Google Tech-Talk: "Why Didn't Thorium MSR Happen?"
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.