Yesterday's New York Times had a special section devoted to Energy. One of its highlights was an article about the "hot idea" of making nuclear reactors small enough to fit on a railroad car or truck. In my opinion, this idea from the military-industrial establishment does not go far enough. I propose that nuclear reactors be reduced in size to the point where we may have one in every toilet. (This could make a great slogan for a presidential candidate - "A Reactor In Every Toilet.")
Designers have an obligation to work to make sure that the blessings of nuclear power are not lost to humanity in a foolish reaction to minor nuclear mishaps like Chernobyl and Fukushima or excessive concern that nuclear waste remains deadly for hundreds of thousands of years.
My design proposal holds the promise of eliminating all the large-scale risks of nuclear power. All that has to be done is to reduce the scale of power-generation to something much more human in scale than railroad cars or trucks. The facilities already exist for this reduction - the toilet which is found in every home and apartment and the well-established miniaturization capabilities of industry.
I propose first that the central nuclear power source be reduced in size to approximately the size of a cellphone. This can easily be accomplished by a concerted joint effort by industry and government. Perhaps it can be given the catchy name of the "IPow." In all probability an amount of radioactive material the size of a pea would be sufficient to provide heat and electricity to a household for many years. This amount could easily be secured in a protective shell of indestructible material and (here's the great ingenuity) cooled by the water already present in the toilet water tanks found in every bathroom. That tank of water behind the toilet bowl has plenty of available room. Thus, every home and apartment could have its own mini-facility for generating heat and electricity, safely tucked away in the toilet. Plumbers could be trained to handle whatever routine maintenance is required.
The toilet room is already lined with tile and could easily be retrofitted with lead as an extra precaution. This arrangement would have a number of beneficial side effects. The healthy and reasonable time limits placed on time in the bathroom would probably eliminate the family conflicts which now arise over use of the bathroom. In addition, the use of the bathroom for improper self-abuse would be greatly discouraged. Finally, in the unlikely event of an accident, the radiation danger would be confined to a very limited area, probably no larger than a few households for a few generations, at most. (As we know, radiation hazards are greatly exaggerated and may actually have beneficial effects. After all, does not evolution proceed by way of mutation and survival of the fittest?)