Originally created 02/26/03

SRS scientist promotes hydrogen fuel



AIKEN - Savannah River Site scientist William A. Summers shares a vision with President Bush.

The men foresee a future in which motorists don't feel held hostage by the decisions of a few countries in the Middle East. Instead of gasoline, consumers will be able to pick hydrogen.

Dr. Summers, the program manager for the Hydrogen Technology Laboratory at the Savannah River Technology Center, addressed the timely issue at a gathering of nuclear industry supporters Tuesday morning.

"As we all know, the current energy supply is unstable," he said.

The answer to U.S. autonomy, he said, lies in converting to a "hydrogen economy," which he described as the broad-based use of the element for vehicles and other applications.

His lab at SRS has been commissioned by the Department of Energy to conduct a three-year study to determine what would be necessary to make hydrogen as easily available as gasoline.

Hydrogen is the lightest element, so compressing enough of it for storage in an automobile, without weighing down the vehicle or sacrificing safety, has been a challenge for engineers. Dr. Summers said SRS could end up solving problems related to that issue.

SRS scientists have 50 years of experience working with tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, in nuclear weapons.

Since the end of the Cold War, the technology center has worked to take its research "outside the fence" - searching for private industry applications, Dr. Summers said.

The Up and Atom breakfast was sponsored by Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness.

Reach Eric Williamson at (803) 279-6895 or eric.williamson@augustachronicle.com.