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Is it possible to dig a hole into the earth deep enough to reach magma for the purpose of energy production?

I read in the Orange County Register today that President Obama approved an $8 billion project to build a nuclear power station. The article said we haven’t built one in 30 years. I’m not a scientist, but I know that the power plants basically generate power by creating steam and turning a turbine to create electricity. Can we dig deep enough into the earth to boil water?

5 Comments

  • yes we could be that much heat would also leak the green house gases we are trying to prevent. So ultimately u might as well use natural gas. The only problem with nuclear plant is its radiations. The decaying process for these matters will take years and years to get rid of so we try to not use it too much. The next step in electricity will have to come from harvesting sun as a bare source like in space. Sun shoots enough energy in a min to run the electricity in whole world for a year or so. The only problem is the energy radiation is depleted on the earth’s surface thanks to our magnetic field and atmosphere so its really almost useless at this point.

  • Technically yes, practically no.

    Geothermal energy is only efficient in areas with a high geothermal gradient, which usually means places with thin crust. There are only a few places on Earth where the crust is thin enough to reach that temperature within a reasonable depth, say 2000-3000 meters. Beyond that, the cost of drilling is prohibitively high.

    You need to have a body of rock, preferably with a reservoir of hot water, at a temperature greater than 100°C. You pump the water to surface while keeping it under pressure, and then release the pressure in a turbine in a process called flashing. Then you condense the steam and pump the hot water back under ground into the reservoir to start the cycle again. Unfortunately, in many geothermal reservoirs, extracting the heat energy from the reservoir will cool the reservoir.

    Thanks goodness Obama finally saw the light (no pun intended) with approving the nuclear plant, as nuclear energy is the ONLY source of energy that can produce large amounts of firm energy without greenhouse gases with today’s technology.

  • You don’t need magma for that. It would be unstable and really hot. As you get closer to the core, even a regular mine shaft gets warmer with depth. Hot enough to boil water without reaching the core. But you have to go pretty deep still. Ultimately, it’s just not worth the cost with the technology we have. There are some areas that do use this kind of geothermal energy for water heating and power, but only in small places where the magma gets close to the surface and you don’t need such deep holes.

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