A "TechTalk" in Tech Paradise…

I think that if a technophile like myself were to design their dream work environment, it would look very much like the Google campus. Coming from the sweltering summer heat of Alabama to the cool evening breezes of Mountain View, one might say that they started out ahead–but the Google experience just kept getting better.

I often tell my wife that the single word that exemplifies the spirit of what it is to be an engineer is “efficiency”, and every where I looked at Google, everything looked so…optimized. There were signs in the bathroom teaching you how to write better code. There were ping-pong tables next to displays telling you how to best explain to your boss that you weren’t goofing off. There were “aquatic treadmills” that would let you swim indefinitely. And all the candy was free. And the Diet Cokes. Oh, and lunch was free too! And dinner. I’m not quite sure why anyone would go home from work–just move the family to work instead.

Oh, I really enjoyed being at Google!

As for my tech talk, it was called “Lessons for LFTR” and it represented an attempt to tell the story of nuclear energy and molten-salt reactor development in a way that emphasized the lessons that need to guide us as we go forward in LFTR development. Originally the talk was FAR longer than the version that was ultimately presented, and focused on a number of aspects that didn’t make it into the final version: reactor siting, closed-cycle gas turbine power conversion, compact heat exchangers, desalination using waste heat, submersible basing of reactors, chloride fast reactors, and so forth. It would have taken hours to give that talk.

But the version that was actually presented focused much more on how we could use fluoride chemistry to deal with today’s spent nuclear fuel, and I think it ended up being a better talk for it.

Some of my lessons for LFTR came from the basic advantages of thorium. Thorium can be completely consumed in a thermal-spectrum reactor; uranium cannot. Others dealt with more political aspects, like how Alvin Weinberg got fired from his job for promoting fluoride reactors and improved reactor safety.

The powerpoint presentation of my talk is available here:

Google Tech Talk: Lessons for LFTR

As I ended my talk, I thanked the audience for all of Google’s contributions to the LFTR effort, all of them made available for free to us like so many other users worldwide. The Google search engine has been my go-to place for information since I began working on this. Gmail is fantastic and fun, the Blogger software that makes this blog work, Google Analytics tells me how many people read this blog, and Google Earth has helped me find places worldwide. Google has made all these things happen and hasn’t charged me a penny for them…


One of the very best parts of the day was getting a chance to meet so many members of the thorium forum who live in the Bay Area. In the past two months I’ve gotten to meet my blog buddies in Atlanta, my British thorium-forum friends in Manchester, and now at Google I met Iain McClatchie, Dave Walters, Lars Jorgensen, John Hench, Ralph Moir, and a few others who go by their “handles” on the forum, like “arcs_n_sparks”. These guys were SO great and we had some fantastic conversations about the future of thorium in the time after the talk. Thank you guys for taking the time to come and share your thoughts and ideas! It really makes me wonder that if we could get the folks on the forum all together for about a week, we could probably hash out very good conceptual designs for several different variants of LFTR!

Here’s the link to the thread on the forum where we’re discussing this talk.

Leave a Reply