Flibe Energy in the UK, part 3: Weinberg Launch

Thursday, September 8th began with a media opportunity at the British Science Festival that was set up by the Weinberg Foundation. I participated on a panel of six speakers, including Baroness Worthington, discussing the results of a recent poll showing that public support for nuclear energy was still quite strong in the UK.

Guardian: UK public confidence in nuclear remains steady

(Note: despite a request for correction, this article erroneously identifies me as “president” of the Weinberg Foundation. I do not serve in any official capacity with the Foundation beyond my enthusiasm and vigorous support.  It also erroneously applies some of the panelist’s earlier ADSR neutron beam comments to LFTR.)

We returned to the Palace of Westminster (Parliament) with the Baroness to jointly brief Charles Hendry MP with members of the Weinberg Foundation and DECC about LFTR technology and its potential to address growing concerns about nuclear waste and the plutonium stockpile of the United Kingdom.

We were then fortunate to have lunch with Baroness Worthington and her friend and former boss, Ian Marchant, CEO of Scottish and Southern Energy.  We enjoyed the first hand stories about the energy challenges of developing nations and the great work that Scottish and Southern and others are doing in this regard.  We also greatly appreciated the thoughtful insight into the energy needs and long-term energy views for the UK and world markets.

The leadership of the Weinberg Foundation began arriving at the Palace to prepare for the launch event that evening in the River Room. In typical form, I was fussing with a slide presentation that I would ultimately not give once I saw the group and the room.

Shortly before the evening launch event, Baroness Worthington and I were both interviewed by Justin Rowlatt, a reporter with the BBC who hosts the “Business Daily” radio segment. Justin was very affable and friendly, but what really entertained me was when he began the radio interview with the Baroness and put his “radio voice” on. It was a very excited voice, and so I determined that when it was my turn to be interviewed I would have to have a very excited and entertaining voice as well, so as not to sound too monotone.

Justin launched into a question sequence with the Baroness that she handled exceptionally well. So much so that I found myself marveling what a “pro” she was at things like this, and she handled his probing questions seemingly without any difficulty. Justin’s piece was aired on the BBC and can be downloaded as a podcast:

BBC Business Daily: The Nuclear Renaissance? (MP3 download)

Finally we came to the highlight of the day and the true reason for our trip to the UK–the “launch” of the Weinberg Foundation in the River Room of the Palace of Westminster. There were nearly 80 enthusiastic attendees, including government officials, media, Members of Parliament, top environmentalists and industry stakeholders. Duncan Clark summed the evening up very well, “I can’t remember the last time I stood in a room full of people concerned about climate change that was so full of optimism.”

Guardian: Thorium advocates launch pressure group

The event was kicked-off with excellent remarks by Baroness Worthington and John Durham, head of the Weinberg Foundation.

Alvin Weinberg’s son Richard delivered a moving personal tribute to the vision of his father.

Professor David Cope, the Director of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, gave a moving and equally personal testament to the vision and lasting influence of Alvin Weinberg, who had served as mentor to Dr. Cope during several graduate study exchanges.

I have long studied the research and life of Alvin Weinberg and was honored to tell about one of his greatest life achievements that was prematurely silenced at a critical cross-roads in our world history.  I can’t help but think that the events of this trip may play a part in bringing top decision makers again to this cross-roads, this time prepared with a more full understanding of the true benefits of each of the options before them.

During the open floor discussion, we were pleased to hear from Mike Mason, the Energy Policy Adviser for the Maldives, who has been following our efforts with LFTR for some time and who extolled the potential benefits of and need for carbon-free power for the 300 individually powered populated islands of the Maldives.  (I was only partly joking when I offered to personally assess and address those energy needs.)  We look forward future discussions about the unique needs of island nations and the convoyed benefits of LFTR technology, including desalination and ammonia production for agriculture, and synthesized diesel substitutes to support existing diesel-based infrastructure.

The energy in the room was palpable, the discussions were vigorous, and many of the attendees continued on with the discussions well past midnight.

We anticipate posting more of the videos taken of the remarks during the launch as they become available, but here are my brief remarks:

We could have returned home after the launch event, content that the trip had been well worth while, but this proved to be just the beginning of our adventures over the coming week. Stay tuned.



9 Replies to "Flibe Energy in the UK, part 3: Weinberg Launch"

  • Willie Zenk
    September 26, 2011 (12:02 am)

    What a neat event!

  • Nick
    September 26, 2011 (1:34 am)

    How cool would it be if the UK became the center of a true nuclear power renaissance, showing the world how to turn 'waste' plutonium and thorium into green energy. Does the UK government have money set aside for reactor waste disposal that could be used to fund LFTR development as a solution? Seems like that would be easier than coming up with new appropriations, considering the current austerity fad.

  • Matt B
    September 26, 2011 (4:43 pm)

    Hi Kirk, Your 5 minute talk was inspirational and smooth.

    Was Barabara Thomas, Lady Judge there? I understand she is incredibly connected in the nuclear industry and is very wealthy. How about Ian Hore-Lacy? He literally wrote the book "Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century".

  • Geoff Fenwick
    September 26, 2011 (8:52 pm)

    This is quite possibly the most important news the world has not heard about since its quiet invention over 50 years ago. Who would not support the end to the worlds energy problems, the end to most of the air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels? anyone that hears this and actually does a few minutes of research can find out that its a proven technology right from one of the fathers of nuclear technology! i can say enough nor hear enough about it….hope…we must demand clean sustainable energy like l.i.f.t.r from the powers that be in our respective countrys..

  • Steven Brown
    September 27, 2011 (5:37 am)

    If the UK leads the way for the USA toward energy independence, so be it. Ending our addiction to foreign oil would enable recovery from the deep economic recession we are in. All of the dollars that now flow to foreign oil producers would instead flow into the domestic energy sector, creating millions of jobs. Abundant, affordable energy could revive the domestic manufacturing sector, producing goods for both domestic consumption and for export. Lower manufacturing and transportation costs could allow those goods to be priced competitively against imported goods. Lower fuel costs would put greater spending power in the hands of consumers, further boosting the economy.

  • Steven Brown
    September 27, 2011 (5:46 am)

    More videos, Kirk. And don't cut off the applause and cheers at the end!

  • TerjeP
    September 27, 2011 (5:29 pm)

    LFTR once properly understood is indeed a story of hope. Keep spreading the message and we will reach critical mass.

  • Clark
    September 27, 2011 (10:58 pm)

    Members of the UK political campaigning group 38 Degrees can vote for a campaign to lobby the government to develop LFTRs here:

  • Clark
    September 28, 2011 (11:17 am)

    What's going on here? "Scottish and Southern Energy ends nuclear power plan… NuGen [formerly partly owned by SSE] was considering building a new nuclear power facility near Sellafield, in West Cumbria."

    Sellafield would seem the ideal place to develop a spent-fuel burning MSR, as the UK's reprocessing facility is located there. Is this bad news?

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