One of the alternatives for the burning of fossil fuels is to generate heat and electricity via nuclear energy. It was one of the most promising, so nothing can go wrong, right?

enter image description here Fukushima

(picture replaced on 2016-09-28 to show the actual Fukushima Daichi plant, not Chiba Oil Refinery on fire)

Picture showing a building with the center destroyed Chernobyl.

The sources of nuclear power--and with it, nuclear catastrophe--are radioactive elements. Strontium-90. Plutonium-239. Iodine-131. Cobalt-60. Caesium-137. Elements that, if left alone in a Life After People, can make the environment toxic for thousands if not millions of years.

So, in this alternate scenario, no one brought up nuclear energy. Instead, what the engineers conjured up is ion energy, energy coming from the fourth element of the universe--plasma, supercharged gas particles.

Will an energy system based on plasmatic rather than nuclear energy avert the issues of radiation burns/poisoning? Will there still be any dangerous radiation at all, in the event of a major accident? While we're at it, which gas would be the best to ionize into the desired energy?


closed as unclear what you're asking by o.m., JDługosz, bilbo_pingouin, Brythan, Pavel Janicek Jun 16 '16 at 11:05

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    $\begingroup$ ?? how are you getting energy from plasma, its a state of matter, like liquid. Are you going to heat it up and then convert the heat to other types of energy, that will lose energy. Nuclear reactors convert mass to energy the nuclear reactions do the conversion and also emit radiation. We need more detail on how this energy is created before we could say what side effects it would have $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Jun 16 '16 at 0:46
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    $\begingroup$ Ion Energy doesn't actually exist, so you need to explain what it is and how it theoretically works before anyone can tell you about its effects. $\endgroup$ – Mike Nichols Jun 16 '16 at 1:36
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    $\begingroup$ Where are you going to get the plasma from? Solar, gas, coal, and nuclear power all get power from pre-existing sources (either the sun or the ground. Also worth noting that all of the power sources we dig out of the ground are relatively stable during transport and storage, and the one that isn't dug out of the ground (solar) is constantly grappling with the difficulty of transport and storage. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jun 16 '16 at 3:52
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    $\begingroup$ Why do you believe that you can get energy out of a gas by ionizing it? There's a lot of fake perpetual motion machines which center around building their energy bearing fuel (like splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen) and then trying to use that fuel (turning it back into water) to create energy. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jun 16 '16 at 3:58
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    $\begingroup$ First picture is not the Fukushima reactor site at all. Fukushima., Three Mile Island and indeed all Western reactors are inside hardened containment domes. As well, unlike the reactors at Chernobyl, Western reactors are generally water moderated, so the most extreme event is a "steam explosion" followed by the molten reactor core dropping into a pit under the dome. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jun 16 '16 at 4:59

Using nuclear energy to ionize gas and then passing it through an MHD conversion unit is a possible way to increase the efficiency of a nuclear reactor by bypassing the Carnot limit.

Nuclear fissile materials can also be ground into a fine powder and induced into a reactor chamber makes for a "Fission Fragment" reactor, where the effect is to make the fissile material into ionized gas. As a rocket, this has a theoretical exhaust velocity of .03 c, but collisions inside the chamber between particles tend to reduce the effective exhaust to .01 c. As a power generating system, the high velocity exhaust can also be passed through an MHD system for a very high powered reactor. FFRE

So Ionization allows for a more efficient conversion of the thermal energy of a nuclear reactor to energy (or rocket thrust), but does not replace or eliminate nuclear energy.

Some links were requested:






Much of the attention to this concept has been given to rocket applications, rather than ground based reactors.


No. You will get no more energy out of the ionized gas than you put in to ionize it. In practice it will be much less. The law of the conservation of energy states that you can't generate energy, you can only transform it.

There is energy inherent in chemical bonds between atoms, which can be released e.g. by burning hydrocarbons.

There is energy inherent in the core of an atom which can be released by fission (in some cases) or fusion (in other cases).

Heating the fuel or operating medium to plasma won't change this basic principle.

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    $\begingroup$ I have the feeling that the question was asked without much research or previous knowledge on what energy source is or what a power plant works on. This answer (negating the validity of the question and pointing to the first law of thermodynamics) is the only helpful one. I have the feeling that people should be taught the three laws of thermodynamics from high school. It explains almost everything, and defines clearly what is possible and what is not. $\endgroup$ – Oxy Jun 16 '16 at 9:40

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