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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 12, 2014 3:29 pm 
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Kurt Selner:

"Why do you go to work?"

I really have no choice. I am like the amoeba. I want to survive. I have to eat. I definitely would rather stay home.

"Because building and maintaining an infrastructure is very different than researching something new. Anything someone can do with an established technology is typically low risk and high benefit."

Innovation takes place in infrastructure all the time. As new materials, tools and designs are developed these are incorporated. Otherwise all roads, bridges, buildings, airports, etc would be the same. Take the chemical industry, they always are researching something new. They are constantly changing the infrastructure in their factories. I was told a few years ago that 3M has about 30,000 employees and sells 50,000 products. They find new products that can be applied to many things including infrastructure. Steel mills are infrastructure and they try many different processes. It's called progress and the idea is to move forward for the common good. Profits are then made by providing people's needs. It promotes the general welfare.

Why shouldn't the government help find better ways to make electricity? It promotes the general welfare. The difference between this and other innovation is the amount of capital and the time it takes to get a pilot plant built. It can also be justified in another direction. A strong infrastructure and a vibrant economy is the best investment in defense that this country can make.

The HTGCR I noted earlier is infrastructure and was supported by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). We could do it then. It enabled all the light water reactors to be built. It can be done again to enable improved reactor types. These will then solve many world problems.

"One of the costs was that people were going to die. They have this down to a near science."

I guess I am lucky. I work at a place where the bar is always raised to improve safety. Human life is valued more than just some cold actuarial number. I hope your brother can see beyond putting a simple dollar sign on a human life. Everyone can benefit in the building of the building AND people can go home without being hurt. I've seen it done. As described above, there is always innovation and that includes innovation in safe working procedures and techniques.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 13, 2014 2:06 am 
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Eino wrote:
Kurt Selner:

"Why do you go to work?"

I really have no choice. I am like the amoeba. I want to survive. I have to eat. I definitely would rather stay home.


To eat you need food. To buy food you need money. To get money you have to make a profit. For someone to hire you they have to make a profit. That person that hired you most likely makes more money than you do. It's those "fat cats" that pay your wages.

If the "fat cats" don't make money then you don't make money. Profit by itself is not evil. Profit requires risks. I understand that there are people that will not explain the risks their workers take in doing their job, a job that makes the business owners money. That is not tolerable. If the worker is informed of the risks chooses to take those risks, including the risk of death, to make a profit then I have no problem with that.

Eino wrote:
Innovation takes place in infrastructure all the time.


That's not what I said. I said government is poor at innovation. To drive innovation we need competition. Government is practically the definition of a monopoly. If the government takes over something then competition is reduced or eliminated.

Eino wrote:
Why shouldn't the government help find better ways to make electricity?


The best way it can help energy research is to not fund it. Politicians like to pick winners and losers based on what will get them elected, not necessarily on what is the best way of doing something. I remember our host, Mr. Sorensen, saying something similar about NASA. NASA's job is not to put things into space, it's to divert federal money to the politician's district. The Department of Energy is no different, their job is to get politicians elected not to solve the nation's energy problems.

I say let the open market figure out the energy winners and losers. The energy source that can make the most money wins. I believe LFTR could be a winner if it wasn't for all the government money funding wind power, solar panels, and electric cars.

Eino wrote:
"One of the costs was that people were going to die. They have this down to a near science."

I guess I am lucky. I work at a place where the bar is always raised to improve safety.


It appears you misunderstand. People die. That's just how the world works. If you get one thousand people working for a year on a high rise building there is a small nonzero chance that someone is going to die.

I googled how many people died during the construction of the Empire State Building. A couple places said five workers died. Not all were falls, one got hit by a truck. As I recall from that conversation with my brother building a modern structure, with modern safety systems in place, it is expected that two or three people would die while building a structure about the size of the Empire State Building. In about a century of building high rises we have cut the worker death rate in half. Whether that is good or bad I guess depends on your point of view.

Putting in more safety systems and creating more safety protocols costs money. At some point there is no profit in it. That means the building does not get built, a lot of people can't find work, and a lot of people don't have a place to live.

Absolute safety means no profit. No profit means no one works. Therefore we must place safety second.

Now that NASA has decided that safety is first they cannot put humans into space. We are now seeing the same thing with nuclear power. Unless or until someone can prove a nuclear reactor absolutely safe the US government will not approve the design. While the government is looking for the impossible they will allow many more people die from falling off of windmill towers and solar panels.

No US politician wants to take the risk of having someone die from a nuclear power accident. That would be political suicide. That is why I believe we will not see any real domestic research on nuclear power until some other country does nuclear power better.

Why was it that the Soviets put the first man into space? Because they weren't afraid to let people die to do so. Why was the second man in space an American? Because politicians and voters lost their fear of allowing Americans to die in space when it meant that another nation just proved themselves superior to America.

I believe we are going to see history repeat itself with nuclear power.

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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 13, 2014 7:30 am 
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Kurt Selner wrote:

"Putting in more safety systems and creating more safety protocols costs money."

So do the insurance costs of paying for a dead man. There is his funeral, his wife to be cared for and his (or her) children. This is an incentive for money oriented folks to improve safety. (That is the only thing some seem to understand.) There is also OSHA and the state versions of OSHA. Fines are levied when sites do not meet requirements. Of course there is the humane incentive that affects most of us. We do not want to see the people we work with die.

All a fellow did the other day was cheat on safety by ducking under a red safety rope. Red ropes denote an unsafe area and are not to be crossed unless briefed and approved to do work within. He was gone. Safety is taken very seriously today. It is not the same as when the Empire State Bldg was built or Hoover Dam. Safety is number 1. A project becomes tainted if people die.

"Government is practically the definition of a monopoly. If the government takes over something then competition is reduced or eliminated."

Government bids out most of it's tasks. Innovative contractors get those bids. Government bids out a lot of equipment. There have been a lot of innovations made due to government contracts. Think of going to the moon. The old joke by the astronauts was that they are sitting on a bomb built by the cheapest contractor. Think of the tremendous innovations created by military contractors. Nuclear power is one such example. The Navy contracts out its reactors. Boeing does a lot of development under government contracts. Computers got a big boost under government contracts. A lot of people don't know this, but the Post Office does a lot of innovation by bidding for high tech equipment via contract. I'm quite sure with a little digging, I'd find a lot of electronic innovations spurred by government contract.

I saw this show about the building of the Hoover Dam a while back. The contractors froze the hillside to hold it in place. I think that was the first time it was done. Rather innovative support for a government project.

There's a mantra out there heard again and again that government is bad. Well - Government is the people! It's not a dictatorship like the big businesses. You've got to question the brainwashing they do to our heads sometimes. ( No - I don't work for the government and I'm not here to help you.)

"Now that NASA has decided that safety is first they cannot put humans into space. We are now seeing the same thing with nuclear power. Unless or until someone can prove a nuclear reactor absolutely safe the US government will not approve the design."

I partially concede to this. Even the dimmest bulb like myself sees that development in the US is frozen due to Fear Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). However, I think it used to be worse. I see a crack developing in the fear's armor. The Thorium people are educating people on the good things that can happen if this form of energy is allowed. They are getting the facts and figures out there. People are being shown that nuclear power is actually the safest thing out there. Some people are clamoring for it. They have some of the hard core environmental groups backed against the ropes and maybe for the first time these folks have real fight on their hands.

Nukes are being built in other countries. People see this this. They look at France and say, "Why not here?"

The real change will come when the money people see that they can get cheap power from dirt. I think a pilot plant from the government would go a long way to showing them an opportunity to create additional wealth for them while also benefiting the rest of us.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 13, 2014 7:51 am 
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The french know how to live. ha. 'savoir-vivre'


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 13, 2014 12:33 pm 
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Eino wrote:
wrote:

Kurt Selner wrote:
Putting in more safety systems and creating more safety protocols costs money.


So do the insurance costs of paying for a dead man. There is his funeral, his wife to be cared for and his (or her) children.
But any determination of the safety of "Brand X" should take into account the comparative safety of the alternative "Brand Y". Put TOO much "safety" on nuclear, you get coal instead which is grotesquely worse than even the worst nuclear. Someone should sue the NRC for causing so many deaths by coal pollution. Class Action anyone?

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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 13, 2014 3:53 pm 
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Eino wrote:
We do not want to see the people we work with die.


Of course not, but people understand that the mission comes first.

Eino wrote:
All a fellow did the other day was cheat on safety by ducking under a red safety rope. Red ropes denote an unsafe area and are not to be crossed unless briefed and approved to do work within. He was gone. Safety is taken very seriously today. It is not the same as when the Empire State Bldg was built or Hoover Dam. Safety is number 1. A project becomes tainted if people die.


An excellent example of safety second. Had safety come first there would not have been just red rope marking off an unsafe area, there would have been an impassible reinforced concrete wall. But building such a wall would be expensive so safety came second and a rope was used instead.

Eino wrote:
Innovative contractors get those bids.


See what you did there? The government did not innovate, the private sector did. All the government did is choose which one was the most innovative.

That is what I want to see, the government allowing the private sector to innovate. Instead we have government research into nuclear fusion. Had it been any private sector project it would have been eliminated or scaled back a long time ago. Instead we have the closest thing to immortality, a government project. It seems that once a government project is created it cannot die.

Eino wrote:
I saw this show about the building of the Hoover Dam a while back. The contractors froze the hillside to hold it in place. I think that was the first time it was done. Rather innovative support for a government project.

There's a mantra out there heard again and again that government is bad. Well - Government is the people! It's not a dictatorship like the big businesses. You've got to question the brainwashing they do to our heads sometimes. ( No - I don't work for the government and I'm not here to help you.)

"Now that NASA has decided that safety is first they cannot put humans into space. We are now seeing the same thing with nuclear power. Unless or until someone can prove a nuclear reactor absolutely safe the US government will not approve the design."

I partially concede to this. Even the dimmest bulb like myself sees that development in the US is frozen due to Fear Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). However, I think it used to be worse. I see a crack developing in the fear's armor. The Thorium people are educating people on the good things that can happen if this form of energy is allowed. They are getting the facts and figures out there. People are being shown that nuclear power is actually the safest thing out there. Some people are clamoring for it. They have some of the hard core environmental groups backed against the ropes and maybe for the first time these folks have real fight on their hands.


Government is not bad. Government is necessary. Problem is that the politicians and bureaucrats in the government are supposed to regulate safety in nuclear power but that is not what they are doing. Politicians want to see money flow into their district and pet projects. These project include things like nuclear fusion, wind, solar, and electric cars. Politicians will see thorium fission as a competitor to their projects and can hide behind "safety regulation" to see that thorium does not happen.

Living in Iowa its real hard to drive down a highway and not see windmills on the horizon, or see semi trucks pulling big windmill blades. We live in the "wind corridor" you see, so we must put up windmills. But windmills are not profitable, so the government gives them subsidies to make them profitable. Lots of people die building these windmills but the nuclear power plants around here have "safety first" and they can't make any money. No one died you see but there was a safety violation with an open valve or something so the plant needs to be shut down and investigated. All of this at the expense of the utility of course.

Side note: Growing up I had never heard the term "wind corridor" before. I always thought we lived in "tornado alley". Let's see if the TV news reports how many windmills went down after this latest storm blows through.

Eino wrote:
Nukes are being built in other countries. People see this this. They look at France and say, "Why not here?"

The real change will come when the money people see that they can get cheap power from dirt. I think a pilot plant from the government would go a long way to showing them an opportunity to create additional wealth for them while also benefiting the rest of us.


I do not believe we will see a research thorium plant again from the government until some other nation does it first. The way the laws are set up now no one in the USA can buy the quantity or quality of reactor fuel required without government approval. No government agency will approve it until allowed to do so by the politicians.

As you have pointed out the politicians still answer to the public. Well, the public has been giving them mixed signals for a very long time. The people don't want nuclear but yet they want cheap electricity. The politicians that know nuclear is safe and cheap have to fight with the politicians that want to divert federal money into their district. In the east that means coal. In the midwest that means wind. In the west that means solar and hydro. Then there are some places in the USA that would rather see us sit in the dark eating raw vegetables than develop any energy.

So long as safety is first we will continue down this long slow path until everything goes dark and we are all eating raw vegetables.

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Disclaimer: I am an engineer but not a nuclear engineer, mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, or industrial engineer. My education included electrical, computer, and software engineering.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 13, 2014 5:20 pm 
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Government and Government owned businesses have innovated for years.

Just that all the R&D departments were sold off post-79.
(For instance in one of my more knowledgeable fields - solid state railway signalling was developed by the British Rail Research Department and then later commercialised in partnership with a private provider).


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 13, 2014 7:57 pm 
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E Ireland wrote:
Government and Government owned businesses have innovated for years.


Yes they have. That does not mean they are good at it. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

The Department of Energy has had nearly four decades to come up with something but most of what they funded have turned into money pits. I imagine a lot of research ends up in a dead end. Didn't Edison say something about finding 1000 ways to NOT make a lightbulb? The difference with private research is that if it ends up being a dead end then at least I didn't have to pay for it.

If we see some breakthrough in energy development I doubt it will come from the Department of Energy, they are tied up with bureaucracy, politicians' pet projects, and a safety first mentality. If the government does come up with something I think it will be from the DoD. The saying goes that good generals think about strategy, great generals think about logistics. The DoD has to worry about getting energy where it is needed all the time. There's numerous military projects to solve this logistic issue that can translate directly into solving civilian problems.

I was going to expand further on why I believe the DoD is better suited to energy research than the DoE but decided against it since it would probably both boring and distracting from the issue at hand. I will instead give another example of how the DoE is killing energy research.

There's a few Youtube videos out there I saw about the polywell fusor which seems very promising if given the chance. One thing that struck me as government bureaucracy and politics at its worst is the people behind the polywell fusor describing their funding. Their initial funding came from the Department of the Navy. The funding was enough to prove the concept. After their funding was up they went back to the Navy to ask for more. They were told by the Navy that they'd like to give them more money, as the research looked promising, but if they gave too much money the project would get the attention of the DoE. The DoE has decided that if fusion is going to happen it must happen at the big international fusion research lab in France. If the DoE gets its hands on the polywell it's going to kill it.

The magnetic confinement fusor the DoE is working on has no possibility of fitting inside an aircraft carrier, but a polywell fusor just might. Last I heard, about two years ago, research in the polywell fusor was still ongoing but in a top secret weapons development lab, there it can continue with few in the DoE even knowing about it.

There is no comprehensive energy plan from the Department of Energy. They are too busy getting politicians reelected to worry about solving our energy problems.

As much good energy research I've seen out of the DoD they are still far from perfect. An example is the decision to have new Navy destroyers powered by diesel instead of nuclear. There was a lot of politics behind that decision. Had they chosen nuclear power we'd have seen a lot more research into nuclear reactors, more people trained in nuclear power, reduced reliance on foreign sourced oil, and I'm sure there is more that escapes me right now.

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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 13, 2014 8:18 pm 
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Kurt Sellner wrote:
Yes they have. That does not mean they are good at it. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

Frankly, since the ascendancy of the Harvard school of Business the Private Sector is hopeless at innovation as well.
Almost all effective R&D work is done with state support now.
(Especially the long range stuff like Graphene and development of quantum computers - venture capital just comes in later to Patent farm).

Kurt Sellner wrote:
The Department of Energy has had nearly four decades to come up with something but most of what they funded have turned into money pits. I imagine a lot of research ends up in a dead end. Didn't Edison say something about finding 1000 ways to NOT make a lightbulb? The difference with private research is that if it ends up being a dead end then at least I didn't have to pay for it.

You will have to pay for it regardless in the lost economic activity generated by the wasting of those resources on pointless research - the cost of research doesn't become zero just because you don't directly pay for it. To say otherwise is frankly a massive oversimplification of the economy.
Additionally entirely private funded research combines with patent laws like those around today to cause the formation of enormous cartels which licence key technologies and produce ridiculous sums of money from them, far in excess of the costs of the original research. And thanks to limited liability if a startup attempting to research and commercialise something goes bust the state will pick up the tab, but if it is succesful the owners get very rich and the state gets almost nothing to show for its implicit insurance.

Kurt Sellner wrote:
If we see some breakthrough in energy development I doubt it will come from the Department of Energy, they are tied up with bureaucracy, politicians' pet projects, and a safety first mentality.

That is not in any way inherent in state bodies, just as private sector bodies are far from immune to it, if you go into almost any large corporation anywhere you will find massive amounts of unneccessary bureaucracy and empire building.
A safety first mentality has partially been created by the litigation culture becoming increasingly prevalent in the West - you won't take the risk on something new if someone could die in the process and get you sued for absurd amounts.
If anything the state is more resistant to such pressures because they can call upon the ideal of service that private sector empoyees cannot (a soldier - or even a civil servant of other kinds - does not treat his/her vocation as 'just a job' in most cases).
Kurt Sellner wrote:
To think otherwis If the government does come up with something I think it will be from the DoD. The saying goes that good generals think about strategy, great generals think about logistics. The DoD has to worry about getting energy where it is needed all the time. There's numerous military projects to solve this logistic issue that can translate directly into solving civilian problems.

This is a great argument for technocratic decisionmaking to be sure - but frankly that does not prevail anywhere in the west any more, large corporations are just as prone to appointing 'managers' who have no idea what it is they are actually managing and thus cannot make properly informed decisions.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 13, 2014 9:28 pm 
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Kurt Sellner / E Ireland:

You are both right. I've worked for DOE contractors. Things weren't quite right with that organization (DOE). They've had enough years to produce a fraction of the results of the old AEC and it just isn't there.

You are also right in that private enterprise has short term thinking and the fear of litigation is both paralyzing and crippling in the extra cost burden it has created.

However, i still think if enough people got on the DOE's case and demanded they build a pilot reactor, it would be done. This group of people would need to be organized into one of those "special interest" groups we hear about so much. I believe this special interest group could be made up of quite the consortium of varied groups, business, environmental groups, defense minded people, utilities, etc.

Judging from the mass the Thorium folks are building, this critical mass of support may not be too far in the future. Maybe, that's the only plan.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 14, 2014 12:00 am 
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Scientific progress has its own life. What has been discussed above are just some of the details. Many skills were developed in India and China resulting in the increase of population which is still concentrated in these parts.
Europe led in the industrial revolution which traveled with migrants to USA. Germany, Japan and Russia came up as rivals.
Now the China has come up as the biggest energy user. I guess that they will lead in new energy development including the next generations of nuclear energy and others will follow them. Others will also try to compete in this age of expanded and quick communications.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 14, 2014 11:07 am 
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Kurt Sellner wrote:
Government is not bad. Government is necessary.


Johansen's Third Law:
Like most other toxic substances, government is subject to the J-Curve.

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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 14, 2014 7:21 pm 
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Government can be innovative when it is threatened. The Manhattan project was started because they feared Hitler would get it first. The Americans got to the moon first because they feared the Russian would get there first. If they feared the Russians controlled all energy I doubt that any would care right now.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 15, 2014 4:09 pm 
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E Ireland wrote:
You will have to pay for it regardless in the lost economic activity generated by the wasting of those resources on pointless research - the cost of research doesn't become zero just because you don't directly pay for it. To say otherwise is frankly a massive oversimplification of the economy.

Big difference: a private company doesn't put a gun to my head and force me to pay for their failed R&D. I have the option to not buy anything from a private company. If I don't pony up my taxes to the government every year they send men with guns to extract their pound of flesh. Private businesses that have the potential to go out of business if they waste money have much more incentive to keep costs low. In the aggregate, the free market is much more efficient at innovation than any government body.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 15, 2014 4:46 pm 
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gcarlin wrote:
E Ireland wrote:
You will have to pay for it regardless in the lost economic activity generated by the wasting of those resources on pointless research - the cost of research doesn't become zero just because you don't directly pay for it. To say otherwise is frankly a massive oversimplification of the economy.

Big difference: a private company doesn't put a gun to my head and force me to pay for their failed R&D. I have the option to not buy anything from a private company. If I don't pony up my taxes to the government every year they send men with guns to extract their pound of flesh. Private businesses that have the potential to go out of business if they waste money have much more incentive to keep costs low. In the aggregate, the free market is much more efficient at innovation than any government body.


In my opinion, the real issue is government hardly ever do anything on a billion dollar scale without massive inefficiency. It's called pork barrel politics. The name is American, but it's seen all over the world.

If they failed 1/3rd of the time, and did it at similar costs to privately funded projects, the failing itself wouldn't be an issue.

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