The art of changing your mind:

As a pragmatist, I flow where the data takes me. In the realm of energy to power the world, the data flow has taken me to nuclear energy. If you are locked into an ideology that has very little wiggle room and you don’t invest in some serious critical thinking, you will never change. There are a lot of people in this arena and hopefully I am not perceived as one of them.

Back in 2007, I discovered a nuclear reactor technology based on thorium as a fuel and molten salt as a moderator in the liquid reactor. Interestingly, the technology was developed back in the 1960’s and never made available for commercial use. As I studied the technology I became convinced it was the future of nuclear energy; clean, safe, reliable without the alleged issues of today’s light water reactors. Thorium fuel is the future, but I am more concerned about what we can do now, not later.

This is where I was able to change my thinking and focus on technology that is available now. What I discovered was another advanced fast spectrum molten salt reactor design that not only addresses the long term energy solution but also today’s needs. Over the last 60 years, the nuclear industry produced tons of unused radioactive fuel called spent nuclear fuel (SNF). With all that existing fuel and newer fast reactor designs to consume it, there isn’t a need for the thorium reactors for the next couple hundred years.

All that unused nuclear fuel is scattered all over the country, safely stored in concrete and steel canisters placed in concrete cask, both above ground and partially below ground at each individual power plant. In order for that unused fuel to be consumed in advanced fast reactors it has to be moved to an advanced fuel conversion facility. The HI-STORE CISF in Carlsbad NM would be the perfect location for such a facility next to the stored SNF. All we have to do is change a few minds.

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Better Energy Part Two

The AP1000 is a GEN3+ nuclear power plant designed and sold by Westinghouse Electric Company. The plant is a pressurized water reactor with improved use of passive nuclear safety. In December 2005, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) approved the final design certification for the AP1000 as our future nuclear reactor standard. Unfortunately the AP1000 ended up a partial failure for Westinghouse caused by many technical revisions and the many law suits by the anti-nuclear groups. In the end of what will be a 15 year nightmare, there may only be six AP1000 to commercialize; two in the US and four in China. There has to be a better way.

Small Modular Reactors (SMR) is making its way through the USNRC process today. NuScale Power has a flexible design and is redefining nuclear manufacturing. SMRs promise to bring nuclear power to the masses in much the same way that the Ford Model T brought mobility to the masses over a hundred years ago. The NuScale’s reactor is still a water cooled fission reactor that uses solid uranium fuel and creates spent nuclear to be disposed of. NuScale is only one of several SMR designs being developed around the world, including Holtec’s SMR-160. However, there still has to be a better way than water cooled small modular reactors.

The better way would be a scaleable molten salt reactor deign base on a single reactor core with modular heat transfer loops for low Mwh, detached from a national grid, up to 1000+ Mwh for clean reliable base load utility grid electricity 24×7. The ideal fuel source would be to use up all the stored unused nuclear materials, such as, spent nuclear fuel, depleted uranium, and even weapon grade plutonium or MOX, which will last centuries.

Elysium Industries is working through the USNRC to deliver the first molten chloride salt fast reactor to provide high heat for a long life cycle in a close loop system to produce electricity, industrial heat and even hydrogen transportation fuels, without waste. For me, the Elysium system is the better way that I can support.

Better Energy Part One:

In the early years of the nuclear industry there was this energetic burst of ideas of how to develop nuclear reactors to produce heat to create steam to generate electricity. A heat source is all that was needed, be it coal, O&G or nuclear fission. Because the nuclear industry was so new, there was some confusion about which reactor type to use. There were basically three different design strategies that would produce heat needed to generate electricity.

Water cooled solid uranium fueled reactors; were originally designed by the US Navy for their ships and were very small and efficient for use on remote ships at sea where there was plenty of water for cooling purposes. When the AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) decided to upscale these water cooled reactors for land use, several obstacles had to be overcome. The industry overcame all those at great expense and now there are almost 500 reactors world wide producing trillions of megawatts of clean, safe electricity and spent nuclear fuel.

Molten salt thorium fueled reactor; was also designed and prototyped for 6 years as the commercial solution to nuclear powered energy during that same period. Unfortunately, through misunderstanding by non-scientific politicians, there was a lot of confusion about switching to a thorium based fuel system. Thorium molten salt reactors could have been any size, used any where, without any safety concerns, and did not produce a waste stream for proliferation. Perfect solution, lacked funding.

Molten salt cooled solid fuel fast breeder reactor; was originally designed and prototyped over a 30 year period as a clean commercial solution that used existing spent nuclear fuel reprocessed and did not produce more waste. It actually breed its own fuel but this program was also defunded by a very confused President and because of competition from the established water cooled nuclear industry.

Now the industry is at a crossroad again between existing designs or switching to more financially efficient reactors. At the same time the anti-nuclear movement is continuing their war on nuclear even with all the proof that nuclear is safer, cleaner, more reliable, more efficient, and in the long run more cost effective than all other sources to power the world.

The ICPP Report has been ‘hacked’

The ICPP (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) of 2015 promoted the need for clean nuclear energy in order to save the earth from climate change. Just three years later the ICPP Report 2018 attacks nuclear power, as a key climate solution, by promoting the notion that it risks nuclear weapons proliferation, may cause childhood leukemia, and destroys the natural environment. So which report is right and which report is wrong because both were signed off by the consensus of climate change scientist.

Without a doubt, the ICPP Report has been taken over by politics. There has always been a bias to favor the wind and solar energy industries because they provide the broadest range of wealth distribution from end to end of the product and labor life cycles. That cycle would consist of the mining operations in Africa with child labor to the manufacturing of toxic materials to be assemble into the product by cheap Chinese labor and imported into the US without any tariffs to protect the US renewable industry. And to add insult to injury, the US tax payer pays up to 30-50% of the cost in subsidies to install the wind and solar farms all over our beautiful landscape.

In fact, study after study over the last 40 years finds that nuclear is the safest way to make reliable electricity, and climate scientists found that nuclear energy has saved 1.8 million lives by preventing premature deaths from air pollution. Where nuclear was 19% of U.S. electricity last year, solar and wind still constitute just 1.3% and 6.3% of electricity in the U.S., and 1.3% and 3.9% of electricity globally.
And yet IPCC describes nuclear technology as inherently flawed in contrast to renewable’s whose problems can be solved through “policy interventions.” In reality, there is no policy intervention that can change the physics of making electricity.

I actually supported parts of the ICPP 2015 Report the last time around because it actually recognized nuclear energy as a clean solution to managing climate change. With their recent position on nuclear energy, throwing out accusations that are baseless, makes me reconsider the entire issue of the climate change agenda.

Mothers for Nuclear:

I am not sure the #MeToo movement really conveys the real power women have in this world. There are many example to choose from if you actually studied the topic. I am only interested in just one women that changed the world – Marie Curie, also known as Madame Curie.

She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person, and only woman, to win two Nobel Prizes, one for physics, in 1903, and the other for chemistry. This occurred during the time when the world didn’t even know about nuclear radiation and her discoveries with radiation has made her the first mother of nuclear.

But more important than any of her many recognitions, Marie Curie was the first atomic humanist. What’s an atomic humanist? Someone who puts the power of the atom in service of the world, not herself. Her life exemplified her care, her courage, her passion, and her commitment.

Her greatest achievement was to put the power of radiation in service of humankind. When World War I broke out, she went to the French government with a plan: she would create and oversee, with her 17 year-old daughter Irene, 200 mobile medical units — which would become known as “petites Curies” — to use x-rays to diagnose injuries. She invented hollow needles containing “radium emanation,” a radioactive gas, now known as radon, to be used for sterilizing infected tissue. During four years of war, Marie’s petites Curies treated an astonishing one million wounded soldiers.

In 1979, another women as the lead actress in the movie called ‘The China Syndrome’ put the fear of radiation on center stage and completely shut down the US Nuclear Industry. Jane Fonda became the lead activist against nuclear energy and convinced other mothers of the potential dangers of radiation on their children with the power of emotional fear.

Today, Mothers for Nuclear (https://mothersfornuclear.org/) are fighting for nuclear’s transcendent moral purpose of achieving peace, prosperity, and environmental protection. As Marie Curie said, “Nothing in life is to be feared, only understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we might fear less.”

Our energy debate is actually anti-human:

First problem is that our energy discussion is biased. What I noticed was that for certain forms of energy, namely solar and wind, all I ever heard were positives. With others, especially nuclear, all I ever heard were negatives. But when I researched the different production processes, for example, I found that it’s actually far more dangerous to mine for the raw materials in wind turbines–rare earth metals–than for coal. That doesn’t mean that coal is better than wind, but it does mean that we’re not looking at negatives of one and we are looking (only) at negatives of another. If we’re doing that, we are not going to make the right decisions.

The second problem is that our energy discussion is sloppy. Let’s take the issue of CO2 levels. There’s a concern that because CO2 is a warming agent of sorts, when we increase the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, we might expect it to have a warming impact. What I found was that when people were talking about CO2 levels, they talked about it very sloppily saying things like, “Do you believe that climate change is real?” That question is too vague. I believe that CO2 has some impact, but not a significant impact and definitely not a catastrophic impact. That does not make me a climate change denier.

The third thing, which I think is the most important, is that our discussion of energy is anti-human. It doesn’t truly value human life. Take the climate issue; You have people say, “Oh, I care about CO2 because it’s harmful to human life” and yet often oppose the two best forms of energy that don’t emit CO2, nuclear power and hydropower. If we rank energy technologies from most safe to least safe, which is the safest technology ever invented? Nuclear power by a long shot.

What’s going on is that the standard that we’re using in our energy discussion is not human life. It’s “being green.”. North Korea is a much greener country than South Korea when you look at it in terms of human impact. Where would you prefer to live?

Was Fukushima really the cause?

Japan announced for the first time that a worker at the Fukushima nuclear power plant died after suffering radiation exposure. What actually happened is the government decided last week that the worker’s family should be paid compensation and this was misunderstood to be a cause and effect situation.

A leading British radiation scientist says the Japanese government’s decision to pay workers compensation to the family of a Fukushima nuclear plant worker who died of lung cancer is unsupported by the best available science.

“There is a vanishingly small chance that this man’s lung cancer was as a result of the radiation he was exposed to,” said Dr. Geraldine Thomas, Professor in the Department of Molecular Pathology at Imperial College, London.

The man, who was in his 50s, died from lung cancer that was diagnosed in 2016. There is no evidence it happened because of Fukushima. Instead, it appears the compensation was awarded just because he was a career nuclear worker. Who worked at Fukushima a couple of times. Who got cancer.

First, lung cancer is not the type of cancer caused by nuclear accidents, and certainly not this soon after exposure or because of such doses. It took decades for lung cancer to appear in the atomic bomb survivors, and those were at much higher doses than this worker received.

Second, the radiation workers in Japan, including Fukushima, as with all radworkers around the world, do not have any more cancers than the general population. The people around Fukushima do not have any more cancers than the general population and never will. They never got enough of a dose.

Like all human populations, cancer occurs in about 20%-30% of all people, depending on where you live. In Japan, it’s 20%. So Fukushima nuclear workers, Tokyo sushi chefs, and automotive workers in Toyota City, all have the same cancer rates, which means that 20% of these people will get cancer. And lung cancer is the fourth most common type in Japan, behind breast, colorectal and stomach, so it is not noteworthy that this man died of lung cancer in his 50s.

Martin Kral
Roswell