Jiang Mianheng gave the lead-off presentation at the International Thorium Energy Organization 2012 meeting in Shanghai, sponsored by the Shanghai Institute of Nuclear and Applied Physics and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Jiang Mianheng is the son of former president Jiang Zemin and a leader of CAS. After publication of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors in the July/August 2010 American Scientist he led a delegation to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to learn more about the ORNL molten salt reactors experience. In January 2011 the CAS announced a $350 million 5 year thorium MSR project engaging 400 people.
Videographer Gordon McDowell provided this initial draft of Jiang’s presentation. Jiang explains China’s GDP growth, urbanization, and increasing energy demand and concern about environmental impacts of burning fossil fuels. He presents the potential for using LFTR to solve these problems. You might spot some graphics from the American Scientist article and the Aim High presentation.
After his presentation I presented him a copy of THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal, which he insisted that I autograph.
I really enjoyed watching Alex Pasternack’s new short video on Dr. Edward Teller:
Ralph Moir had told me this story about Teller before, but watching it presented this way with the video interviews of Teller and short descriptions of projects that we worked on, was much richer. Teller was indeed a very unique kind of person, whose early experiences with Communism in Hungary shocked his mind into responses that others struggled to understand. I hesitate to cast any judgements since I certainly did not go through what Teller went through, but I have noticed that among Hungarian emigres to the US of a particular age (and I have met several) there is an intensity of personality that I have come to believe must be a product of this environment.
In posting this, I went back to reference an earlier post I had made for Alex’s previous effort, “The Thorium Dream”, and discovered to my horror that I had never posted it on the blog! So in attempting to rectify for that past oversight, here is his enjoyable short documentary on the growing effort to bring an understanding of thorium and the molten-salt reactor to the world.
Finally, Moir references the paper that he and Teller co-wrote, which was Teller’s final paper. For those of you who would like to read it, here it is in PDF form:
Thorium-Fueled Underground Power Plant Based on Molten Salt Technology, by Ralph Moir and Edward Teller, 2004
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!
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.
The Low-Carbon Earth Summit 2011 is being held in Dalian, China this week. I was originally going to attend but in the end was not able, so I am indebted to Dr. Harold Dodds of the University of Tennessee for giving my presentation at LCES-2011 yesterday.
The presentation is pretty simple and has an attached narration in the notes. I hope you enjoy it and I am very appreciative to Dr. Dodds for presenting it in Dalian.
Thanks to the indefatigable Gordon McDowell, my presentation at TEAC3 on May 12, 2011 is now available on YouTube:
Along with that of the inspiring and enlightening Dr. Robert Hargraves:
I hope you enjoy the presentations!
After the luncheon panel on “Green Technology: What’s Now & What’s Next” at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, in Aspen, I confronted Amory Lovins and asked him a simple question: “Is there any potential technological innovation that would cause you to reconsider your views on nuclear power?”
Lovins is the founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute and his anti-nuclear stance is well-known, as exemplified by this article entitled “Forget Nuclear.” Lovins claim is that nuclear is both unsafe and uneconomical as compared to new wind and solar capacity. His answer to my question was, essentially, “No.” When I mentioned that I am the writer of the thorium feature that ran in Wired last year he replied “Well, I recall thinking that you got the economics and the technology backward.”
I have great respect for the work of the Rocky Mountain Institute and I will not detail here the ways in which he has it wrong on thorium-based nuclear power (for that please see the book version of the thorium story, due out next spring from Macmillan Science)—other than to note that the close-mindedness epitomized by his reply is what got us into our current energy crisis in the first place. What I will do is share some of the insights from the panel, which featured futurist Peter Schwartz, co-founder of Global Business Network, and Andy Karsner, CEO of Manifest Energy. The consensus was that there’s great reason for optimism on the technology side and little reason for it on the policy and politics side.
“We’re in a remarkable period of this great storm of innovation worldwide,” said Schwartz. “The problem is in the U.S.” The problem, he added, was the inability of the government to take concrete, rational policy steps that will clear the way for green-technology innovation to reach the market and for innovative companies to succeed.
The unexpected boom in natural gas from shale deposits, said Karsner, could serve as a relatively low-carbon bridge to the renewable-energy-based economy of the future, but that the obstacles of pervasive regulation and perverse incentives could prevent that from happening.
“We’re just an anti-energy development country,” declared Karsner. “That’s where we are.”
In his new book Reinventing Fire, due out in the fall, Lovins argues that by 2050 we can build a non-fossil-fuel based energy industry that includes no nuclear, significantly less natural gas, no oil, and that essentially runs on wind and solar and other renewables, with an 80 percent decrease in carbon emissions and 180 percent growth in GDP. (I do not share that optimism.)
Schwartz—who does not share Lovins’ knee-jerk opposition to nuclear power—mentioned that we are on the verge of a “new industrial revolution” based on new energy technologies, that will transform many businesses. “Where that will lead manufacturing, energy, and other industries is an open question,” Schwartz added. “What’s unquestionable is that the range of options will continue to grow.”
Mutiplying options was another theme that each of the panelists promoted. Lovins mentioned the work of RMI spinoff FiberForge, which has led the way in developing cars made from ultralight materials, chiefly carbon fiber, that will require one-third the energy to power them. He claimed that at least three carmakers (including most visibly BMW) have adopted this strategy and four others are in process of adopting it—representing a “radically different competitive path in automaking.”
As options for energy sources, particularly in transportation, multiply, one risk is “consumer confusion,” said Schwartz. If there are cars on the market with multiple forms of power sources—plug-in hybrid, hydrogen battery, serial hybrid, diesel, biofuel, and so on—the question for buyers become “What do I want, and how amI supposed to think about that?”
Given the rapid advance of clean-energy technology, the larger question, said Karsner, is one of national competitiveness: “Will we use these new resources, including natural gas and the new technology ideas, to address our greatest problems [in the United States] or will we export the gas, deploy solar manufacturing facilities, and send our better ideas to China, to collateralize our debt to China to pay the Saudis?”
Three things to point out about this discussion:
a) It’s remarkable how many discussions of the future of energy come down to Us vs.Them, i.e., the U.S. vs. China.
b) There is broad agreement that technologies will be available to meet broad carbon-emission goals by 2050, if national policy is shifted.
c) It’s remarkable that in a discussion that centered around energy density and efficiency, nuclear power was hardly even mentioned.
I met Frankie Fenton and Des Kelleher at the ThEC2010 conference in London and saw them again recently at TEAC3 in Washington, DC. They’re working on a documentary about thorium reactors called,
Take a look!