Dr. Alex Cannara has a solution: Molten salt nuclear reactors (MSRs), which can serve both direct and indirect roles in the attack on acid.
MSRs, as I've written often, are reactors that use liquid fuel rather than the solid rods of conventional reactors. They cannot melt down, they operate at safe atmospheric pressure rather than in the pressurized environments of today's reactors, and they operate at a much higher temperatures, which is a good thing for energy production. They also leave a lot less nasty, long-lived waste. The U.S. built an experimental MSR in the 1960s.
Cannara, a Menlo Park, Calif. environmental and engineering consultant, is among the many people pushing for an MSR revival. Cannara believes that MSRs could be deployed in a multi-pronged assault on acidification. In a direct volley, he says that the heat from MSRs could be used to crush up limestone and dolomite, creating a residue that when dumped in the seas would add carbonates, neutralize acid, and restore the calcification process.
MSRs could also serve, like today's nuclear reactors, as a source of CO2-free electricity generation (with some CO2 emitted earlier in the value chain during construction and mining, as with all forms of energy production), helping to staunch the steady flow of CO2 from fossil fuel electricity plants that MSRs could replace.
Cannara also recommends capturing the carbon released during the crushing of stone, and using that carbon to form synthetic hydrocarbons by combining with hydrogen extracted from water via the power of a - whadya know - MSR.
Of course, there are a lot of technical challenges to Cannara's vision, which he put forth at the Thorium Energy Alliance Conference in Chicago earlier this year (some MSR proponents say they would run best using liquid thorium fuel rather than liquid uranium). Among them: It will take a lot of MSRs to grind up enough rock to make a difference.