Eifion Rees Article Rebuttal

I was more than a little dismayed to read a recent article in The Ecologist written by one Eifion Rees and titled, “Don’t believe the spin on thorium being a ‘greener’ nuclear option.” At the outset, anyone should be a little concerned about an article that tells you to believe or not believe something in its title. I wasn’t an English major, but I do distinctly remember learning something about a “thesis” in writing, which is then intended to be backed by “evidence,” and hopefully leads to a “conclusion.” Let us examine whether Mr. Rees has followed these simple and time-honored principles in his article that tells us not to believe the “spin” about thorium.

“The pro-thorium lobby claim a single tonne of thorium burned in a molten salt reactor (MSR) – typically a liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) – which has liquid rather than solid fuel, can produce one gigawatt of electricity. A traditional pressurised water reactor (PWR) would need to burn 250 tonnes of uranium to produce the same amount of energy.”

I will start by commending Mr. Rees on accurately recapitulating the advantages of the LFTR and correctly identifying that it is the LFTR using thorium—and not conventional solid-fueled, water-cooled reactors using thorium—that is the centrality of the argument here. Far too many writers miss making this key distinction, and instead focus on the limited application of thorium in solid-fueled reactors, and conclude somewhat accurately that thorium has an only modestly-appealing future in existing reactors.

“They also produce less waste, have no weapons-grade by-products, can consume legacy plutonium stockpiles and are meltdown-proof – if the hype is to be believed.”

Again, I appreciate a recapitulation of the advantages, but the sentence ends with the assertion that these advantages are merely “hype” and do not stand up to scrutiny. I did a search of an online dictionary for the word “hype” and found a range of definitions, from “excessive publicity and the ensuing commotion” to “something deliberately misleading; a deception.” If the “hype” surrounding thorium and LFTR reaches this latter category, then truly the author is correct to warn the public about something deliberately misleading or a deception.

So he employed five witnesses in his case against thorium and LFTR, each intended to show that there is hype or deception involved. They are:

Peter Karamoskos of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Peter Rowberry of No Money for Nuclear (NM4N).

Oliver Tickell, author of Kyoto2.

Neil Crumpton of Friends of the Earth

Jean McSorley, senior consultant for the anti-nuclear campaign waged by Greenpeace.

The closest thing to a “pro-nuclear” witness interviewed by the author was a UK National Nuclear Laboratory “white paper” entitled “The Thorium Fuel Cycle.”

Mr. Rees goes on to point to the Indian example of thorium development and their national commitment to it before getting to the crux of his entire argument:

We haven’t done it before.

This is a very strange argument with which to base a case against any technology. I’ve spent my entire career in technology development, and the reason why people undertake technology development is precisely because they haven’t done it before!

The case against a new technology like LFTR should then be supported by evidence as to why the author might think it likely that a technology development will fail if undertaken. For this we turn to the five witnesses.

Dr. Karamoskos says:

“Without exception, [thorium reactors] have never been commercially viable, nor do any of the intended new designs even remotely seem to be viable. Like all nuclear power production they rely on extensive taxpayer subsidies; the only difference is that with thorium and other breeder reactors these are of an order of magnitude greater, which is why no government has ever continued their funding.”

Dr. Karamoskos is a nuclear radiologist, not a nuclear engineer. Has he evaluated the LFTR economic case? I highly doubt it. Has he reviewed the performance of other thorium-based technologies before issuing his blanket statement? We will never know because the author does not give us additional details.

One has to wonder why Dr. Karamoskos does not think the thorium-based LFTR will be viable. Perhaps he thinks it will have to operate at higher pressures than existing reactors–but it won’t, it will operate at lower pressures. Perhaps he thinks that it will operate at a lower temperature and achieve lower thermodynamic efficiency–but it won’t, it will operate at higher temperatures and achieve higher efficiency. Perhaps he thinks that the thorium fuel will be more difficult to find and more expensive than uranium fuel–but it won’t, it is more common than uranium and will be mined as we search for rare-earth materials for our wind turbines.

Dr. Karamoskos does seem anxious to promote “guilt by association”, however, by lumping any thorium-based reactor in with uranium-based reactor technologies, which he then goes on to paint as dependent on “extensive taxpayer subsidies.” This is certainly not the case in the United States and I suspect is not the case in the UK as well. He also decides, apparently out of thin air, that thorium is going to cost an “order-of-magnitude” more than uranium-based reactors, without any supporting evidence.

Anti-nuclear campaigner Peter Rowberry also creates a false collusion when he asserts that the effort to develop thorium-based reactors is simply a smokescreen for continued use of uranium-based pressurized-water reactors (PWR).

“This could be seen to excuse the continued use of PWRs until thorium is [widely] available.”

Interesting theory, Mr. Rowberry, but it doesn’t support the author’s thesis that thorium reactors are a bad idea because we haven’t done them before. It simply suggests that uranium-based reactor providers are looking to transition into thorium, another thing that we have seen no evidence whatsoever of taking place.

But in a great irony, Mr. Rees then goes on to call the uranium-based nuclear industry itself to testify against thorium reactors, seeming to contradict the statement of Mr. Rowberry entirely. He points out that there is no interest amongst the existing nuclear reactor vendors for thorium, and references the NNL report to buttress this evidentiary line. Again, one is left to wonder how this supports the overall thesis of “we haven’t done this so we shouldn’t do this.” Rather, it seems to support an alternative viewpoint from Mr. Rowberry, namely that the technological overlap between existing water-cooled, uranium-based reactors and liquid-fluoride thorium reactors is so miniscule that existing players see little reason to try to promote a better technology.

Typewriters did not lead to word processors and computers. Neither will uranium-based light-water reactors lead to LFTRs.

Mr. Rees then concedes that the conventional nuclear industry may have missed the mark when they evaluated thorium but without the LFTR concept as the paradigm. I agree with that statement, but I have to wonder why Mr. Rees introduced two lines of evidence that he goes on to immediately contradict. It would seem to be a poor use of an article whose purpose is to propose a thesis and then defend it.

So Mr. Rees shifts gears in the middle of his piece and concludes that even if thorium and LFTR is all that it is cracked up to be that it will arrive too late and will be uneconomic compared to solar and wind options.

His new thesis would also seem to want for evidence. Will solar and wind get much cheaper? We have been told that for many years. Is it indeed the case?

There are no witnesses called to testify to support the new thesis. It is only stated as a self-evident truth accepted among “those who support renewables.” By the same token, it could be taken of equal evidentiary value that among “those who support thorium” there is a belief that they will be less expensive than solar and wind. Without true evidence the statements are meaningless.

Mr. Rees then reminds us that thorium is “still nuclear energy” and goes on to say that it will “disgorge toxic byproducts” like some benighted monster. Unlike Mr. Rees, I have spent considerable time modeling each and every one of the fission product decay chains and have presented my results in public discussions. Do thorium reactors produce radioactive materials? Certainly. Do these pose an undue threat to human life or society? Certainly not, in my opinion, and I offer the results of my modeling as the evidence.

At some point, I am called to testify as to the benefits of thorium reactors, but Mr. Rees then goes on to dismiss the benefits I offer as “putative” and to assert that they will be outweighed by a “proliferating number of reactors.” I have to wonder a bit at the choice of language in his dismissal, for typically when we discuss “proliferation” in the nuclear arena we refer to the undesired spread of nuclear weapons rather than the expansion of a lifesaving technology. The literal meaning of the statement is valid, but the choice of adjective strikes me as no accident and is meant to sow fear and doubt in the mind of the reader.

Dr. Karamoskos is then called in again to label thorium reactors a “dishonest fantasy” because the fissile material is uranium-233 rather than thorium. This is a strange way to express dishonesty, since I have been forthright since I first started discussing the technology that uranium-233 was the fissile material. But uranium-233 comes from thorium and only from thorium, and the consumption of U-233 in a LFTR leads to the formation of new U-233 from thorium. U-233 then serves as a sort of “nuclear catalyst,” and the real fuel of the reactor is thorium. Is this dishonesty? No, I think it is simplicity. Where does the uranium-233 that drives the reactor come from? Thorium. What is used to create new uranium-233? Thorium. Hence we call these machines such as LFTR by a simple and accurate name: thorium reactors.

A paragraph of errors about half-lives and fission products then follows, which by itself could have been enough reason to pull the article back into dry dock and rebuild it, but Mr. Rees declines to do so. In short, U-232 doesn’t have a half-life of 160,000 years, it has a half life of about 69 years. Protactinium-231 is not produced by a LFTR or any other reactor, it is a natural step on the decay chain of uranium-235 and has nothing to do with whether man chooses to use nuclear power or not. Technetium-99 and iodine-129 are asserted to pose a risk because of their long half-lives. Rather, precisely because they have long half-lives they have low radioactivity and manageable risk. I doubt that Mr. Rees has a good handle on the nature of radioactivity and risk.

The next witness called to support Mr. Rees’s shifting case is Neil Crumpton of the Friends of the Earth. Mr. Crumpton advises waiting to see what will come of LFTR technology, asserting that we will know more in the future. Unfortunately, the simple truth about technology development is that the only way to learn more is to advance the technology and examine the results. The question that is always before those who would attempt to advance the technology and those who would finance those efforts is, “does this look promising?” Mr. Crumpton’s statement provides no insight into that basic question.

The last quote in the article is by Jean McSorley of Greenpeace who asserts that thorium technology is not renewable, not sustainable, and can’t connect to smart grids. I would assert that in the strictest sense no energy source is renewable, but thorium-fueled LFTRs are sustainable since they utilize an abundant natural resource at a very small rate, and that they most certainly can connect to “smart grids”. Smart grids are intended to handle diffuse and intermittent energy sources like wind and solar. Connecting the grid to a reliable and concentrated energy source like LFTR is a piece of cake in comparison.

And in what has to be my most delicious piece of irony, Ms. McSorley of Greenpeace calls the conventional nuclear industry in to support her assertion that thorium reactors are of no value. This has to be the first time I have ever seen someone from Greenpeace lean on the opinions of the conventional nuclear industry to support their position. We should mark it well—both Greenpeace and the conventional nuclear industry have found common cause and consider thorium reactors a “distraction.”

If I had handed this paper into my eighth-grade English teacher as an example of the defense of a thesis statement, I expect that he would have given me a low grade. He would have said:

1. You didn’t defend your thesis.
2. You changed your thesis halfway through the paper.
3. You didn’t defend your new thesis.
4. You had no conclusion.

Final grade: D-. Redo your paper Mr. Rees, and try to support your thesis next time.

29 thoughts on “Eifion Rees Article Rebuttal

  1. I am actually glad I read that article. Although I firmly believe it was libel and will never trust another thing I read in the Guardian, many of the comments were quite brilliant.

  2. Not to worry, the technology will be developed by the Chinese. First they sold us salad-shooters, now they sell us iPhones. It is a matter of time before it will be LFTRs. Instead of LFTRs, let's learn Mandarin.

  3. The "Ecologist" is unfortunately part of the "guardian environment network". However there are different voices in the Guardian.

    One of them is George Monbiot, an environmentalist who recently changed his stance on nuclear. In discussions with activists (e.g., Helen Caldicott) he concluded that "many anti-nuclear activists fail to interrogate their own claims and sources".

    Specifically he asked Caldicott if she would support funding "research on thorium reactors"; her reply "No, because it is not a proven technology" was a Q.E.D moment.

    Probably the best way for a rebuttal is to contact the Guardian's editor; but just in case, to contact Monbiot: http://www.monbiot.com/contact-2/

  4. "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

    – John Adams

  5. As someone who was born in Pembrokeshire in south Wales, I am pretty sure that Eifion Rees is also from Wales.

    Nevertheless he is an imbecile, so thank you Dr. Sorensen for demolishing his dumb article so I won't have to.

  6. And this is why the Chinese will be the first to demonstrate the technology, most likely the first to have a commercially operable power station running and of cause will be criticized for selling the finished reactors to the west. As for Eifion Rees, if you start from the basis of 'something will fail' rather than a neutrality then those are the conclusions you will draw. I do not agree with the final grade, I would give it an 'E'

  7. I had a go at this article on the Claverton energy website but not in such depth (eifion does subscribe to it) – am I allowed to cut and use this – it is so much more comprehensive than my effort!

  8. Thanks Kirk for your excellent analysis and rebuttal of the Eifion Rees article. @Kelvin – the Chinese might not only build new power plants using thorium, but grab on to Jim Holm's idea of the "nuclear boiler" or "heat battery" so well expressed on his coal2nuclear site. He notes that

    (Fossil fuel fired) Boilers make over 60% of ALL Global Warming. The author has discovered that only 2% of the world's boilers are making 30% of ALL Global Warming CO2. These are the boilers we must take out immediately to blunt Global Warming. About half of them are in developing countries.

    He envisions a retrofit to power plants that allows

    … being able to quickly detach the reactor from the steam generators confers an entirely new dimension to nuclear as a heat source for large power plants. The second salt heat exchanger enables an entirely new dimension of energy distribution possibilities

    His choice of reactor is the LFTR, but he doesn't discount other high temperature reactor designs. High temperatures are the key to directly replacing coal and gas for firing boilers.

    In his plan, reactors are treated as modules (hence my expression "heat battery") and are removed from their use site when they need servicing or refueling. A fresh heat battery gets bolted to the plant's heat input flanges and the plant continues operating. His page General nuclear repowering technology concepts shows how it's done. Retrofitting and repowering makes maximum use of existing facilities.

    Unfortunately it also "breaks the rice bowls" (as David LeBlanc puts it) of the coal, natural gas, and solid fuel, water cooled nuclear industries… it will definitely take a lot of pressure to make thorium happen.

  9. "Dr. Karamoskos does seem anxious to promote “guilt by association”, however, by lumping any thorium-based reactor in with uranium-based reactor technologies, which he then goes on to paint as dependent on “extensive taxpayer subsidies.” This is certainly not the case in the United States and I suspect is not the case in the UK as well."

    Anti-nuclear folk like to add up all of the money that the government has ever spent on anything nuclear (all research, money wasted failing to build permanent storage, the cost of maintaining the NRC, mining permits given, refining facilities built, and so on) and call these things subsidies.

    As with all things related to energy, it seems that the analysis is so strongly influenced by the assumptions put into the analysis that facts are determined by politics.

    If you assume that it is infinitely expensive to permanently store the waste, then nuclear energy is infinitely expensive without taxpayer subsidies.

    If you count regulatory costs as costs instead of as subsidies and deal with the waste in a sane manner, then 1970s style nuclear power is too cheap to bother metering.

  10. Thank you Kirk for shooting that Rees article to pieces. When I first read it, I thought what a load of tendentious hogwash! This guy ought to do his own research instead of quoting his like-minded buddies, and read round a bit. A typical piece of kneejerk anti-nuclear bleating. I hope you get your rebuttal into the Ecologist/Guardian, if they have the guts to publish it. Keep up the good work, and good luck with your new venture.

  11. Hi Kirk,

    This is a wonderful article! Nothing better than to be complained about. It means that you are impacting the situation – or could impact it in a significant way.

    I have been thinking about your arguments for thorium and against uranium in terms of safety. For me the point of safety, especially passively safe systems is not that they are less dangerous, but that they are easier to operate. We cannot get any less dangerous than nuclear has already proven to be. The point is that the way in which the risk reduction is done is fairly complex and difficult to reproduce both in terms of the mechanics and the human training and education needed.

    A reactor that cannot pass the simplicity test cannot proliferate to the point where it will be a game changer. This is why I was so attracted to the original hyperion module and Adam's Atomic Engines. While there is a benefit to thermal efficiency, when the price of that efficiency is complexity it limits penetration.

    One of the things that concerns me about LFTR's is their back end complexity. The salts and tanks are very simple but what about the processed materials coming off the reactor? These will require a fairly sophisticated set of chemical processing units and some people onsite with a high level of education and training to handle them correctly.

    If it is possible to have those "problems" off loaded and separated from the process of power generation we will have a true game changer. Making a modular reactor on a factory floor is ok, but if it takes an NASA engineer to drive the car, not too many people will be driving.

    Right now we are at the 95% level for the quality of people needed to work in nuclear. We need designs that only need 80% level people to run them rather than 95% level people. The comment above that the power generation heat module should be separated from the power generation system as a replaceable module is a step in the right direction.

    Finally, I watched your whole video series above and I have been following you and Charles and Rod (an many others) for several years now, cheering on and spreading the news. So, as I see this article coming out from the Guardian I want to make a comment about the costs.

    LFTR is not going be be a lower cost reactor — unless — the regulations for it are simpler than for light water reactors. The major cost of power production for a Nuclear Power Plant is in the cost of licensing of the design. Because NPPs are required today to be perfect from the initial design, the cost of meeting that perfection is prohibitive and a constantly moving target. It is this cost – rather than the unit cost – that is the problem. That cost reduces the ability to make a design and then improve on it later, since any improvements are considered as a whole new design that needs re-certification with it's years of delay.

    The material and construction costs are negligible, well I mean to say they are well within the range of costs for any new power plant construction. It is the regulations and delay that add unusual cost and uncertainty.

    Finally, Fukishima showed us that the existing light water designs are very safe, but that the waste could be exposed to natural forces that are beyond our calculations. In that case, when a LFTR is overwhelmed in a similar manor by a tsunami (or a submarine hull fails and water floods the ship), what will happen to this chemical processing plant attached to the reactor?

    I do think you have resurrected a great idea. But I also like several of the designs for Nuclear (LFTR, pebble bed and Uranium Nitride) and I like the idea of a system that off loads the complexity needed to a factory setting while making the onsite heat generation as simple as humanly possible.

  12. Dear Kirk,

    I actually supported LFTR research (with finance) in an article I emailed to Eifion which did not come across in the published piece. I stated :

    ' the UK Government's proposed Carbon Floor Price policy could deliver up to £ 3.4 billion in windfalls to existing nuclear power stations by the mid 2020's. Scraping the Floor Price could release a small slice of that avoided subsidy to help fund an international LFTR commercialisation effort with a focus on addressing proliferation aspects and consuming legacy wastes. LFTRs and salt-based reprocessing could be the relatively safest option, rather than geological plutonium repositories.'

    I also asked, in a packed 'Fukushima – Lessons Learned' public seminar in the House of Commons recently 'Should LFTRs be included in the Government's on-going nuclear safety review ?' The response I got was short and negative (from one of the speakers Dr John Large ) but I am continuing to make the case for consideration of LFTRs, especially if the Chinese or others develop a commercial legacy waste-burning type, as this would then address two major issues against nuclear power, ie inter-generational waste storage for millennia and plutonium stockpiles (one proliferation risk to balance whatever U233 risk).

    So please do not consider my comments hostile or negative. For accuracy, this is my independent view. I am not a staff campaigner of Friends of the Earth as of last year but the organisation in the UK has recently supported LFTR research as has Lady Briony Worthington (ex FOE senior energy campaigner) – that's not the stuff of ideologues – we are listening (and all tuned to LFTRs specifically I think).

    I suggest that you contact nuclear engineer Dr John Large in London who's views many in UK will base their opinion on. He is sceptical about LFTRs but in my view open to informed engineering discussion. Also, why not respond to the forthcoming UK Government consultation on radioactive waste geological disposal (siting of repositories) -http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/consultations/mrws_siting/mrws_siting.aspx – and possibly critique ex Chief Scientist Sir David King's proposals for using legacy waste for aqueous reprocessing and MOX use in Generation III reactors. Few people in the UK know anything about LFTRs.

    Yours sincerely

    Neil Crumpton

    Energy consultant

  13. @David Phillips – Thanks for your comment to Kirk.

    If you look at my comment of June 28, 2011 at 9:45 am, I've been going through Jim Holm's coal2nuclear site. I've read more of it now than I had then; still not finished though…

    You said

    One of the things that concerns me about LFTR’s is their back end complexity. The salts and tanks are very simple but what about the processed materials coming off the reactor? These will require a fairly sophisticated set of chemical processing units and some people onsite with a high level of education and training to handle them correctly.

    Jim's plan includes removing a 'spent' reactor from the power plant site and shipping it to a specialized reprocessing facility. The facility would have all the equipment and expertise to handle the fission products properly – and extract all the valuable materials.

    You also say

    The material and construction costs are negligible, well I mean to say they are well within the range of costs for any new power plant construction. It is the regulations and delay that add unusual cost and uncertainty.

    Two notes on that. The coal2nuclear plan puts nuclear boilers into existing power plants, which have the site, experienced staff, generators, switchyard, grid connections, and power lines in place. Together with all of the necessary permits. (The importance of having all the permits in place probably can't be overstated.) He's not talking about new plant construction.

    To get the ball rolling, coal2nuclear proposes starting with Morocco's Jorf Lasfar power station. This site would be under the UN's IAEA and not under NRC, Canadian or UK rules; Holm suggests that France would be comfortable with the idea. Lots of work to be done, of course.

    In that case, when a LFTR is overwhelmed in a similar manor by a tsunami (or a submarine hull fails and water floods the ship), what will happen to this chemical processing plant attached to the reactor?

    And this is, of course, a very important question. A quick check turns up the List of sunken nuclear submarines – 8 of them so far. The scientific and technical literature might contain articles on the results; how applicable the studies would be to molten salt reactors is also a good question. (It may be significant that Tokyo hasn't been stomped on by nuclear mutants yet… 😉 )

  14. Ooops – in my comment above I said "all of the necessary permits". My bad – of course a fossil fuel power plant doesn't have a nuclear permit. But they do have all the others, very important IMO.

  15. I've mentioned this before, and Kirk hinted at it near the end in nice bold lettering. Perhaps it's more than just ironic that some environmentalists and big nuclear have found common cause. I wouldn't be surprised if big nuclear, and maybe even big oil/coal have realized that, for the sake of self-preservation, it could be worthwhile to illicitly sponsor environmentalists to lobby against radically new nuclear technology. This would be a truly exquisite form of astroturfing:

    "If two supposed enemies are actually agreeing on something, then that something must really be true" goes the thinking.

    A competitor creating energy too cheap to meter is the greatest threat an established energy industry could conceive of. Although dangerous, the potential payoff of using environmentalists as patsies to help protect established energy industries could be too tantalizing to ignore.

    As for those that would be patsies, the best cure is scientific literacy. That means not only learning relevant facts about the natural world, but also learning to evaluate issues not with our ancient coping mechanism of emotion, but rather with our more recently developed ability for rational thought. Although human brains have a tendency to make their owners believe they've always been right and will always be right, mistakes are impossible to avoid. It's OK to admit mistakes, like blanket assertions that nuclear=bad. Admitting them is the first step to amending them and making progress. That's more or less the scientific method in a nutshell.

  16. @Andrew Jaremko,

    Thank you for taking time to reply to my post. I have not read the specific website you are referring to but the concept is very familiar to me. Putting in a Nuke in place of a coal boiler has been an idea for many years. However, according to Kirk's talks, LFTR's work best when the chemical processing happens continuously. So, in this case, removing this to a off-site factory does not see to be an option. At the same time, I have my sights set on a very wide field, and in many places around the world they will not have the infrastructure to handle this processing. By infrastructure I mean the whole shabang. Roads, schools, manufacturing facilities and many of the other things we take for granted.

    My concern about placing LFTR's in subs was the steam explosion that could occur if the sub sunk. I am not concerned with radiation release, the water will shield it, but with spreading contamination into the sea environment as a result of a steam explosion.

    I am thinking about how to maneuver through the minefield that is the NRC. What objections will be raised? What additional regs will be written? My point about regulations being the main cost driver today is that we cannot expect the LFTR to be exempted from those who will want to make it "safer" and who will work HARD to raise the regulatory costs. Yes, the easiest place to site a reactor is on an existing power generation facility. But the Nuke regs may be a still prohibitive price.

  17. @David Phillips – Thanks for your reply as well. I agree that continuous processing of the fuel in a LFTR is the way to go – or at least what to prototype and test. But this would be only one of the possible options for the 'nuclear heat battery'. Thinking of it that way makes me imagine something like the ubiquitous AAA, AA, C, D cell batteries: standard sizes, standard connections, well defined energy flow rates and energy discharge before recharge or rebuild is required.

    Some arithmetic tells me that a NHB that can deliver a gigawatt of electricity, or 2 gigawatts of heat, for a 30 year service life contains about 2 exajoules of heat. And all that from 30 tonnes of thorium.

    Your observations have just made me realize something about trying to site a NPP on a fossil fuel fired site. From what I've read in various blogs, the coal, ash and flue gas at coal plants contains what the oil industry calls naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). What's in the coal gets concentrated into the ash, though some of it escapes up the flume. I've read that some coal ash is rich enough to be mined for uranium (and probably thorium as well).

    The Wikipedia article says the NRC doesn't regulate NORM in the USA. But trying to site a NPP on a coal burner site might just trigger the NRC to spring into action on that site, with the result that neither plant would be able to operate. The coal plant because it's too contaminated already, and the NPP because emissions on the site already exceed regulatory limits. Thus getting us into a comic opera storyline worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan.

    And that's just for the NORM. The coal ash contains concentrated doses of mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and all the other wonderful, natural materials that become contaminants when we concentrate them. Coal ash gets a free pass; IIRC recently the EPA wanted to start regulating it as hazardous waste. I don't think that's gone very far.

    So that's an even bigger challenge – getting a bureaucracy to make some decisions that an intelligent person could make in 5 minutes. It's beginning to seem to me that the only way to get the changes made is to set up a charter city and crowd source a lot of the money needed to get things moving. This would be an extension of what happened at the end of Kirk's Protospace session in Calgary – brainstorming and getting the work done.

    I absolutely agree with what you say about setting your sights on a very wide field. And that's why many different modules will be needed. We also need people who know the political process, international negotiations, and many many other things that are beyond my ken…

  18. "Eifion Rees" is undoubtedly a name from Wales. Although we are a nation blessed and the ancestral home of Jefferson and many other influential Americans as well as the recent head of CERN, we have our share and shame of people like Eifion.
    I try my best to bring LFTR into any relevant comment I make on various science blogs. Clearly, the French and others have a vested interest in maintaining the status qho of conventional nuclear energy production, very powerful protagonists.
    Keep the faith Kirk, it will happen.

  19. As an environmentalist I don't know what to make of Mr Rees's case against Thorium. I'm ashamed to say I think he and his colleagues are stuck in a rut, which the environment really doesn't need just now. My reading of the situation is that we've got this chance for our descendants and ourselves to live sustainably well – why wouldn't that be a wonderful thing? Why wouldn't you give it your best shot? If it doesn't come good, at least we tried, and for all the right reasons. If it does work out, I can look my children and grandchildren in the eye and say that I helped in some small way.

  20. Hey guys, as UK papers go, I'll take the Guardian any day.

    Case in point (as noted above by Prof. Hargraves): http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jul/04

    Same paper, less than a month later. I think the problem is more with the vicissitudes of opinion/advocacy "journalism" than with any particular news outlet, in this case. There is also a certain tribal rejectionism on the left, when it comes to anything using the word nuclear. As someone on the left himself, I find this irrationality disturbing, to say the least.

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