Interview with Paul Haubenreich, June 13, 2012
Over the last several weeks we at Flibe Energy have spent a fair amount of time supporting the progress of Gordon McDowell’s “Thorium Remix 2012” effort, and one of the activities has been interviewing some of the people who actually worked on the Molten-Salt Reactor Program at Oak Ridge back in the 1960s and 1970s.
One of the leaders of the MSRP effort was Paul Haubenreich, who was the co-author along with Dick Engel of the journal article “Experience with the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment” in February 1970. Mr. Haubenreich is a WWII veteran and graduated from the University of Tennessee and the Oak Ridge School of Reactor Technology (ORSORT). Mr. Haubenreich worked on the earlier Homogeneous Reactor Experiment-2 (an aqueous homogenous reactor) and then went on to supervise the construction and operation of the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE).
I visited Mr. Haubenreich at his home and he began to tell very interesting stories about his experiences in the MSRP. I asked if I could record what he was saying and simply used the voice recorder app on my Droid phone. It was the first time I used it so I didn’t realize it had a default setting of only 5 minutes. That’s why the first few files are broken up into inconvenient chunks, and I apologize for that.
In the first part of the interview, Mr. Haubenreich describes the circumstances of shutting down the MSRE at the end of 1969. He indicates that the reason the MSRE was shut down due to the specific instructions of Milton Shaw, who was an enthusiastic proponent of the Liquid-Metal Fast Breeder Reactor (LMFBR). Shaw wanted the funding that was being used to support the MSRE used instead to support LMFBR development. Weinberg attempted to delay the shutdown but ultimately Shaw prevailed. Haubenreich arranged the shutdown so that the MSRE operations team could go home for Christmas and spend it with their families. He talked about how uranium had previously been removed from the salt, and how it could have been used again to remove the U-233 in the salt, but that was not done and it led to the expensive and complicated remediation effort on the MSRE that took place in the 1990s and 2000s. The recording cut off and this part of the interview was lost.
In the second part, Mr. Haubenreich talked about his education at the ORSORT and talked about being educated in nuclear technology along with Milton Shaw, who later played a large role in the demise of molten-salt reactor technology research. He also talked about becoming the manager for the MSRE and his highly effective technique for preparing for the nuclear engineering professional exam.
The third part of the interview begins with his description of taking the professional exam in Nashville.
This was my first exposure to files in the AMR format, but I’ve found that it is much more compact than the equivalent MP3 file, so I’ve gone ahead and posted the files in this very compact format. I’ve used VLC Player to play back the files without any troubles.
Thanks to Eduardo Madrid, we are developing a transcript of the interview here.