 would power the United States for 1 year at our current rate of energy consumption. To put it in perspective: that's about the weight of a fully loaded railroad box car, or a maximum Space Shuttle payload. To assign an economic value, suppose we assume He3 would replace the fuels the United States currently buys to generate electricity. We still have all those power generating plants and distribution network, so we can't use how much we pay for electricity. As a replacement for that fuel, that 25-tonne load of He3 would worth on the order of $75 billion today, or $3 billion per tonne.
The Payoff
A guess is the best we can do. Let's suppose that by the time we're slinging tanks of He3 off the moon, the world-wide demand is 100 tonnes of the stuff a year, and people are happy to pay $3 billion per tonne. That gives us gross revenues of $300 billion a year.

Here's a vision for 30 years from now we can all appreciate:
Imagine a world thirty years from now. NASA has led the way to returning humans to the Moon and is in the final steps of preparing for human exploration and settlement of Mars. On Earth our environment is cleaner with reliable fusion reactors steadily replacing coal-fired plants and fission reactors. The fuel for these reactors is being mined from the surface of the Moon relegating the mercury, radium and carbon dioxide-laced exhaust from coal-fired plants to "the ash heap of history". The growth of highly radioactive waste from fission power plants is following coal into history. Dependency on highly volatile regions of our planet for energy supplies is steadily diminishing. Clean power is allowing economic development of the world to continue, lifting a higher and higher percentage of the population out of poverty. Is this a possible future for our country and the planet? Professor Kulcinski and his small team of researchers just might have the answer and NASA might provide access to the key enabling resource.


So the fusion reactors are still in their infancy, no worries as mentioned above a scientist has already demonstrated a working, efficiant model. You can bet that "barely six figure funding"will make a couple decimal point leap in the next few years. It has become or is becoming apparent to the world that our energy solutions lay with Helium 3 and you can bet that with that and Hydrogen fuel cell cars that's what our world will be fueled off of within 30 years in my opinion. Now on to explain my "new wild west" statement. I say that because just like the American west was full of settlers looking to strike it rich on oil, so too will be the Moon and other planetary bodies in our solar system in the future. We will see Capitalism reach new heights (literally) never before imagined outside of science fiction books, full of opportunistic investors looking to oust the guy competing next to him. Like the old west I believe we will see an influx of mining companies in space; first the Moon, and then on to the Jovian planets. Like the old west I believe we will see 'not so ethical' means of business and competition with people pushing ever harder to lay claim to the 'big well' of Helium 3. 

Most of all by my "new wild west" statement I am referring to the future never ending plunder of our solar systems resources. That is a good and bad thing, good because we get a better energy source, and bad because like with crude oil we will have to eventually find another source of fuel. I think we have learned from the past 'raping' of natural resources, rather I hope we have learned. I think this next quest for energy can be a wonderful learning adventure for the human race, and may even point us in the direction of the mythical 'free energy' (who knows what we will learn out there). Regardless if you think the NWO is taking over or not we will need energy and it seems destiny has gave us that new energy source in Helium 3. I think this will usher in a new era of human development and bring Capitalism to a place never before experienced- The business of space and it's resources.

Once again I want to thank all for reading and wish everyone a HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY! As it is ironic I write this today,the fourth of July as we are one step closer to 'gaining our independence from oil'. Do you have stocks in Helium 3, I know I will, don't miss out on this new 'gold rush'. Thanks and have a great day everyone!

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