Science: Chemistry:

Alternatives to Atomic Energy and Oil


By Professor Dr. h.c. Randolph Riemschneider[1]

Berlin, Germany


Life BWW Fellow Prof R Riemschneider divides the alternatives to atomic energy and oil into two categories: technologies already developped and the ones still to be developed: Plate 2. The author has a critical attitude towards atomic energy and urges alternative sources of energy. - The editor



The subject “energy sources” confronted the author in the second world war (1943)  for the first time, during his work in one of Germany’s seven hydrogenation plants (RUHRÖL GmbH, Bottrop) for recovering petrol, middle oil, heating oil, extract coal and others; by-products were propane and butane gas, phenol, and sulphuric acid (1).


It followed, with the opening of the atom age during the end of the war, the confrontation with the subject “atomic energy as a new - more or less interesting - energy source” in the immediate post war period, in Erfurt, Jena and Berlin:

At the suggestion of the editor of the daily newspaper “THÜRINGER VOLK”, the author wrote 1945/46 articles on “Atomic energy” and “Heavy water” (after the dropping of the two atom bombs in Japan). And he followed on with the essay “The earth is its own biggest power plant” (Das größte Kraftwerk der Erde ist die Erde selbst – geothermal energy), seeing it even then as an better alternative to atomic energy, which was highly praised at the time (2). 


Prompted by the articles[2] about energy questions in the "THÜRINGER VOLK", the "VOLK und WISSEN" publishing house approached the author with a contract to write two brochures, illustrated as far as possible, on "Sources of energy" and "Sun spots". The author delivered the 27-page manuscript "The enigma of the sun spots" with 11 illustrations in 1947, then the manuscript "The earth is its own biggest power plant", 14 pages without illustrations, at the end of 1949.


But “VOLK und WISSEN” broke the contract much to the disappointment of the author and did not publish the brochures due to political circumstances. The author had changed in early January 1950 from the Humboldt University in EAST Berlin to the newly founded Free University in WEST Berlin; the Cold War had already begun, with West Berlin - which was an enclave surrounded by East Germany - being blockaded by the Soviet occupying power for a year in 1948.


Nowadays, approximately 55 years later, many Nuclear Power Plants (NPP) plants are world wide working in spite of the danger involved and in spite of all warnings.  Chernobyl and other catastrophies (Plate 1) have shown that no NPP can be considered really safe:


Plate  No  1 :      Known NPP catastrophies, worldwide


1957 and 1980   in Great Britain the catastrophies in Windscale   

1969                   in Switzerland the catastrophy in Lucens

1979                   in USA  the catastrophy in Harrisburg

1986                   in Great Britain the catastrophy in Sellafield

1986  (26.4)        in UdSSR the catastrophy in Chernobyl, Ukraine* 

1989                   in Estland the catastrophy in Vandellos

1992                   in Russia the catastrophy in St. Petersburg

1991, 1997,

1999, 2004          in Japan several catastrophies

  *The radioactivity In consequence of the Chernobyl catastrophy corresponded to 300 Hiroshima bombs  (estimated)



How many more Chernobyl catastrophies must happen before mankind will come back to their senses! When will we separate ourselves from the atomic energy especially since there  are  alternatives to atomic energy and oil? (Plate 2).

If only for reasons of self-preservation, we do need to abandon atomic energy as soon as possible. Without suspecting it - without even thinking about it - part of the world's population is constantly in danger from the nuclear reactors in operation at the moment, insofar as it would probably be difficult, if not impossible, in the event of a worst case scenario like Chernobyl or worse, to "find" people who were ready to work at the open reactor - even in a dictatorship, as in 1986 - and voluntarily sacrifice their lives to close it. There is, at present, no space beneath any operational reactor that, in a catastrophy, would enable it to be dropped into the depths and be "buried".


Bringing sufficient protective suits to the non-predictable scene of such a disaster in a short space of time would probably also present problems - and working in protective clothing requires training. Well known are the problems which reactor IV of the Chernobyl NPP still causes today and will cause them in the long future, too. An atomic catastrophy of the Chernobyl kind will never end, let us only think of the long half-life periods and changes of the isotopes and also the expensive “ hoodproblems“ and not to forget the cancer diseases which many helpers and inhabitants of the area still suffer from.  


In view of this situation, the author fails to understand why the Nobel Prize for Peace 2006 was awarded for a project that is based on atomic energy.

The Greens, who were in government in Germany for several years and always agitated against atomic energy, achieved nothing. Only a single reactor has been turned off - and it would have been decommissioned a little later anyway. They did not promote: solar energy, methane ice and geothermal energy.


We can all only hope that great efforts are made as soon as possible to replace atomic energy with these three sources of energy. No cost should be spared to find a solution to the energy problem in this direction. Luckily, use of solar energy and hydrogen is making progress in many countries - think, for example, of hydroelectric power and the large solar power plants due to be connected to the grid in Portugal and in particular California in the coming years, not to mention many other private and public initiatives. Due to the danger of earthquakes, in California there is not a single NPP. This we should always bare in mind when speaking of clean and safe energy.


Plate No 2:  Alternatives to atomic energy and to oil (gas)*


I. Technology developed:


SOLAR ENERGY                                       solar celle, hydrogene

PLANT MATERIAL                                               wood, bamboo, corn oil,

sugar cane (ethanol)**

BIO MASS                                                  


II. Technology to be developed:


GEOTHERMAL ENERGY                         direct or indirect use heat

METHANE ICE                                           methane

SILANES  (6)                                               silicon hydrides (Si > 6)


Geothermal energy and methane ice are practically unlimited resources:

“Das größte Kraftwerk der Erde, ist die Erde selbst” (geothermal energy), a small brochure, written by the author 1949 for the publishing house „VOLK UND WISSEN“ (2).

Methane ice under the oceans has been discovered in estimated quantities of 12 quintillion tons (more than all known reserves of petrol, gas carbon together worldwide). There is already a methane ice pilot plant near Tokyo.


*   and coal, water, wind

**  in Brazil, cars use ethanol by PETROBRAS alternatively to gasoline for more than 30 years, already



Comments to Plate 2: geothermal energy and methane ice

- geothermal energy

The author has already made some comments on geothermal energy in (3) "Addendum: Oil crisis" which are supplemented below:

In his 1947 article "The earth is its own biggest power plant" (2) and the brochure of the same title written for the VOLK und WISSEN publishing house in 1949, the author postulated:


"Regions with volcanic activity, like Solfatare in Pozzuoli near Naples that the author visited in 1942 or later Hakone-Aerea, explored with Prof Dr J Shimozawa of Tokyo, make the huge - virtually unlimited - reserves of geothermal energy that could be tapped impressively clear. Whilst these areas are close to the surface, in Germany it would necessitate drilling down several thousand metres to develop geothermal energy. In Germany, the author saw the following opportunities for hydrothermal use:


1) Drilling to a certain depth in areas with suitable strata, where the energy can be stored as hot water or steam in cavities; hot, salty water is then pumped to the surface; the heat extracted is fed into a district heating system, and the cooled water is pumped back into the ground. The salts in the water might possibly cause some problems.


2) Other, though considerably more expensive possibilities:

The result of discussions with befriended engineers was that water ought not to be pumped from the depths to produce heat for use, but rather that a closed circuit should be set up between two bores at different depths - preferably close to each other (some hundreds metres difference) in suitable rock, e.g. granite at a depth of 3-4000 metres. Water was to be pumped into the deeper borehole to create excess pressure that would penetrate into the fissures present in the surrounding rock and cause them to crack, thus linking the two boreholes. The cold water pumped in from above absorbs heat from the rock and transports it upwards via the upper borehole.


- methane ice

(methane hydrate, methane clathrate, frozen natural gas):

Methane ice would have the formula CH4 + 5.75 H2O, i.e. 5.75 mol H2O to 1 mol methane. Methane is stored in frozen water, the water molecules surrounding the methane completely (interstitial compound = clathrate).

Methane ice with a density of 0.9 remains relatively stable up to 18oC: 1 litre of solid methane ice contains 168 litres of CH4. According an article on the internet

(4): Methane ice forms on the floor of oceans, where the pressure is high enough and the temperature low enough. The estimated twelve quintillion tons of methane ice binds more than twice as much carbon there as in all proven reserves of petroleum, natural gas and coal worldwide. A BOJANOWSKI writes in (5): Expeditions by the research ship "Sonne" discovered large deposits of methane ice in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. To do it, the ship had to drag a cable 3 km long with sound sources behind it, that only a ship like the "Sonne" can do. The sound waves are reflected in the seabed and the computer calculates a 3-D picture of the subsoil, where the methane deposits can be identified.

Methane ice could soon satisfy all the earth's entire energy needs. A pilot plant is running near Tokyo, producing 600 kg methane ice per day.

Dangers from methane for the climate do, however, urge caution.



(1) R. Riemschneider, Angew. Chemie B 19, 92-93 (1947)

(2) R. Riemschneider, “Das größe Kraftwerk ist die Erde selbst”,    in: THÜRINGER VOLK, 1947; revised and extended 1949 to a 14-page brochure for VOLK UND WISSEN, Leipzig.

(3) R. Riemschneider, “Re-reading 66 Years Chemistry” with aprox. 1500 citations (own publications, lectures, lab reports, patents), PROJECT I-XXVI and Vita (in preparation)

      here: PROJECT III  2 ”addendum oil crisis”               



(6) cf (3) PROJECT III 4,6.

[1]       Address for correspondence: D-14001 BERLIN, Postfach 1164, Germany


[2]    The articles were well-paid, which was useful in view of the high prices for food on the black market. And other articles followed: "Contact insecticides" (the author's own research at the time), "Sun spots" (peak of sun spot activity in those years) inter alia. Based on the publications in the "Thüringer Volk", one of the members of the editorial staff of the magazine "KOSMOS" - part of the Franck'schen publishing and bookselling house - approached the author and then put him in contact with its editorial committee. The article "Heavy water" appeared there 1946, in somewhat altered form, as did some other essays.


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