Joe Bonometti and I have been colleagues and friends for a long time. At NASA we were the program manager and chief engineer for the MXER Tether technology program from 2003-2007 and we learned a lot about the dos and don’t of technology development.
Now Joe is working on a very large and excited technology development program and his understandings of tech development have grown immensely. Joe also did one of the very first “Tech-Talks” at Google on the subject of LFTR technology. I still remember how excited he was after he gave the talk and he called me and said “you’ve got to get out here!”
Many thanks to Gordon McDowell for editing this video!
Last week I had an opportunity to travel to the San Francisco Bay Area and to give a “TechTalk” at Google. I chose to expand on some remarks that I had made earlier in the year at the ThEC2011 conference in New York about why the thorium molten-salt reactor wasn’t developed. I had done quite a bit of research on the political circumstances in the late 1960s and early 1970s that accompanied the decision by the US Atomic Energy Commission (USAEC) to end the research at Oak Ridge on the MSR. Much of the material that I found I incorporated into the “Nuclear Historical Timeline” that I have been maintaining.
So last Friday, December 16, I gave this presentation on the Google campus:
I greatly appreciate Iain McClatchie for shooting the video and Gordon McDowell for the editing.
Why didn’t it happen?
Short answer–because all of the political, technological, and financial focus was on the liquid-metal fast breeder reactor. Later on, due to fears about non-proliferation, the US cancelled plans to commercially reprocess spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium, and the case for the fast breeder reactor was toast. Because there were no fast breeder reactors to take all the plutonium that had been generated from light-water reactors, in 1982 the US government passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and started collecting a tax that would be intended to pay for what would eventually become Yucca Mountain.
Energy from Thorium reader Raul Parolari thought that some of our posts should be presented in other languages, so he offered this translation to French.
French translation follows…
Dr. Ritsuo Yoshioka of the International Thorium Molten-Salt Forum has relayed some sad news to us:
“This is a very sad notice. Professor Kazuo Furukawa passed away on December 14th 2011. He had a cancer surgery in last summer, and he once came back. In last October, he gave several lectures at different seminars, and gave lectures on the Internet TVs, very actively. He was in a hospital since last November in order to relax his body, but it is a time we have to say the final words. I and other staffs will keep promoting his will, that is to realize Thorium MSR on this world. We hope your cooperation to this Forum, same as before.”
I had the great pleasure of meeting Dr. Furukawa at the first Thorium Energy Conference (ThEC2010) in London, England in October 2010. Dr. Furukawa was very friendly to all but forceful in his conviction that only the molten-salt reactor had the potential to usefully realize the titanic energies of thorium.
The conference featured speakers from other thorium-related reactor topics, including solid-fueled thorium reactors and accelerator-driven thorium reactors. Without fail, at the conclusion of any talk on a thorium reactor type other than an MSR, Dr. Furukawa would raise his had for the first question, and in his broken English spoken with great earnestness, would try to convey his intense convictions in the superlative merit of the molten-salt reactor.
This was a man who wasn’t going to waste any time.
Shortly after the London conference, Dr. Furukawa and Senator Keishiro Fukushima traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee and I drove up there and served as a bit of a host for them. We visited several locations and I enjoyed having some time to talk with Dr. Furukawa.
He shared several stories with me that stay with me–one might even say that they haunt me.
The first was his description of being a young sickly man on the island of Honshu in August 1945. He had been called into military service to repel the anticipated American invasion of the Japanese home islands. He knew he would die soon in the invasion. He told me that when he heard that the bombs had gone off in Hiroshima and Nagasaki he realized that the Japanese would surrender, and for the first time in many years, he believed that he would live and have a future.
He told me that he committed his life to improving the lives of all humanity because of his elation that his life would continue. I had heard stories of American soldiers who believed that they would certainly be killed in a Japanese invasion, but this was the first time I ever heard the same story but told from a Japanese perspective.
He also shared a copy of a talk given by Alvin Weinberg called “The Protohistory of the Molten-Salt Reactor”. This talk contained some very valuable insights into the beginnings of fluoride reactor research in the US, but then Furukawa made a casual, almost off-hand remark:
“Alvin would never talk about the MSR in the United States the way he would talk about it with us when he was abroad.”
I realized that Weinberg was truly scared by the American nuclear community and what they had done and still could do to him and his colleagues because of their defense of the MSR concept. And Furukawa confirmed that Weinberg was a great advocate of the concept when he was “out of the watchful ears” of the American nuclear community.
Farewell, Dr. Furukawa, and thank you for all that you did for us.