Monthly Archives: June 2015

Welcome back the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers This week Carnival #267

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Energy Reality
Guest Post from Mathijs Beckers
    Mathijs Beckers from the Netherlands offered to summarize a talk given by Thomas Jamm Pedersen at the Thorium Energy Alliance Conference in Palo Alto, California. Pedersen presented his companies design but also requested participation on a new committee to further improve awareness.

1 Post from James Conca
    Tea Party leaders in Congress are trying to kill the Export-Import Bank of the United States by deceptively depicting it as a taxpayer subsidy. The Ex-Im Bank provides financing for U.S. companies, mostly small businesses, to sell products and services to foreign customers, but doesn’t end up costing taxpayers anything. There are no subsidies, no tax breaks, no financial aid of any sort, and no risk to taxpayers at all. In fact, the Ex-Im pays billions into the U.S. Treasury’s general fund every year. There has never before been any opposition to the Ex-Im. Until now. And our nuclear industry will be especially hurt. Without an Ex-Im, the U.S. won’t even be allowed to bid on large contracts. The weird thing is Republican districts benefit the most from the Ex-Im.

Nuke Power Talk
Post from Gail Marcus
    This week, Gail Marcus, writing at Nuke Power Talk, congratulates NEI on scoring high as a good place to work in a survey of Washington, DC area firms. She notes that one might think that NEI’s work could be discouraging, given the distorted views toward nuclear power that some people hold. However, NEI’s workforce is apparently happy because they are working together for a cause they believe in fervently, and because their management recognizes their efforts and has created a work environment that is supportive.

Yes Vermont Yankee
Post from Meredith Angwin
    When considering the future of energy in New England, many people look to Germany for guidance. However, Meredith Angwin has just returned from a wonderful vacation in France. In this post, she compares the French and German experience with energy. France’s nuclear success story can guide New England.

Next Big Future
2 Posts from Brian Wang
      Brian Wang made a bet back in 2009 with Michael Dittmar. Dittmar wrote a series of posts about nuclear energy that was published on The Oil Drum in 2009. The bet was about uranium supply running out “civilian uranium stocks are expected to be exhausted during the next few years.”
    The other bet was about the growth of nuclear power generation. Read more.
    Brian Wang keeps you up to date with a survey of the world’s nuclear power plants.

Hiroshima Syndrome
2 Posts from Leslie Corrice

This week, we post two overlapping, albeit parallel responses to Robert Hunziker’s identical postings in Counterpunch and UK Progressive.

The Most Blatant Fukushima FUD to Date

The rebuttal topic is a June 15, 2015, opinion piece written by Robert Hunziker, entitled “What’s Really Going on at Fukushima” (Counterpunch) and retitled “Is Fukushima Godzilla? Why 38 million Tokyo residents are at risk” (UK Progressive). Hunziker alleges apocalyptic effects from the Fukushima Daiichi accident, citing references that are categorically prejudiced, using universally-rebuffed journal publications, and cherry-picking the juiciest, scariest blurbs found in Japan’s universally-antinuclear Press. This is Fukushima FUD at its worst.

It’s time for much of the left to reconsider a long-standing opposition to nuclear energy that often refuses to consider arguments on the other side – arguments that are rational, science-based, and deeply concerned about the environment and human health. There is plenty of inaccuracy in the form of deliberate lies and unwitting misinformation coming from the left-wing about many things. With nuclear energy it’s high time to stop.

Atomic Insights
1 Post from Rod Adams

Rod Adams was able to attend an event in Boston put on by Nuclear Matters and gives a report of his experiences at this 2nd of 6 events put on at major cities across the US.

Neutron Bytes
2 Posts from Dan Yurman

Dan Yurman gives us his report on international nuclear power related stories.

Title says it all.

Copenhagen Atomics front man inspires MSR movement

by Mathijs Beckers
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Thomas Jam Pedersen of Copenhagen Atomics delivered an inspiring presentation about the future of nuclear energy at the Palo Alto nuclear convention in June 2015. His main focus was on the benefits of nuclear in particular and how to change the paradigms in energy generation and its benefits for humanity. Copenhagen Atomics is designing what they call an "Atomic Waste Burner". The basis for this design is a Molten Salt Reactor with breeding capabilities. The purpose of this reactor is to generate electricity. In order to achieve this, nuclear waste and thorium are being bred and fissioned to generate heat. Pedersen stresses that we have to give a credible solution to our current waste issues. Copenhagen Atomics has chosen to walk the path of the waste burner, which greatly diminishes the amount of long lived nuclear waste.

    "The Copenhagen Atomics Waste Burner Reactor will be a molten salt reactor fuelled by plutonium from stockpiled nuclear waste, mixed with thorium, small amounts of uranium, and various minor actinides. The primary purpose of the reactor will be to destroy plutonium and minor actinides from nuclear waste through transmutation and fission." (source : Copenhagen Atomics Whitepaper)

We can derive from this idea is that the reactor is specifically designed to burn nuclear waste products and bomb material like plutonium. This is a great advantage because these elements are readily available and need not be mined. A simple yet effective info-graphic is available on the website of Copenhagen Atomics.

    "We think it's essential that if we want a new nuclear era in this world it's essential that we demonstrate to the public that it's possible to handle the nuclear waste from both from the old type of reactors but also for any new reactor we're going to build."

    "We have to demonstrate that it is do-able."


Source :

The design of Copenhagen Atomics is very interesting, it is incredibly versatile and scalable. They work with a "container module design" in which each container has its own designation. They use special containers that are air tight and reinforced. There's the reactor unit, a processing unit, a utility unit and a dump unit. Their system will be build encased in several meters of concrete below the ground and can be chained with other units to create higher generation capacities per site. Copenhagen Atomics proposes initial installation at current nuclear sites so that the nuclear waste from these contemporary reactors doesn't need to be transported but remains onsite.


Source : Copenhagen Atomics presentation by Thomas Jam Pedersen.

A safety feature specific for the Copenhagen Atomics Waste Burner is the overflow bucket in addition to the common freeze-plug.

More information about their design can be found in their whitepaper available at their website :

I am particularly interested in the modularity of their design, the ability to mass manufacture it and the versatility with which it can be deployed. This is something Copenhagen Atomics is envisioning, they want to create a power plant that can be mass manufactured and easily deployed so that we can effectively change the paradigms of the energy industry.

One could see these units as additions to contemporary nuclear reactors active and inactive. These are literally waste burners, making sure that the amount of long lived waste gets reduced significantly while creating valuable isotopes for the medical world for instance, something which a current commercial nuclear reactor doesn't do.

"it will be up to us"

Pedersen explained that Copenhagen Atomics works with an open philosophy, they actively seek teams to connect with and make progress through collaboration. They acknowledge that joining with people and organizations from different disciplines and additional expertise is essential. An example of this is the collaboration with the nuclear and chemical "REZ research center" in the Czech Republic. Pedersen continues in pointing out that through collaboration progress can be accelerated and that there's a great potential for joint efforts around the Atlantic. A great host of countries is already engaged in MSR [related] technological research and combining forces could be a force multiplier for our movement.

The five small stories presented by Pedersen :

  1. There is a strong correlation between the availability of energy and prosperity. The more energy that is available to a population the more prosperous and stable and peaceful it will probably be.
  2. Energy is an agent of change. When you have an excess of energy, you can get and create anything you want : potable water, fuels and materials.
  3. Nuclear is safe, it has the best "death-print" of all the energy sources on the world. Molten Salt Reactors will make it even safer. We need a plan to help the people to internalize these ideas.
  4. Molten Salt Reactors will be able to change a lot of paradigms, paradigms in terms of the transmutation of nuclear waste, the improved efficiency, the ability to mass manufacture these.
  5. What will it cost to get there? Pedersen actively Invites people with expertise from the audience to join a committee in order to give it a kick-start in the research required to form a clear picture regarding the costs of the proposed MSR's. He suggests the formation of a committee of approximately ten people that will build a report about capital costs, fuel costs, the bill of materials required to build an MSR, a chapter about the R&D in order to achieve mass production of MSR's, a chapter about licensing costs and regulatory pathways.

Quantifying these potential costs is very important since it will give a more tangible picture rather than an abstract with some ugly and monstrous sidekicks. This report could also be used in winning some people over.

I am quite convinced that we can merit the quest for MSR's on mathematical probability only, however law makers and elected representatives wouldn't touch such a controversial subject as long as its unpopular amongst the constituents. "Pedersen's" report could help raise the MSR out of obscurity and help it gain some momentum amongst the people. A clear picture is needed, one that addresses the total costs, waste issues, safety issues and the overall benefits.

Pedersen concludes his presentation with a passionate speech and a picture of a boy with a jet-pack on his back, labeled : "dreamers".

    "it started five hundred thousand years ago when the great apes figured out how to control fire and how to cook food and when they did that they were able to get more energy out of the food and then they had bigger brains. That's essentially when the humans arrived on this planet in history. and then fast forward the next five hundred thousand years there wasn't any break step changes but then suddenly some people invented the steam engine and the diesel engine and we all know how that changed everything in the society and how it created the modern industrialized society. because suddenly we don't have to spend the whole day in the field doing human labor and we didn't need working horse, then we got the energy from fossil fuels and I believe that the next step change we will see on this planet, the next major step change, will be when we get enough energy you know plentiful of energy, hopefully from Thorium, then the cost of energy will come down to almost nothing.

    And when you're in a situation where you have lots of energy and it costs almost nothing its going change everything it means to be human. It is going to affect every system and every culture we have on this planet, and I think it's going to happen in my lifetime and that that excites me a lot and it makes me breathless. What's even more great is that that we have a chance to be part this group of people who are going to make it happen. I think that is awesome, thank you"

    I share Pedersen's sentiment, we can make a profound difference. The Molten Salt Reactor movement is the one movement that can change the world for good. A healthy future of stability and plenty awaits us, we need to keep pushing on, learn more and share what we learn with the public in order for this prosperous future to become a reality.

    "there's no one else to clear these roadblocks but here in this room, well there are a few watching at home as well"

Requesting Comments about radiation standards at Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Thanks to Bob Hargraves for the links

Three petitions for rulemaking to end ALARA and reliance on LNT have been submitted to the NRC by qualified radiation professionals Carol Marcus, Mark Miller, and Mohan Doss with additional signatories from Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information. Marcus has successfully petitioned NRC for a less sweeping rule change using this petition process in the past.

NRC has now docketed these petitions under “Linear No-Threshold Model and Standards for Protection Against Radiation” at!docketDetail;D=NRC-2015-0057

You may submit comments by email to specifying Docket ID NRC-2015-0057.

I recommend you read their well-written, well-referenced petitions here:!documentDetail;D=NRC-2015-0057-0001 Marcus!documentDetail;D=NR C-2015-0057-0002 Miller!documentDetail;D=NRC-2015-0057-0003 Doss

Below is Marcus’s announcement of the petition published in Clinical Nuclear Medicine.

The annotated letter below includes NRC’s summary of the docket, written to Miller.

Please take advantage of this opportunity to end radiophobia.

Bob Hargraves”

Dr. Gene Nelson – Government Liaison for Californians for Green Nuclear Power

by Gene Nelson, Ph.D. San Luis Obispo, CA

Gene Nelson, Ph.D. 17 June 2015 Edited Comments to the Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee (DCISC)

This is the version of my comments that will appear in the NRC report released to the public regarding the 28 April 2015 meeting between the NRC , their consultants, and the owner of Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP).

“The staff received a comment from Dr. Gene Nelson (Physical Sciences professor at Cuesta College and Government Liaison for Californians for Green Nuclear Power) via email during the meeting. The NRC staff inadvertently missed the opportunity to acknowledge Dr. Nelson’s comment during the meeting.”

“According to Dr. Nelson, Diablo Canyon has favorable site conditions, which attenuate or dissipate earthquake energy over relatively short distances. Due to these favorable conditions, the primary earthquake forces seen by the plant would be dominated by nearby earthquake sources and energy transmitted to the plant would be dominated by the small section of the earthquake rupture closest to the plant.”

“Dr. Nelson stated that when considering the information presented at the meeting of overall plant ruggedness and the seismic hazard insights discussed above, Diablo Canyon will continue to operate safely – with generous safety margins – during anticipated earthquakes.”

I am a Physical Sciences professor at Cuesta College and serve as the Government Liaison for Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP.)

In advance of this meeting, I submitted for the DCISC record about 250 pages of scientific, engineering, and economic analysis regarding the Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP.) I am the author of of the comments that preceded the published articles that I curated.

Here are some of the salient points in this submission:
  1. DCPP continues to operate safely as the largest power generator by far in California, generating annually about 18,000 GWh of carbon-free low-cost high-reliability power. (For those not familiar with very large numbers, that is 18 followed by 12 zeros Watt-hours.) The low cost and high reliability subsidizes the production of solar and wind power – and stabilizes the California electrical grid with regards to the intermittent and irregular production of power by these sources.

    Without DCPP’s power, California would need to import even more dirty coal power from out of state. With the premature forced closure of SONGS in 2012, the CEC tabulated that California imported in 2013 about the same amount of dirty coal power from out of state that had been previously generated by SONGS each year prior to 2012. These out-of-state coal powered generating plants dramatically diminish air quality throughout the region and are some of the worst CO2 sources for power generation in the World. With more attention being given to Global Warming by many levels of government including the Governor of California, members of the Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP) Board and members of the Thorium Energy of Silicon Valley (TESV) Board strongly urge PG&E to work with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to offer California ratepayers a 100% nuclear power option on their electric bills to fight global warming. Dutch and German 100% nuclear power programs are already operating successfully. Both the CGNP and TESV Boards also appreciate that DCPP is willing to share up to about 800,000 gallons/day of surplus desalinated sea water with the drought-parched communities near the plant. Many scientists believe that Global Warming has worsened California’s drought, so seawater should be desalinated by carbon-free power.

  2. DCPP’s earthquake risk is exaggerated by its opponents. While many of those opponents indicate that they do not understand the underlying science and engineering, the key point is that each earthquake safety analysis shows the substantial seismic margins for DCPP for any credible earthquake in the area. Everything in the plant is rugged. As an example, the DCPP containment domes, with 3 foot-thick reinforced concrete walls and six layers of wrist-thick steel reinforcing bars have a 100% safety margin. To show the massive scale of the steel reinforcing columns in the DCPP Turbine Building, here’s a recent photograph taken by John Lindsey of myself and a tour group of Cuesta College students. I’m the man in a green shirt at the right hand side of the [photo].

    To help the public to understand some of the paleogeological concepts that were the topic of DCISC discussions on June 15, 2015, it should be noted that San Luis Obispo has the world’s best-preserved example of lateral stream displacement from strike-slip earthquakes on the Carrizo Plain. The San Andreas fault, about 33 miles away from DCPP, caused the lateral stream displacement. The public can examine and walk through this informative site. Posted signage assists the viewer’s interpretation.

  3. Similarly, the opponents of DCPP exaggerate the tsunami risk of DCPP. Earthquakes in the region are strike-slip, which don’t tend to generate large tsunamis, unlike earthquakes in subduction zones. The coastline in front of DCPP is not conducive to producing large tsunami waves. Critical plant safety systems are 85 or more feet above sea level. The paper cited yesterday by Jane Swanson of Mothers For Peace (MFP) appears to show the incorrect year, as the large Japanese Sanriku Tsunami occurred a few minutes after the 15 June 1896 magnitude 8.5 earthquake in the subduction zone 103 miles offshore at 19:32 local time. With a simultaneous high tide, local wave heights reached 125 feet. There were at least 22,000 deaths from the tsunami. As an illustration of how tsunamis diminish with distance, the huge 22 May 1960 magnitude 9.5 earthquake in the subduction zone off the coast of Chile caused tsunami waves of 25 meters near the earthquake’s epicenter. When those waves crossed the Pacific Ocean, they reached the Sanriku coast of Japan 22 hours later.

    The tsunami height had diminished to 3 meters there. I am grateful that the DCISC is comprised of knowledgeable and experienced scientists and engineers who routinely practice critical thinking when evaluating the value of the evidence provided to them by experts and the public.

Dr. Gene Nelson’s Educational background: B.S. Biophysics, Harvey Mudd College; Ph.D. Radiation Biophysics, SUNY Buffalo Past employers have included: NASA -Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Technicon, CIBA-Corning Diagnostics, Cuyahoga Community College, Microsoft (contractor), Collin County College, Genuity, U.S. Census Bureau, California Polytechnic State University and assignments as a freelance investigative journalist and computer consultant. Current employer: Cuesta College Physical Sciences Division. Active in matters of science and public policy. Provided citizen testimony regarding DCPP’s strong safety record to the Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee, California Coastal Commission, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the State Water Resources Control Board. Have also provided in-person testimony on other matters in the U.S. House of Representatives and to the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Nelson lives with his wife and several pets about 10 miles from DCPP.

DCFC: An Ecologically Friendly Technology

Direct Carbon Fuel Cells are based on coal gasification technology. This technology has already been around for about a century and may yet prove to be a 21st century base-load energy source, and help free our grids from the emissions of traditional coal and natural gas.

Basically, after a high temperature conversion process gasified coal can be consumed by an electrical power station and generate nearly twice the energy of coal while halving the GHG waste! For those concerned with emissions or climate change, this means that modified coal could emit about 250 grams of CO² per KW/hr or 550 pounds of CO² per MW/hr – however you’d prefer to measure emissions. This is about the levels originally outlined in the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, but much closer to needed reductions. Also, gasifying the coal will eliminate solid fly ash and allow extraction of other impurities.

DCFC's will have a capacity factor of 65 percent - with ultra low emissions.

DCFC’s will have a capacity factor of 65 percent – with ultra low emissions. Graph based on NEI data.


The Energy Reality Project would like to re-post two pieces on this subject.
One from (Th)e Kral Spaces, a blog generally concerned with the nuclear biosphere. The other is a guest post by Robert Steinhaus at the Molten Salt Science International’s beta site.
Please, feel free to leave any constructive comments or questions below.


Coal energy cheaper than coal energy”
as originally posted at

The only reason China is investing in everything possible for their energy mix is because they need more energy then they can generate. Once their energy catches up to their demand they will be able to take a serious look at what energy sources are the most efficient and narrow their scope to what can be considered clean energy. Once their focus on quantity is turned to quality, hopefully they will still include fossil fuels. Really?

There is a needed mix for energy and it includes fossil from my perspective. I struggle to understand why the Obama Administration wants to throw coal under the bus. If we change the way we look at coal, it too can be a cleaner energy source. If we convert coal to electricity via electrochemical oxidation without burning it, we can generate twice the electricity with half the coal and manage the waste without a variety of toxins ever getting release into the atmosphere. We have managed nuclear waste for 60 years so we already know how to do it safely.

The concept is called Direct Carbon Fuel Cells (DCFC) and Lawrence Livermore National Labs (LLNL) has demonstrated this technology as far back as 2005. Why no one is interested in this solution stuns me just like the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) oversight for clean safe nuclear energy did fifty years ago. Natural gas and oil can also be used as a source for this DCFC process and the best part is that it already comes with an existing commercial electrical power generation infrastructure.

I’ve written a short paragraph about DCFC in a previous column but I strongly believe the Unites States Coal Industry needs to take a serious look at this potential technology. There are several reasons why I take this position and the first and most obvious is that the Coal Industry is on the chopping block with the latest EPA regulations. The new regulations have to do with clean air and water from the coal burning process to generate electricity. The EPA itself admits that the plan’s usefulness against the threat of climate change will be so small that it will be impossible to measure. If you eliminate the ‘burning of coal’, you eliminate the need for new regulations and many of the older regulations as well.

Coal is the cheapest source we have to generate electricity today. The fact that there is already a well established infrastructure for mining coal, it only makes business sense to leverage that infrastructure and only change that process which needs to be changed – the burn. At a fraction of the cost to build an equivalent nuclear power plant or renewable wind and solar farm, a new DCFC Converter can be built right next to the existing coal furnaces and the output fed directly into the electrical grid without having to go through a secondary steam turbine process. Wow! That would lower the cost of processing tremendously and make electricity generation from coal cheaper than coal. There is a little sarcasm in that last sentence because coal is the cost baseline for all other energy sources.

There is a book I read recently titled “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” and it addresses the abundance of what fossil fuel has contributed to our extraordinary life style. Even as an advocate of nuclear energy, I just don’t understand the reasoning behind those you want to shut down coal production when clean coal can be achieved if we wanted to commit the effort to it.

DCFC Ref. Link:

DCFCs can give twice the efficiency of a coal plant for about half the price
as originally posted at

Robert Steinhaus contributed this about Direct Carbon Fuel Cells that can run on coal granules.

Molten Carbonate salt Direct Carbon Fuel Cells do not use a turbine-generator to convert heat to electricity. Each DCFC collects electrical charge internally on graphite electrodes inside the cell so a DCFC directly converts the chemical energy in coal into DC electricity. DCFC cells operate at high temperatures comparable to Molten Salt Nuclear Reactors (about 750 degrees C) and high temperature steels have to be used to make the fuel cells.

It is a feat to make a high temperature coal fired plant operate at more than 44% thermodynamic efficiency. DCFCs convert the chemical energy in coal to electricity at a repeatedly demonstrated efficiency of 80%. There is not Brayton turbine-generator on the planet that can approach the efficiency of DCFCs, and DCFCs do their job much more inexpensively than Brayton or Rankin turbines, have fewer moving parts, and require less maintenance.

Some downsides of DCFCs –
DCFCs have to operate at elevated temperatures between 700 – 750 degrees. To initially start a DCFC you have to heat the cell from an external source, although once started, internal exothermic heat of reaction will keep a cell at temperature.

DCFCs tend to be physically large cells for the power you can instantaneously draw from them (lower power density by weight). A DCFC might typically be 4X the volume of a natural gas or hydrogen PEM fuel cell which supplies the same amount of electrical power.

Since turbine generators are about half or more of the cost of most thermal fossil plants like coal fired power plants – not requiring a precision high temperature turbine-generator saves about half of the cost of a traditional coal power plant and make DCFCs very very high efficiency (80%) and very cheap (about half the cost of the nearest coal fired power plant competitor).

Small several hundred watt practical DCFC cells have been built at LLNL National Lab and operated for several months demonstrating 80% conversion efficiency. Commercial DCFC cells would be much larger and perhaps produce 10s of Megawatts of power each. Such large cells would turn high chemically energy dense coal into electricity directly without burning the coal. How often you have to replenish the DCFC cell would depend on how much power you draw out of the cell. You would get twice as much electricity from a given amount of coal using the fuel cell as you would get from burning the same amount of coal in a coal fired power plant.

The vast majority of the volume and weight of coal that you load into a DCFC fuel cell disappears into clear, colorless, and odorless CO2 gas that goes up a vent to the atmosphere or can be can be used in an industrial process or sequestered underground (no smoke, particulates, radiation, or other pollution into the environment to foul the local air quality). There is a ash or char produced by the cell which is around 5% by weight of the coal loaded into the DCFC. This ash/char has to be periodically removed from the fuel cell and disposed (when processed and the molten salts recycled – the char makes decent soil amendment for agricultural soils)

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Direct Carbon Conversion” by John Cooper

Editors Note: Here are some additional web-sites to learn about DCFC and the coal gasification process.  Start with an animation profiling the full process-

Atlanta based Southern Company is an energy provider with a DCFC program-

A more technical look at DCFCs, which will likely have capacity factors of 65%.

China has a strong program for alternate uses of coal as well-

Quote from the book “A Cubic Mile of Oil”

This quote is from the introduction explaining how the book got its title:

“In discussions of global energy and resources with our friends and colleagues, we found that many of them shared our frustration with all of the different units being used to describe energy. What we needed was a large unit of energy that could be visualized and would also evoke a visceral reaction… We turned to a unit that one of the authors, Hew Crane, had devised as he sat in the long lines that typified the energy crisis if 1974. He had heard that the world was using oil at the rate of 23,000 gallons a second and began wondering how much it would be in a year. A few multiplications later, he calculated it to be approaching a trillion gallons. 724 billion gallons to be more precise.”

This happens to be the volume of a cubic mile. So in 1974 we consumed a cubic mile of oil per year. Later in the book he points out that we are now consuming over 3 cubic miles of oil a year 41 years later.