Category Archives: guest author

A New Fire is Spreading

 The New Fire 
A Film by David Schumacher

Review by Christopher Bergan
This is an incredible documentary: possibly the first of a kind as far as shining a positive spotlight directly on advanced nuclear power. You read that correctly. Though this was the directorial debut for David Schumacher, this pro-nuclear film is a collaborative project by persons who have previously won awards for making films and other audiovisual content.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the premiere at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, Indiana back on October 14, 2017. There was a light breeze on this partly sunny day in Indianapolis, though I drove through a couple rain showers back in Illinois to get there. The film has since been shown in Cambridge, UK; and in Zürich, Switzerland. It will be shown several other places back in the USA through 2018.

NOTE: This event at the Heartland Film Festival had nothing to do with The Heartland Institute. It’s common to find a Heartland-something-or-other in nearly every county of the mid-west United States – which locals consider to be “The Heart of America”.

There was a tent just outside the mall, with room for about 100 attendees to chat and take selfies in between sips of local craft beers. Inside the theater there were specific lines for the various film festival attendees. It seemed to be a well organized event. I should also mention that this showing had sold out, though there were a few empty seats in the theater. Apparently unanticipated road construction delays and at least one nearby university homecoming celebration disrupted traffic enough to severely delay a few attendees.

The tent just outside of the Heartland Film Festival, Indianapolis

The actual film was nearly what I expected, though many of the specific details still surprised me. This documentary was centered on people and their passions, as any good tale should be. Here their common concerns include energy poverty, climate issues, and improving the human condition. Frustration with sharing this vision has driven each group of self-admitted science geeks to embark on a journey to fan the entrepreneurial fires of change – with the flame-less fires of neutronic activity.

This emerging industry took some in Washington by surprise, and brought lots of attention to the huge economic and security benefits of advanced nuclear. But here’s the thing… we aren’t the only country trying to commercialize advanced reactors and reap their rewards. Just check out the links at the end of this review!

There are several angles by which this documentary could be marketed. There’s the obvious Women in Nuclear tie-in which greatly supports girls involvement in STEAM education. There’s the entrepreneurial angle where young persons (women & men equally!) start a business with university-honed credentials. Or some may take a more traditional route, getting hired by a cutting edge multi-national company. Some will appreciate the zero GHG angle of climate change environmentalism. There’s even an advocacy-by-opera moment! One of many enjoyable moments was hearing nuclear scientists discuss characteristics of a vehicles’ automatic doors – something a few in the audience might relate to.

For the Q&A immediately after the film producer Ross Koningstein was on hand to lead off.

The Q&A session at The New Fire Premiere

Also present were cast members Dr. Per Peterson, Eric Meyer, Dr. Nick Touran, and Tom Blees. The director arrived a few minutes into the Q&A session, as he had flown in from a private engagement connected with this film in another state.

Though not planned, this documentary about new, advanced reactors is an excellent follow-up to the 2013 documentary Pandora’s Promise by Robert Stone. Personally I’m looking forward to the eventual DVD release of The New Fire: the DVD extras just might be the best part of the project, as they were for Pandora’s Promise (at least in my opinion).

There is at least one other pro-nuclear documentary in the works as well. The industry seems to be greatly  changing from what it was a decade ago – from all angles. Despite the huge impact these advanced reactors will have on both climate efforts and industry when they start hitting the market in less than a decade, we already have a few images to help us understand where and how they’ll fit into our communities.

I hope that The New Fire will be seen by many people and become a point of discussion between those persons who are interested in clean energy sources. Just as there are many types and sizes of automobile engines, there are many possibilities for clean, planet-friendly energy sources. These various advanced nuclear concepts are a few dozen of the many options we need to rationally assess and implement a better future.

Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear  (GAIN)

Additional information about The New Fire cast and advanced nuclear-power.

On The Ecomoderist Podcast, Rick & Gabe interview Emmy-winning director David Schumacher on his new documentary, The New Fire, which tells the story of the scientists and activists who are trying to save the planet by promoting nuclear power. One of the featured scientists, Dr. Leslie Dewan, is also interviewed.

On another edition of The Ecomodernist Podcast, Gabe & Rick talk with Rauli Partanen and Janne M. Korhonen, co-authors of Climate Gamble: Is Anti-Nuclear Activism Endangering Our Future?. This is a highly insightful book tackling one of the biggest problems of our time, climate change; and one of its most misunderstood solutions, nuclear power.

How will changes in the US government impact the advanced nuclear industry? This video has Oklo co-founder Caroline Cochran discussing issues of advanced reactors with NuScale Power’s John Hopkins and Southern Company’s Nick Irvin.

China’s first Gen IV reactor is scheduled to go online in 2018 – the Chinese pebble bed!

Dick Engel & Syd Ball discuss their time at Oak Ridge National Laboratory where they built and operated a proto-type Molten Salt Reactor – back in the 1960’s!

Tireless nuclear energy advocate Scott Medwid says “I used to oppose nuclear”!

Dr. Sunniva Rose at TEDx speaks out for interdisciplinary approaches to life, which for her includes nuclear physics and the color pink!

Skeptic Thomas Jam Pedersen explains at TEDxCopenhagen how he became a reluctant fan of Thorium.

Urs Bolt, Director of the Swiss chapter of Energy for Humanity, was a guest on ANC Headstart (a Morning Show in the Philippines) 7 November 2016.

How Thorium can save the world: Salim Zwein shares a friendly lecture at TEDxBeirut 2012.

Ted Rockwell’s interview from 2002; during the early days of the Manhattan Project, nuclear was never just about the bombs. He also explains how radiation is everywhere & is quite safe in moderation.

Author and inventor Christopher Carson gives a very nuanced & slightly technical talk about nuclear energy and how he views the many facets of nuclear issues.

Nuclear New Build

China, Korea & UK
Alternate title: Rising competition from China, Korea
and a new development model for British nuclear power
April 14th, 2016 Andrew Daniels

No other country in Europe is developing nuclear power with as much zeal as the UK. The goal is to abolish coal power by the mid 2020s. The ‘dash to gas’ is in the past, and future wind power development can only offer declining returns. Having explored and reached the limitations of gas and wind power, it is clear decarbonization can only be accomplished with nuclear power. Three consortia have developed plans for nuclear power plants on six different sites. Adhesion to construction schedules is the number one cause of serious cost overruns, so these projects will be considered successes or failures depending on the efficiency of the construction process.

Given the poor record of past British nuclear power development, this drive towards nuclear power is even more remarkable. The British nuclear industry had a particularly dismal record of poor performance with Magnoxes and AGRs. Using a poor development model during the 1960s until the 1980s, the UK built one uncompetitive gas-cooled plant after another. Each plant was built by a different consortium with a different design, and each used unique parts and required unique fuel elements. Construction delays were insufficient to cancel a project. The British tradition of ‘muddling through’ led to eventual completion, even if some plants were obsolete upon commencing operation. One plant took an astonishing twenty years to complete. The policy was framed as government support for British technology. Even as Whitehall pursued a ‘national champion’ policy, not enough investment was channeled into nuclear power to give this unique path, their nuclear sonderweg, a hope of success. Gas-cooled reactors were never able to build up a similar body of experience as did the water-cooled reactors. Operating loads were lower, maintenance costs higher, and construction times were consistently longer throughout their history.

At one point, France was pursuing the same gas-cooled reactor technology as the UK, but a decision was made to abandon it. The rationale was that French industry would be better served by aligning with global trends instead of bucking them. Adopting water-cooled reactors en masse facilitated the extensive nuclear roll-out pursued by France in the 1970s and 1980s. The structure for this expansion was a publicly funded development model with a single operator running every plant in the country. Rather than increase costs from a lack of competition, it facilitated skills transfer, uniformity and keeping costs down.

Eschewing the French dirigiste state-driven model, the new development model draws on private sector elements of the old model. New nuclear power plants in the UK will continue to be built via consortia, but this time they will use existing designs. Hinkley Point C will put its first reactor into operation in 2025, which will be the first in Britain since Sizewell B in 1995. This project will be a first for many things; it is the first British plant built with minority foreign participation (China General Nuclear (CGN) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) are both minority investors.) Hinkley Point C will be the first in the world to receive a public subsidy as renewable power at the rate of £92.50 per MWh. This anticipates construction time of up to 10 years and the guaranteed price is indexed to any future rises in electricity prices. In the case that the plant is closed early, the company will receive compensation. This mitigates the risk of any forced premature closure without compensation for any reason, political or otherwise. Supporting nuclear power with this style of feed-in tariff is a first, though it may have started a trend. Now the two American states of Arizona and Utah are offering similar public support. The effect of this contract is monumental if it heralds a new era of public support for nuclear power, similar to the support for solar and wind. This project is tremendously important for Areva and the Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR), as future sales of the EPR will be heavily influenced by the construction time at Hinkley Point C. This will be a chance for Areva to wipe the slate clean and move past the numerous construction delays at Flamanville and Olkiluoto. A success at Hinkley Point C 1 & 2 will pave the way for another pair of EPRs at Sizewell C.

The second project will develop two sites with ABWRs: Wylfa Newydd on the Isle of Anglesey and Oldbury-on-Severn. Hitachi claims these are more likely to be completed on time than EPRs, due to the ABWR construction record in Japan. The company prefers to reference the successful construction of ABWRs in Japan, rather than the Lungmen project in Taiwan. The Taiwanese plant has been delayed repeatedly due to political interference, greatly inflating costs.

Finally, the third group seeks to develop the AP1000. Manchester-based NuGeneration Limited is formed from a partnership between Toshiba (Westinghouse) and GDF Suez. Nugen plans three AP1000 at Moorside, and secured 200 hectares for the project in 2009. If construction goes ahead, it will employ 6,000 people. By that point, these will be the 17th, 18th and 19th AP1000s in operation. Westinghouse will provide the reactors but GDF Suez will run the plant. The commitment to invest will be made in 2018 and the first unit will begin operation in 2024.

All of these projects are being driven by reactor vendors keen to promote their designs. These are being pursued in the UK in the hope of winning future contracts in other countries. After seeking more uniformity and serialization, the UK is still embarking on multiple directions with numerous designs, partners, and operators. Perhaps this will not increase costs as much as in the past, as all of these designs will be supported by identical copies outside of the UK.

China also prioritized uniformity and domestic development, yet they currently use the reactor designs of France, Canada, Russia, and the USA as well as their own. The development of Chinese nuclear power was delayed in the past by canceling the water-cooled reactor program twice. First, Mao canceled it to focus funding on the development of nuclear weapons, then it was canceled a second time by the Gang of Four during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) to focus on developing a molten salt reactor. After an all-out effort to develop a molten salt reactor failed, China finally devoted time and resources to develop their first water-cooled reactor at Qinshan-1.

A clear policy choice remained on whether to prioritize indigenous development or assimilate foreign technology in order to develop indigenous technology later. Though it was decided to pursue indigenous technology and use as few reactor designs as possible, other considerations would subvert this policy. It was diplomatically advantageous to buy CANDU reactors to reduce isolation after Tiananmen Square sanctions. AP1000s were selected as China’s official Gen III reactor. Yet a decision to build two EPRs was also taken. After the deal with Areva, the president of CNNC, deputy president of CGN and the president of China Triumph Industrial Engineering Co were accused of taking bribes. These three groups selected the EPR in a closed process with no international tender competition. Russian VVER-1000s were also built, possibly due to the availability of soft loans.

Ostensibly, China has exported one plant to Pakistan, but this order did not establish them as a reactor exporter. Their lone export order to Pakistan failed to establish them as a competitor, Chashma was badly built by the time it was completed in 2000. Rather than showcase Chinese capabilies, it illustrated a lack of capacity. It was difficult for it to be a copy of Qinshan-1 as intended, when most of Qinshan-I was unable to be supported by Chinese suppliers. The pressure vessel came from Mitsubishi, coolant pumps from West Germany, turbines from Sweden and the control system from Areva. Chashma was built using Chinese parts suppliers who had never supplied a nuclear power plant before. The project was delayed, and there were errors in construction. When internal sensors were damaged, they rattled around inside the core, unknown to the plant operators. Westinghouse assessed the plant and said the designers did not understand the effect of coolant flow on the core and components.

That was twenty years ago, and since then CGN and CNNC have completed many reactors that perform very well. The Chinese adaptation of Westinghouse designs in the CPR-1000 are completed on time, and have excellent operating load. Their domestic performance is an effective advertisement for export orders. This is the strongest bull market for nuclear power in Chinese history, as the latest FiveYear Plan (2016-2020) includes many new reactors. There are 42 planned reactors and 170 proposed reactors, in addition to the 22 under construction. Current policy is to not build any new wind turbines or coal mines, yet existing coal mines have the capacity to produce an additional 2 billion tonnes over the current annual production of 4 billion tonnes. This means falling coal prices will increase competition for nuclear power even in the absence of any new coal mines. On the other hand, construction costs will be assisted by falling steel prices. Massive overcapacity in steel, aluminum, glass, paper, and other heavy industries will push down prices as companies compete to avoid being driven out of business. Chinese workers used to strike for higher wages, now they strike over unpaid wages. Current plans to curtail production will cause 500,000 job losses in the steel sector and 1.3 million job losses in coal. The eventual job losses and company closures in the steel industry will likely be followed by similar contraction among other heavy industries. The collapse of the steel industry could start an avalanche, magnified in impact as numerous loans go bad. Since private debt has soared from 120% of GDP in 2008 to 240% of GDP in 2015, any companies that collapse or default on debt payments will have a domino effect throughout the economy. CGN and CNNC will perform well in these turbulent times, and will continue to find easy access to financing. They will be a calm port in the storm as they grow in a contracting economy.

In many ways, China is simply hoping to follow the path of South Korea. China’s entry into the international export market truly begins with an order from Argentina for the Hualong One reactor. Hwever, no Hualong One is in operation and only one is currently under construction which began in 2015. China sweetened the deal by offering financing for 85% of the $15b project. It seems reasonable to anticipate CGN and CNNC to continue to easily find financing for foreign construction projects.

The strongest competition for future export orders will come from Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP), owned by the Seoul government via the holding company Korean Electric Power Co. Known as KEPCO, it should not be confused with Kansai Power Co. (also KEPCO), who also operate nuclear power plants. The first APR-1400 at Barakah is 90% complete and on track to be completed in May 2017. Barakah-2 is 60% complete. In addition, one APR-1400 is already operational at Shin-Kori-1, although its construction took seven years. It was delayed due to poor quality cabling associated with a falsification scandal. The on-time completion of Barakah-1 will be a persuasive advertisement for future new sales. KHNP is not only selling reactors, but also South Korean management capable of keeping projects on schedule. The value of this is appreciated by the UAE, who has contracted 50 KHNP employees to work at Barakah and asked for Korean assistance in setting up their training program at the Institute of Applied Technology in Abu Dhabi. Korean reactors continue to become cheaper. They are bucking the trend toward ever higher costs, as each reactor achieves a lower cost per MWh than its predecessor. Falling costs and a long history of completing plants on-time makes KHNP a strong competitor for future export orders, selling not only a reliable design but a reliable schedule.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. We are seeing new development models, yet they draw on many elements of the old. New British development will use international designs, but still will not establish real uniformity throughout the British nuclear industry. China and Korea are driving state-owned businesses to try to conquer new export markets. That being said, their reputation in sticking to the schedule in domestic construction by Chinese and Korean companies addresses the most important factor in cost control for nuclear power. This makes them powerful competitors, at a time when nuclear power is expanding to new markets.

Andrew Daniels is the author of After Fukushima: What We Now Know, a history of the fear reactions towards nuclear power and radiation. This book will be available in the summer of 2016 on A historian with three degrees, a Hon. B.A. in History and Japanese Studies, B. Ed, and a M.Is, he is polyglot, fluent in English, French and Japanese plus a smattering of German, Italian and Swedish.

Are Electric Cars Clean?

January 14, 2016
By Philip Ord, B.S.
President, Americans for Nuclear Energy

To the average eco-conscious consumer, electric cars are very enticing. All you have to do is mention Tesla, and people’s eyes brighten with enthusiasm. An ever-growing range of 200+ miles on a single charge, with zero exhaust exiting a tailpipe. To many, the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, is the real-life technology genius Tony Stark from Iron Man. With all due respect, Musk’s team has produced a truly excellent electric car, and they just seem to be getting better. Electric vehicles are now competitive with combustion vehicles, at least for the wealthy. Tesla’s new SUV, the Model X, will cost you $80,000.

Strolling around my hometown of Denver, Colorado, I saw a Tesla sedan with a vanity plate that read “ZEROGAS.” Indeed, no gasoline was powering said vehicle, but as any physicist can tell you, there is no free lunch. Colorado produces filthy electricity. Sixty percent is produced with coal-fired power plants, which is the most carbon-intensive process on the face of the earth. A quarter of our electricity comes from cleaner, still carbon-intensive, natural gas. This is what runs a Tesla in the city of Denver. Zero gas, yes. Zero carbon pollution, absolutely not.

But here is the difference between as Tesla and a combustion vehicle, efficiency. Electric cars can put more of its battery-stored energy to propulsion than a combustion car can from its gasoline-stored energy. This simply has to do with the physics of how work is done in an electric motor versus an internal combustion engine. But this efficiency does not matter if you burn coal to charge a battery. A 2013 Slate article explained that a Tesla in West Virginia (96% coal-produced electricity) emits about as much carbon as an ordinary Honda Civic does with gas.1 A rule-of-thumb when in comes to electric cars, they are as clean as the electric grid in which they are plugged.

Washington State receives about ninety percent of its electricity from carbon-neutral sources, a large majority from hydroelectric dams.2 Here, an electric vehicle is worth the investment, if you want to decrease your carbon intensity. Knowing the Pacific Northwest, most people, my sister included, consider themselves “eco-friendly.” Let’s remember that most states are not this clean. The breakdown of electricity by source in the United States is as follows: coal (39%), gas (27%), nuclear (19%), hydroelectric (6%), wind (4.4%), biomass (1.7%), oil (1%), geothermal (0.4%), solar (0.4%)3 We still heavily rely on fossil fuels, which is making climate change an ever-growing danger.

What is the largest source of low-carbon electricity in the country? Nuclear power, producing a whopping fifth of our electricity. Often, people are shocked to hear this. In fact, the United States leads the world in quantity of electricity produced by nuclear fission.4 Believe it or not, this makes us the producer of the most low-carbon electricity on the planet. Unfortunately, our nuclear fleet is getting old, and many are facing decommissioning.5 If too many close, we risk being unable to meet carbon cuts, mandated by the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. This will also make our electric vehicles even more dirty. Many will place hopes on wind and solar power to fix our grid, but based upon cost and reliability of these sources, don’t hold your breath.6

We can have clean electric cars, we can have a clean electric grid. How will we do this? We need a nuclear energy renaissance. Aging nuclear plants need to be updated and retrofitted. New nuclear plants must be built. Money needs to be set aside for next-generation nuclear technology. Scientifically illiterate environmental groups will push back, claiming terrible danger. Ignore this idea, this does not reflect the reality of nuclear power,7 In fact, nuclear power arguably clocks in as the safest form of electricity production. Per unit energy (kilowatt-hour) produced, nuclear energy has claimed the lowest number of lives.8

There is still another problem surrounding transportation. The vast majority of vehicles in existence today use combustion for propulsion. It will take a huge amount of time to phase all these things out. More than likely, combustible liquid fuels will always be utilized. Hydrocarbons still remain a safe, efficient, and affordable way to move people by road, air, and sea. What if I told you that you can make hydrocarbons without fossil crude oil? A Canadian company called Carbon Engineering is testing a prototype that pulls carbon dioxide out of the air and into a solution.9 With enough energy (perhaps from nuclear fission), you can combine the carbon dioxide with hydrogen from water to create high-purity, carbon-neutral fuel. The only byproduct would be oxygen gas put back in the atmosphere. This process is called reverse combustion.

Are electric cars clean? Yes, only if they are paired with a clean electric grid. With the promise of cheap, plentiful and carbon-free power from nuclear reactors, we can decarbonize electric and combustion vehicles. Essentially, all of transportation and electricity could be possible without the release of greenhouse gas. Exploiting the thermodynamic efficiency of electric motors will of course be the next big step in transport, but the gap can be bridged until we get there. Those who are electric vehicle enthusiasts, demand research in development in nuclear power. Demand research and development of carbon neutral fuels. Demand that people like Elon Musk are being honest about emission profiles. You must take all factors into account to remain consistent to an ecologically-friendly lifestyle.











How would advanced aliens size up our reluctance to use nuclear energy?

Guest Post from Robert Rudolph Hasspacher

If aliens came down to earth tomorrow, and we told them how we are having an environmental crisis because we need to find new sources of energy besides fossil fuels, the first thing they would say to us is:

“What about nuclear energy, we’ve already seen you have the technology from the neutrinos you emit. Why not scale it up?”

And then the Sierra Club and Peabody Coal would step forward and say with ignorant sincerity, “NO! It’s too expensive, and it produces waste, and it could release radioactivity, and other countries could make bombs from our waste!”

The aliens would say back, “You mean to tell me that your species is intelligent enough to have gotten materials to within billionths of a degree of absolute zero, put 5 spacecraft beyond the orbit of Pluto, have genetically manufactured crop species to increase food yield, understand quantum mechanics to the point of being on the verge of creating quantum computing, have a worldwide aviation system with 1.2 billion passengers a year that is the safest form of transportation available, and yet you can’t engineer a nuclear reactor that produces negligible amounts of waste, has no risk of releasing appreciable amounts of radiation, is cheaper than blowing up mountains for coal, and avoids the improbable risk that someone makes a bomb from it? That is elementary by comparison! You came up with technology that could do that 50 years ago! Damn it, your planet is TEEMING with nuclear material, you could be in a golden age of energy abundance without carbon!”

And TEA would say back “yeah but enough people are uneducated enough to be fooled by fossil interests into thinking that an obvious solution like atomic energy is a danger to humanity.”

Also by Robert Hasspacher
Synthesizing Jet Fuel from Sea Water

Educating a New Nuclear Workforce

by Beth Kelly

Today in the United States, nuclear power plants generate close to one-fifth of the nation’s electricity and constitute a majority of our non-greenhouse gas-emitting electrical production. It is by far the largest source of low-carbon electricity in the country. Yet, despite analyses urging a more substantial role for nuclear power in light of looming climate change, the U.S. nuclear industry is not projected to grow in the decades ahead. But a nuclear renaissance is possible if we want it, and the first step is educating a new wave of nuclear workers on the vast potential of this type of energy generation.

Nuclear Science Week, which took place this year from Oct. 19 – 23, is a recurring, yearly proceeding that focuses on championing the innovations that can be found by exploring nuclear science. Events are held throughout the United States, as well as in other countries worldwide such as Canada and the United Arab Emirates. Many of these celebrations are hosted by universities and high schools, with the intent of drumming up support for nuclear science courses as well as careers in the field.

Close to half of the nuclear workforce will be eligible for retirement within the next 10 years. And as the “boomer” generation departs, finding applicants with the right set of skills to step in and replace them is a challenge. As a part of its broader educational goals, NSW exposes students to the broad range of opportunities that exist for nuclear engineers. At a time when the industry stands at a crossroads, partnerships with educational programs are crucial to its continued success.

The Department of Energy currently projects that the U.S. electrical demand will rise by 28% by 2040. In order to maintain nuclear power’s current share of electricity generation, we will need to build one new reactor every year, starting next year – or 20-25 new units by 2040. Worsening effects of global warming may further impact this number, provided we continue to drive more focus on shifting away from coal- and oil-burning facilities. Certainly we need to support new and upcoming projects that can start us on the path towards a more sustainable energy future, and nuclear power is the only emission-free electricity source that can grow to help us meet this demand.

Most projections show that renewables – excluding input from nuclear – won’t be able to ramp up sufficiently in the coming decades to meet the planet’s energy needs. A failure to increase our reliance on low-carbon sources of power will lead to additional energy-related CO2 emissions released by burning fossil fuels. Currently there are five new nuclear power facilities being built within the United States and over 60 under construction in other parts of the world. When we combine this new generating capacity with the widely graying workforce, there are plenty of opportunities for newcomers to contribute to the industry.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for nuclear engineers is expected to increase 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, and the average annual pay in 2012 was $104,270, higher than the $86,200 median earned by all engineers. This occupation requires a bachelor’s degree, but the related profession of nuclear technician typically only requires an associate’s degree. These technicians made an average of $69,060 per year as compared to technicians in “life, physical, and social science,” who took home $41,130 on average. In 2011 it was estimated that, in order to survive the aging boomer upheaval, the nuclear industry would have to replace nearly 25,000 skilled workers.

The advantages of nuclear energy are manifold. We have enough fuel for hundreds of years even without implementing any improvements to the current nuclear infrastructure. Unlike solar panels and wind turbines, nuclear reactors aren’t dependent on weather conditions and can reliably deliver electrical output steadily throughout the day. According to experts at Direct Energy, global emissions of carbon increased from 6,750 million metric tons in 2000 to 8,749 million metric tons in 2008. It’s clear that we need all the help we can get from every green energy source, including nuclear, to mitigate this problem for future generations. It’s important, especially considering the immediacy of the Paris COP21 conference, to regard the future of nuclear energy as one that closely aligns with the future of our energy needs.

Beyond acting in their own economic self-interest, fresh talent that engages with nuclear energy will be doing their part to help the planet by enabling the growth of various burgeoning national nuclear programs. Now is the time to revitalize the future of nuclear power, but it is only possible with the help and persistence of new recruits.

(note the image is a screen capture of a Gordon McDowell video taken of students from Calvin College presenting during the Thorium Energy Alliance conference June 3 and 4th/2015)

Energy Reality FB Group (March 2015) Discussion

   Rick Maltese  March 1, 2015

There was a debate recently on a thorium linkedIn group that the author felt there should not be inaccurate science statements made by pronuclear supporters to win people over to the pronuclear side.

The author wanted to point out how the number of deaths caused from coal plants is often exaggerated. The author also suggested the UN’s numbers were way too inflated.

This had a ring to it that reminded me of those who feel that climate change is high among the reasons to promote the use of nuclear power. Here is where the difficulty begins. Do we advocate the use of nuclear energy by telling people it will fix global warming or should that be low on our long list of reasons?

So a couple of the touchy issues that keeps surfacing

1) Are molten salt reactors proliferation safe. Most MSR and LFTR advocates say they are. More proliferation safe than LWRs and other 4th Gen reactors. The degree of safety varies and a proper position to take on this IMHO is that like Climate Change the topic should be avoided because it is not very different that discussing which type of commercial jet is more likely to crash.

2) Challenging pronuclear advocates publicly about whether nuclear can solve global warming is also a bad idea. It should be avoided as a topic altogether in public spaces.

3) That MSRs or SMRs are the only new types of reactors worth supporting. This is also a counter-productive topic. All reactors being built now are at least Gen III and they are still very much worth supporting. The renewal of Gen II reactors is also worth supporting. The record speaks for itself.

Jumping on the environmental bandwagon may not be the best choice for the nuclear industry. The…
Scott Medwid

Scott Medwid Ocean acidification is ties to coal, oil, gas and bio fuel combustion. Ice is melting at alarming rates at the North and South poles and mountain glaciers and snow pack are in decline in to many locations. The bottom line argument for keeping and extending the existing Gen 2 fleet is that they produce fossil fuel free electricity and they have been paid for (for the most part right?). Gen 3+ reactors are approved and are being deployed. New designs must couple electrical generation with desalinization of sea water into a agriculturally suitable byproduct of the new reactors. Generation 4 reactors will be supported if they can provide fossil fuel free electricity and process heat for clean water.

Virgil Fenn

Virgil Fenn I’m with you almost all the way there, Rick. My quibble is with #2.
People that are already convinced that climate change and increasing CO2 levels are good prospects in that we have the best solution for the problem they want to fix. Plus, they alrea
dy have a sense of urgency. The fear of radiation is the last hurdle to overcome.
For climate change deniers, we should not bother to engage with them on that issue. Other people are already working to convince them and our time is better spent on the fear of all radiation mythology and the attending regulatory nightmare.
Actually, after re-reading your #2, i may have misunderstood.
Either way, i promise to do better. No more drinking and posting for me.

Andrew M Dodson

Andrew M Dodson Climate change is just that, AN Argument! Let’s not base our policy on arguments, but established consensus. Fossil fuels are polluting and we must transition. There’s plenty of evidence, but I would hope that it goes without saying!

Jason Correia

Jason Correia Every other no-emission to low emission (natural gas) energy source is touting itself as a climate change mitigation measure. Every other high emission source (oil, coal) is pretending that climate change doesn’t exist and is actively trying to thwart any measures to curb or tax their emissions.

Which camp does nuclear want to ally itself with?

Jason Correia

Jason Correia I skimmed through that article, Rick, and I’m quite frustrated that this author sees things with a very different lens than I do.

I see this in very simple marketing 101 terms. You want to sell a product then you need to find or create the demand. Ele
ctricity (the end product) is already in demand. Emission free energy has a demand for cleaner air, climate change mitigation, and emission standards. Lastly, you need to meet the demand for the image conscience, in other words people need to feel good about buying your product because your brand has prestige, quality, cool factor – they understand what your product is and *want* it. Apple has mastered this last type of demand of course.

Nuclear can meet the first 2 demands at a reasonable cost if given the chance but needs to lobby to make it more cost efficient. But let’s not kid ourselves, as far as image conscience demand goes – nuclear sucks. And what’s even worse, is guys like Steve Kidd just don’t understand how important this is.

Change the phrase from “climate change” to “conscience change” instead and everything makes a lot more sense relevant to nuclear, no matter what your opinion is about CC science.

I give the Thorium community huge kudos for creating buzz and excitement about their ‘new’ nuclear technology. Suddenly everyone is interested and excited about thorium. Nuclear’s challenge is now to transfer that same enthusiasm to conventional nuclear and get some environmental groups to have a change of heart so in turn, we get more decision makers on nuclear’s side.

I’ll go out on a little limb here and say there is NO RISK to promoting nuclear as a climate change mitigation.

The author states ” There is a significant risk in nuclear hitching itself to this type of view, as it may eventually be found to be unproven and in that case the nuclear industry, along with the renewables sector, will be discredited.”

First, that’s a load of bullcrap. If new nuclear plants get built no one is going to say “oh geez, the Earth isn’t as warm as we thought it was going to be, what a horrible mistake is was to built all these nuclear reactors that supply electricity at the cheapest price possible.” Just the rising population and increased demand for energy alone will keep all potential regrets at bay. No one is going to feel like they were ‘sold a bill of goods’ on account of nuclear touting itself as a climate change mitigation measure.

By the way, notice I use the word ‘mitigation’ instead of solution. As far as we know, there is no ‘solution’, there are only attempts to stave off what might be the inevitable.

It’s only the expensive renewables that will only be at most risk because they carry shorter lifespans and require the most intensive cost maintenance. An AP1000 could easily last 100 years.

Nuclear needs to recreate its brand image and the rest can fall into place. If the nuclear industry and it’s proponents want to be stupid, ignore this at your peril. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter if the climate science is right or wrong, what matters is how nuclear makes the best of itself within this perceived crisis.

Gijs Zwartsenberg

Gijs Zwartsenberg Rick, your post raises some essential issues that I face probably every time I’m working on my website.
I think each deserves separate discussion, and there’s also a couple of other touchy issues that need to be discussed.
However, in my view it is es
sential to come to what is called ‘a narrative’ – and that is something that is almost impossible to create by just going through the arguments.
So please keep in mind, the following reactions ‘only’ concern the arguments here, arguments that may or may not become part of a narrative – the narrative itself is not yet in sight.
#1: As there’s a multitude of configurations to choose from, it’s better to say that MSR’s CAN be made proliferation safe.
#2: I agree with Virgil Fenn here. Leave the climate debate to the climate debaters. On my website I try to avoid the subject.
Not because I’m a climate sceptic, but I think the issue just adds to the confusion.
There are many, many more arguments to ban ‘fossil’ and especially coal – such as mercury pollution of soil and ocean.
#3: From a physics standpoint, I think it’s safe to say that present day reactors, and especially the new ones are worth supporting.
However, that message is much more difficult to convey to the not-yet-converted than it is to seek support for MSR’s.
MSR’s have a chance to break out of the ‘anti-nuke’ paradigm.
Once you get them interested in MSR’s, people may finally start looking at their previously held beliefs about ‘nuclear’.
That will probably feel ‘unjust’ to those working in the present nuclear field, but it may also be a sound case of ‘realpolitik’.

Martin Kral

Martin Kral There is no other energy as clean, safe , dense, reliable, plentiful, etc. as nuclear power. I stay focused on the additional benefits it has for humanity over and above fossil and renewable. There is no need to discount any energy platform. Have any of you had a CT scan lately? Add the by-products of nuclear and fossil and the discussion is a no brainer for me. What are the by-products of renewable?

Martin Kral

Martin Kral Oh wait, I forgot! Thorium is the by-product of renewable manufacturing material mining.

Ruth Sponsler

Ruth Sponsler Why would climate change be such a bad argument for nuclear if the renewable sources that generate much less energy are claiming to be the ones to solve the problem?

To me, this is like hiding one of NE’s truly best assets.

Instead, I think it’s time to discuss issues like “nuclear equality,” which is getting governmental and societal entities to treat a kilowatt of nuclear electricity the same as a kW of wind or solar for carbon-free portfolio standards.

Martin Kral

Martin Kral Nuclear is based on Physics and Chemistry. Hard to dispute that science. The source of a kilowatt are not equal and never will be.

Gijs Zwartsenberg

Gijs Zwartsenberg Ruth Sponsler, I don’t think climate change is a bad argument for nuclear, the point is that the climate change debate is highly politicized. To link MSR’s to that debate may hurt their case. I think the specs of MSR’s are so convincing that MSR’s can make friends even without the climate argument.

Ruth Sponsler

Ruth Sponsler Martin Kral – I realize that the science behind NE is better. Yet it is being treated as a sub-equal among emissions-free energy sources.

All I’m saying is that the politicos should give it the respect it deserves….

Ruth Sponsler

Ruth Sponsler I like Virgil Fenn’s argument here!

Gijs Zwartsenberg

Gijs Zwartsenberg I agree, Virgil is pretty sharp, even after having a drink or two wink emoticon Leaves the search for a narrative open though – see my first response to Rick Maltese

Martin Kral

Martin Kral I agree about the fear of radiation and that is why I am focused on nuclear medicine.
From my next article:
“Production of medical radioisotopes has become the most important sector of the nuclear industry, accounting for more than 50% of annual radi
oisotopes production worldwide. Today more than 160 radioisotopes of 80 chemical elements are produced for use in diagnosis and therapy of cancer, as well as cardiology, hematology, urology, nephrology, and other specialties. The global radioisotope market was valued at $4.8 billion in 2012, with medical radioisotopes accounting for about 80% of this, and is poised to reach about $8 billion by 2017. To preserve the lives of many people, we actually need advance nuclear reactors in more markets because of the short life cycle of the medical radioisotopes and of course, the need for electricity and clean water.”

Virgil Fenn

Virgil Fenn Jason, we”re the ones with the solution that actually works. We should recruit from both (all) sides.

Alex Cannara

Alex Cannara Rick, I thought this was a “reality” discussion group — no?

Are you actually saying that coal deaths in mines are false? Are you actually saying coal emissions illnesses in the 10s of thousands in US alone are false? Are you saying that China’s adm
itting to losing hundreds of thousands of lives and >3% of GDP on health problems caused by coal emissions, etc. are false? Are you suggesting that ocean acidification and isotopic measurements of C emissions don’t trace back to coal?

What, on earth are you trying to do here, simply because a guy or two, who deny global warming (and don’t bother to study science) ,were upset by critiques of coal use?

Alex Cannara

Alex Cannara On your Qs 2 & 3, why isn’t it clear that nuclear power would have eliminated the bulk of climate/ocean issues by about 2000. if subsequent administrations/congresses hadn’t fumbled JFK’s start?
It should not be “avoided” at
all. Avoiding it plays into the hands of the folks unknowing or hiding from, the causes of our environmental problems — the ones we’re wasting time vacillating on and leaving to our descendants.

And, of course all regulated nuclear power is desired ASAP. Why is that even a question? Why is proliferation re Thorium a question?

The humungous length of the blog exchange you mention is evidence enough of the absurdity of the deniers’ positions — their only tactic is to repeatedly avoid facts and repeat the same fluff over & over to buy time and waste others’. This group should be able to handle that quickly. If it can’t, then the name of the group needs changing.

Rick Maltese

Rick Maltese I was just presenting the discussion not drawing conclusions.

Jason Correia

Jason Correia I agree with Alex.

Avoiding the climate change issue is exactly what the fossil companies are trying to do and nuclear is and should be different.

The green movement has already mis-categorized nuclear in their acronym “CONG” (coal, oil, nuclear, gas). Nuclear is in a class all by itself. Another marketing 101 lesson is to promote all of your differentiators to your clients so they will understand why your product is better than others.

There are 3 types of businesses: New, Better, or Different. New is the rarest form, and nuclear certainly still retains some of the New factor. To be all 3 is very rare and nuclear is all 3. If nuclear industry/community doesn’t understand and appreciate itself for just how awesomely new, better, and different it is, then it’s selling itself short.

Eric Hanson

Eric Hanson A few points.
A) Since no one has ever made an atomic bomb from spent fuel from a power reactor, I don’t see the proliferation issue as being that compelling.
See More

Robert Steinhaus

Robert Steinhaus As nuclear advocates, we should make available the best and most accurate information we have regarding proliferation vulnerabilities so as to place in the hands of decision makers and the public the information they need to ensure planet-wide nuclear safety. If we fail to do this, and actively suppress the best information we have so as to further our nuclear agenda, we deserve criticism.
Thorium MSR Protactinium separation proliferation vulnerability

The versatility of the Thorium Fuel Cycle implemented in MSRs and advantages of Thorium chemistry over Plutonium PUREX chemistry makes new Gen-IV Thorium MSRs less proliferation safe than existing Gen-III LWRs.

Thorium fuel has risks. Stephen F. Ashley, Geoffrey T. Parks, William J. Nuttall, Colin Boxall &Robin W. Grimes…/Ashley_Thorium_has_risks.pdf

Jason Correia

Jason Correia Eric– The point is not to convince the Amory Lovins types out of their philosophical bent, the point is to not be excluded from the emission target formulas that regulators are designing.

If your product’s relevancy is regulated away from the marketplace, it doesn’t matter who you convince.
See More

Alex Cannara

Alex Cannara Jason is exactly right. I and another PhD confronted Lovins after his very polished slideware talk at NCSE in DC. He has no idea of reality, even when it was pointed out that his mashing up of gobs of wind/solar leaves what he said was 4% of unpredictable, unmet demand. He didn’t seem to get that professional utility power is delivered at 0.9999 or better reliability.

But that’s to be expected, since he never got an engineering or physics degree and dropped out of Oxford at least, while pretending to be an “Oxford Don” on his resumes. (a don there is a tutor). What he is doing, 4/7, is promoting contract sales for his rocky Mountain Institute.

Our descendants’ needs won’t be served by such, just as they won’t be served by climate deniers who may or may not advertize support for nuclear power, yet avoid science themselves. The future of those coming after us depends on respect for reality and science, not business opportunity.

Alex Cannara

Alex Cannara Now to Robert’s: “Gen-IV Thorium MSRs less proliferation safe than existing Gen-III LWRs.”

You should know that’s false, Robert. If not, explain why you don’t and thus mislead others here.

I’ll repeat the clues you’ve already been given: a) the IAEA defines “self-protective” U233 as containing ~2.4% U232; b) U233 bombs are exceedingly expensive to try to build as our own failures to do so document; c) if your beloved fusion (for which I was blessed with 2 degrees) ever comes, it provides an efficient, direct method for making U233 “self protective” (did you miss Ralph Moir’s talk last TEAC?); and d) the addition of a few kg of U232 precursors, like Pa231 or Th230, makes plenty of U232 with <2% extra reactivity (fissile) demand.

Of course, more practically, a Pa233 or U233 thief would have to find a way to drain many kg of 700+C salt from a LFTR, with a 1:30 proportion of those targets in the salt, to get a critical mass in the end. You or someone must do so without dying and causing a noticeable power drop to reactor operators, radiation alarming, etc., etc. Perhaps you’d like to volunteer on the 1st operational one, Robert — if successful you could shout “I told you fusion was safer”!
Yes, we have a hard task, with anti-nukes all around, climate deniers offering dubious nuke support, and eternally repetitive claims about U233 bombs from fusion boosters.

I suggest all of us remember this group’s name, especially its middle word.

Rick Maltese

Rick Maltese I’ve asked for a new thread above on this topic of proliferation

Alex Cannara

Alex Cannara And to Eric: “Since no one has ever made an atomic bomb from spent fuel from a power reactor, I don’t see the proliferation issue as being that compelling.” — Chernobyl’s RBMK reactors were designed to do both. It all depends on designing a reactor to allow arbitrary removal/insertion of U238 for breeding in the right amount of time to Pu239.

Alex Cannara

Alex Cannara To your generalization about environmentalists and “low power”, “poverty”… that’s blather from the combustion industry — you know, the same folks that succeeded in supporting anti-nuke ‘environmentalists’ for decades because they knew nukes would put emitting power out of business, much as Seaborg predicted coal interests would react on the 2nd page of his letter to JFK:

Alex Cannara

Alex Cannara It’s remarkable fortunate that Kirk Sorenson’s rescue of ORNL docs uncovered that report. And less than 20 years after, our combustion folks were happily supporting naive enviro groups with lies about nuclear (pic).

Alex Cannara's photo.
Alex Cannara

Alex Cannara Which spread even more successfully to Australia (pic). So again, anyone claiming support of nuclear now and denial of the realities of 1.8 trillion tons of CO2 emissions on land/sea/air warming, plus acidification and imminent extinctions in oceans, is not one to rely on to give trusted scientific/environmental advocacy to nuclear power today. I’m just sayin’, we need no Lovins conjugates. We’re into reality, eh?

Alex Cannara's photo.
Mark Pawelek

Mark Pawelek W.r.t. the number of deaths caused by coal-fired energy. Just quote the WHO and medical journals for air pollution fatalities. Their estimate is 7m p.a. with most of those due to pollution from renewables – mainly wood and dung burnt in the home for cooking and warmth. The RE boosters hated it when I reiterated WHO’s figures for fatalities due to RE air pollution.

Mark Pawelek

Mark Pawelek You’ve phrased point 3 as a binary Yes/No. How about “I prefer to see intrinsically safe advanced reactors such as MSRs – I’ll still support Gen III+ PWRs and BWRs”

Alex Cannara

Alex Cannara Eric, this provides some explanation…

Eric Hanson

Eric Hanson Nevertheless, the Kidd article that started this thread makes some good points. Many of these people will never give any more than half hearted support for nuclear, regardless of their feeling on CO2.

Gijs Zwartsenberg

Gijs Zwartsenberg Eric Hanson, thanks for posting article. I did read it and I totally agree with the author on his central topic:
pro-nuclear needs a narrative. Pro-nuclear needs to change from bein a position to being a movement.
And I think there is the potential for this movement to start happening.

Virgil Fenn

Virgil Fenn Rod Adams replied to the decarbonizesa dot com piece Eric Hanson posted above. It makes me reconsider my blame it on the fear of radiation”. I quote it verbatim here.
” Rod AdamsJuly 8, 2011 at 5:10 pm
Your analysis leaves open an important question wh
ose answer offers the key to pronuclear success – “Why?”
The mission of the antinuclear movement is clear enough, as you stated. It is a simple “NO”. However, pronuclear activists hand that opposition all of the moral strength that they need by accepting the premise that the basis for the “NO” is fear of radiation or fear of the bomb or fear of the possibility of a massively damaging accident that never seems to actually happen.
The real strength of the opposition to nuclear comes from the people who derive their wealth and power from the whole range of economic activities required to extract, refine, transport, distribute and consume the hydrocarbons that produce the emissions that you want to stop. Fossil fuel pushers have a fundamental reason for disliking clean, concentrated, abundant, affordable nuclear energy. They hold sway in a LOT of decision making bodies that can delay nuclear projects and add to their cost. They have influence in the media due to their continuous use of paid advertising campaigns sustained over many decades. They have influence in foundations that have been formed from fossil fuel derived wealth and they have influence in powerful unions like those associated with the railroads that derive most of their steady income from moving bulky fuels like oil and coal.
Your message of DecarboniseSA scares the heck out of the very rich and powerful people who are rich and powerful because THEY SELL CARBON!
The real way to defeat the “NO” to nuclear energy is to find people who benefit from “YES” to nuclear energy. The fuel suppliers have concentrated strength, but the majority of the world’s population does not supply fuel; they consume fuel and have to pay high prices, accept nasty pollution, and suffer through periods of supply constraints. Some of those consumers are major corporations in their own right and have a lot of sway – they just need to be told (over and over again) why fission is so much better than combustion.
Cheap fuel
No emissions
Reliable power plants
Responsive enough to power warships (so other ships are a piece of cake)
great jobs
Tremendous growth opportunities for future generations
Incredible record of public safety
Pointing out the means, motive and opportunities that the fossil fuel industry has had to kneecap nuclear technology (including many “inside jobs” at supposedly “nuclear” companies) helps to knock the antinuclear movement off of the moral high ground of being ideologically motivated.
It is a worthy battle, but never expect it to be easy.
Rod Adams
Publisher, Atomic Insights “

Eric Hanson

Eric Hanson Speaking of Rod Adams, this story from Atomic Insights is in the same vein of the Steven Kidd piece that started this thread. There is a segment of the green-left that think that CO2 emissions are inseparable from capitalism or at least they want people to belive that they are inseparable. Therefore, one must not just tackle CO2 emissions, one must dismantle capitalism. Naomi Kline is one of these people.

Nuclear energy presents these people with a huge problem. If capitalism can be separated from CO2 emissions, then there is no need to dismantle capitalism. These people view nuclear energy as a potential savior of capitalism, and that is the last thing they want. Therefore, they will always be against nuclear energy, regardless of its advantages. Some will be honest about why they oppose nuclear energy. Others will not be.

This is why much of the green-left still go on about how successful Germany’s “Energy Transition” is. It is only a success if your aim is to de-industrialize a nation, which is exactly what is happening in Germany and exactly what this portion of the green-left wants. Well paid industry jobs are leaving.

” Finally, I asked him why he thought nuclear power should be eliminated even after he told me that he agreed that nuclear power was good for the economy. His reply was simply that an additional goal of the antinuclear movement (as far as he was concerned) was in fact the reduction of economic activity, since according to him, the greatest cause of ecological damage was increased economic activity.
So in his mind, the fact that nuclear power was a boon for the economy was all the more reason to try to eliminate it. “

” He said that economic expansion was bad for people because it distracted from the true quality of life, which consists of community and social activities that are mostly threatened by improved prosperity, rather than improved by it.”…/

Alex Cannara

Alex Cannara Lot s of words and tagging, like “green-left”, whatever that is, Eric. The point made by Rod is simple — the form of capitalism we’ve allowed the fossil-fuel industry to enjoy is about as “left” as policy can be — subsidized, protected, inured from loss, forgiven for life-threatening outputs, allowed to endanger national security by facilitating wars that kill fellow citizens,and even allowed to derail legislative actions to provide better alternatives.

Using hackneyed phrasing, like there’s a “green-left that think that CO2 emissions are inseparable from capitalism” simply exposes the clay feet of fossil-fuel businesses that have for so long tried to hide from responsibility, as by paying for protesters ads at Shoreham ~30 years ago (pic reminder — 1986 solar, eh?!).

If any group has subverted capitalism, it’s been the combustion industry. And they’ll be held harmless, as the adults who care try to clean up for our descendants.

Alex Cannara's photo.
Mark Pawelek

Mark Pawelek @Eric – the green far left have some dodgy equations:

nuclear power == centralization == multinational capitalism

renewables == decentralization == local democracy

In the real world, there seems to be no basis for these beliefs. I think they “believe” this because this gives them a sense of political optimism. Even pessimists need to be optimistic about something!

Eric Hanson

Eric Hanson Dodgy indeed, not to mention stupid and dangerous.

Alex Cannara

Alex Cannara Mark, I ran into an anti-nuke last night, and indeed “distributed generation” is their mantra now. I guess a gas plant making up for a wind farm’s stillness is”distributed generation” too?

I’d ask any worried about “multinational capitalism” to write GE, who just bought Siemens’ wind stuff, and decide if windmills can no longer be their beloved? ;]

Michael Shellenberger gets the message right on. How we can…

We need to share this message widely from Michael Shellenberger, president of the Breakthrough Institute. It is vital and desperately needed. The timing is good when so many are looking to the Paris Summit this December 2015 for answers. It is not the heady intellectual ecomodernist jargon about “decoupling” that was present in the Ecomodernist Manifesto, that would risk losing people. Michael modestly and effectively delivers a great script telling us a message that sounds like we should have known this all along, yet it is original, straight forward, and the message makes it seem like fear is a real burden and that we need to grow up without saying that. Bravo Michael Shellenberger.

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

twitter this short link:
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"

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.