Our focus is African countries – helping achieve energy sovereignty through approaching Atomic Energy in the appropriate way.
About The Job
In your role you’ll be reaching out to presidents, energy ministers, key advisors, business leaders and ensuring the message is getting through. To offer our consulting services, prepare proposals, submit them, negotiate, and secure contracts.
In general you would be responsible for the following:
+ Market research: Gathering and analyzing information about our target market and our competitors.
+ Business development: Identifying and pursuing new business opportunities, such as partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions.
+ Sales and marketing: Developing and implementing marketing strategies and campaigns to promote our services.
+ Pricing: Determining the price points for our services, taking into account market trends and competition.
+ Supply chain management: Negotiating contracts with suppliers, monitoring the delivery of goods and services, and ensuring the efficient flow of materials and products.
+ Customer relationship management: Building and maintaining positive relationships with our customers and addressing any concerns or complaints they may have.
+ Budgeting and financial management: Preparing and monitoring the budget, tracking expenses, and making decisions to allocate resources effectively.
+ Risk management: Identifying and assessing our potential risks, such as economic trends or fluctuations in the market, and developing strategies to mitigate those risks.
+ Negotiation: Representing SAFE Fission Consult(TM) in negotiations with suppliers, customers, and partners, and working to secure favorable terms for us.
+ Team management: Leading and motivating a team of sales and marketing professionals to achieve our goals.
Formal qualifications are not necessary. Just an adequate aptitude to either have the necessary knowledge or to acquire it. Yes, that means you don’t need to be a nuclear engineer or scientist to apply either.
References are essential. At least 3.
This position is preparation for conversion to CEO of this division at a later time.
Reward and compensation is on a commission basis and also with project tokens until the main project is funded.
You’ll be applying as “Team Member”, (this is #2 on our Join Us page), so be sure to follow the directions to get to the application form.
You also have to request an access code. Details on how to do that you will find on the web pages also.
About The Thorium Network
More about The Thorium Network and being part of our team.
Team members for the Thorium project are ambitious, conscientious, and passionate about the project and the planet. We play as a team.
How you think is more important than what you do. And as a startup there is lots to do.
Objectives – After Funding
There are the objectives of The Thorium Network:-
1) Our motto is “We Deliver Thorium”, and our objective is to accelerate the adoption of Fission Energy world wide. We strive for easy access to Thorium and focus on Molten Salt Fission Energy Technology powered by Thorium. This is done in full compliance with international guidelines and country regulations;
2) Raising public awareness. As well as being an innovator of supply chain logistics and Fission advocates we are also a public relations group;
3) Driving licensing of Molten Salt Fission Technology across the network, using our network and access within the industry.
Critical and creative thinking on how to achieve our objectives is required.
Being a team member means you will pick up from where we are and contribute to our activities for growth and success.
This is after funding is completed.
Objectives – Before Funding
Before funding is completed, team members use their skill set to help out with our immediate priorities:
2) help complete a strong team and bring relevant skills to the table;
3) help with our strategy, planning and operational activities.
Yes, that means there are no salaries for now.
We have these social media pages you should study to understand our audience:
I have written this article exclusively for The Thorium Network(1) on the basis that I remain anonymous – my livelihood depends on it. I completed my nuclear engineering degree in the late 2000’s and shortly thereafter found a position in a semi-government owned nuclear power station – with several PWRs to look after. One year after graduating and commencing my professional career, I discovered the work of Dr. Alvin Weinberg(2) and began conducting my own research.
My anonymity is predicated on my experience during this time of intense study and learning. As a young female graduate when I shared my enthusiasm for this technology I faced harassment and derision from my male colleagues, from high level government officials and also, unfortunately, from my university professors, whom I initially turned to for help. It wasn’t long before I started to keep my research and my thoughts to myself.
I have found Women In Nuclear(3) to be most supportive and conducive to fostering and maintaining my interest in this technology, though even there it remains a “secret subject”.
So when I discovered The Thorium Network(1), I decided it was a good platform to tell my story. I look forward to the time when there is an industry strong enough to support engineers like me full time, so we can leave our positions in the old technology and embrace the new.
My Studies – No Thorium?
As a nuclear engineer, I was trained to understand the intricacies of nuclear reactions and the ways in which nuclear power could be harnessed for the betterment of humanity.
During my time in university, I learned about various types of reactors, including pressurized water reactors, boiling water reactors, and fast breeder reactors.
However, one type of technology that was never mentioned in my coursework was the Thorium Molten Salt Burner (TMSB). Or “Thorium Burner” as my friends like to say. “TBs” for short. I like it too. Throughout my article I also refrain from using traditional words and descriptions. The nuclear industry must change and we can start by using new words.
Shortly after graduating I stumbled upon information about TBs from the work of the famous chemist and nuclear physicist, Dr. Alvin Weinberg(2). TBs have enormous potential and are the future of nuclear energy. I can say that without a doubt. I was immediately struck by the impressive advantages that TBs offer compared to the technologies that I had learned about in school. I found myself wondering why this technology had not been discussed in any of my classes and why it seemed to be so overlooked in the mainstream discourse surrounding nuclear energy and in particular in today’s heated debates on climate change.
What are TBs – Thorium Burners
To understand the reasons behind the lack of knowledge and recognition of TBs, it is first important to understand what exactly TBs are and how they differ from other types of fission technologies. TBs are a type of fission device that use Thorium as a fuel source, instead of the more commonly used uranium or plutonium. The fuel is dissolved in a liquid salt mixture*, which acts as the fuel, the coolant and the heat transfer medium for taking away the heat energy to do useful work, like spin a turbine to make electricity, or keep an aluminum smelter bath hot**. This design allows for a number of benefits that old nuclear technology does not offer.
*A little tip: the salt is not corrosive. Remember, our blood is salty but we don’t rust away do we.
** I mention aluminum smelting because it too uses a high fluorine based salt – similar to what TBs use. And aluminum is the most commonly used metal on our planet. You can see more on this process here: Aluminum Smelting(4)
Advantages of TBs
One of the most significant advantages of TBs is their inherent safety. They are “walk away safe”. Because the liquid fuel is continuously circulating, and already in a molten state, there is no possibility of a meltdown. If the core region tries to overheat the liquid fuel will simply expand and this automatically shuts down the heating process. This is known as Doppler Broadening(5).
Additionally, the liquid fuel is not pressurized, removing any explosion risk. It just goes “plop”.
These physical features make TBs much safer than traditional machines, which require complex safety systems to prevent accidents. Don’t misunderstand me, these safety systems are very good (there has never been a major incident in the nuclear industry from the failure of a safety system), but the more links you have in a chain the more chances you have of a failure. TBs go the other way, reducing links and making them safer by the laws of physics, not by the laws of man.
Another advantage of TBs is their fuel utilization. Traditional machines typically only use about 3% of their fuel before it must be replaced. In contrast, TBs are able to use 99.9% of their fuel, resulting in effectively no waste and a much longer fuel cycle (30 years in some designs). This not only makes TBs more environmentally friendly – how much less digging is needed to make fuel – but it also makes them more cost-effective.
TBs are also more efficient than traditional machines. They are capable of operating at higher temperatures (above 650 degrees C), which results in increased thermal efficiency and a higher output of electricity per unit of fuel. This increased efficiency means that TBs require even less fuel to produce the same amount of energy, making them even more a sustainable option for meeting our energy needs.
Ever wonder why all the recent “conspiracy theories” have proven to be true? It looks like Thorium is another one. It’s just been going on for a long, long time.
So why, then, was I never taught about TBs in university? The answer to this question is complex and multi-faceted, but can all be traced back to one motive: Profit. The main factor that has contributed to the lack of recognition and support for TBs is the influence of the oil and fossil fuel industries. These industries have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo to preserve their profits. They have used their massive wealth and power to lobby against the development of competitive energy sources like TBs. Fossil fuel companies have poured billions of money into political campaigns and swayed public opinion through their control of the media. This has made it difficult for TBs to receive the funding and recognition they need to advance, as the fossil fuel industries work to maintain their dominance in the energy sector.
First Hand Knowledge – Visiting Oak Ridge
During my research I took a trip to Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where the first experimental Thorium Burner, the MSRE – the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment – was built and operated in the 1960s. During my visit, I had the chance to speak with some of the researchers and engineers who had worked on the MSRE – yes some are still around. It was amazing to speak with them. I learnt first hand about the history of TBs and their huge potential that they have. I also learnt how simple and safe they are. They called the experiment “the most predictable and the most boring”. It did everything they calculated it would do. That’s a good thing!
The stories I heard from the researchers and engineers who worked on the MSRE were inspiring but also concerning. They spoke of the tremendous potential they saw in TBs and the promise that this technology holds for the future of meeting world energy demands. They also spoke of the political and funding challenges that they experienced first hand. The obstacles that prevented TBs from receiving the recognition and support they needed to advance. They were told directly to destroy all evidence of their work on the technology when Dr. Alvin Weinberg was fired as their director in 1972 and the molten salt program shut down. This was done under Nixon’s watch. You can even hear Nixon do this here on this YouTube(6) clip. Keep it “close to the chest” he says. I am surprised that this video is still up on YouTube considering the censorship we’ve been experiencing in this country in the past few years.
The experiences at Oak Ridge confirmed to me that TBs are a promising and innovative technology that have been marginalized and overlooked clearly on purpose. On purpose to protect profits of other industries. It was inspiring to hear about the dedication and passion of the researchers and engineers who worked on the MSRE, and it reinforced my belief in the potential of TBs to play a major role in meeting our energy needs in a sustainable and safe manner. I am hopeful that, with increased investment and support, TBs will one day receive the recognition and support they deserve, and that they will play a significant role in shaping the future of energy.
Moving On – What is Needed
Despite the challenges, I believe that TBs have a promising future in the world of energy from the Atom. They offer a number of unique benefits that can clearly address the any minor concerns surrounding traditional nuclear energy machines, such as safety and waste management. They are also the answer for world energy.
Countering the Vested Interests – Education and Awareness
In order for TBs to become a more widely recognized and accepted technology, more funding – both public and private – is needed to revamp the research and development conducted in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Additionally, education and awareness about the potential of TBs must be raised, in order to dispel any misconceptions and address the stigma that still surrounds nuclear energy, and to counter the efforts that are still going on even today, to stymie TBs from becoming commercial.
In order to ensure that TBs receive the support they need to succeed, it is necessary to counter the influence of the oil and fossil fuel industries and to create a level playing field for competitive energy sources. This will require a concerted effort from the public, policymakers, and the private sector to invest in and promote the development of TBs.
Retiring Aging Assets and Funding New Ones
There’s also another factor that also needs to be addressed the same way as the oil and fossil fuel industries and that is the existing industry itself. The nuclear industry has long been dominated by a few large companies, and these companies have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo and investing in traditional reactor technology. This includes funding universities to train people such as myself. This has made it difficult for TBs to gain traction and receive the funding they need to advance.
An Industry Spawned: Non Linear Threshold (LNT) and As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA)
A third reason is the prodigious amount of money to be made in maintaining the apparent safety of the existing nuclear industry. This was something else I was not taught in school – about how fraudulent science using fruit flies was railroaded by the oil industry (specifically the Rockefellers) to create a cost increasing environment for the nuclear industry to prevent smaller and smaller amounts of radiation exposure. Professor Edward Calabrese(7) taught me the most about this. You must watch his interviews.
What has grown from this is a radiation safety industry – and hence a profit base – with a life of it’s own. I see it every single working day. It holds tightly to the vein that radiation must at all costs (and all profits) be kept out of the public domain. Again a proven flawed premise but thoroughly supported by the need, and greed, of the incumbent industry to maintain the status quo.
Summing Up – Our Future
In conclusion, as someone who studied nuclear engineering but never learned about Thorium Molten Salt Technology, I am disappointed that I was not given the opportunity to learn about this promising and innovative technology during my time in university. However, I am also grateful to have discovered it now, particularly with my professional experience in the sector. I am eager to see how TBs will continue to evolve and change the face of energy worldwide. With the right support and investment, I believe that TBs have the potential to play the main role in meeting our energy needs in a sustainable and safe manner, and I hope that they will receive the recognition they deserve in the years to come.
The history and development of Molten Salt Fission Energy powered by Thorium is a fascinating one, with many twists and turns that have shaped the direction of the technology. In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower initiated the “Atoms for Peace”(1) program, which was designed to break the military-industrial complex and promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy. This enthused a number of scientists, including Dr. Alvin Weinberg(2) and Dr. Eugene Wigner, who already saw the potential for using nuclear energy as a clean and abundant source of power and where dismayed at the use of their work on the Manhattan Project to kill massive numbers of women and children(3).
The development of Molten Salt Fission Technology powered by Thorium can be traced back to the 1950s and 1960s, when a group of scientists and engineers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee started working on the concept. They were looking for a way to improve the safety and efficiency of nuclear energy without creating a path to weapons, and they saw the potential in using thorium as a fuel. Thorium is a naturally occurring element that is abundant in many parts of the world, and it can be used to produce nuclear energy without the risk of weapons proliferation(4).
However, despite this initial enthusiasm, in the 1970’s the development of Molten Salt Fission Energy was soon stymied by a number of obstacles. One of the main challenges had been the introduction of the Linear Non Threshold (LNT) and As Low as Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) principles by the Rockefellers, who intended to limit the growth of nuclear energy in order to protect their oil businesses. This was done by feeding on the fear of the unknown among the uneducated public and by using the fraudulent work of Professor Hermann Muller from his 1928 fruit fly research(5). As John Kutsch points out in his presentation(6), this was a critical turning point in the development of fission technology.
One of the key figures against the development was Hyman Rickover(7). Rickover was a bulldog of a man, determined to have pressure water fission machines running on uranium installed in his submarines. He was equally determined to redirect public funds away from the development of Molten Salt Fission Technology. This was because he couldn’t use that technology for his submarines and wanted the money for his own research programs. Despite these efforts, however, the development of Molten Salt Fission Technology powered by Thorium still continued.
A major step in this development was the creation of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The MSRE was designed to test the feasibility of using molten salt as both a coolant and fuel for a fission machine. The experiment was a huge success, proving that the technology was both safe and efficient. The MSRE operated from 1965 to 1969 and provided valuable data on the behavior of molten salt as a coolant and fuel. This data helped to lay the foundation for the continued development of Molten Salt Fission Technology, however 1972 saw the dismissal of Dr. Weinberg and the defunding of all Molten Salt work. Led by President Nixon, the hegemony was intent on snuffing out any competition, which Molten Salt Fission Technology clearly was.
We remain in debt to Dr. Weinberg who continued to document, speak and promote their documented achievements until his passing in 2006 – just long enough for his material to be picked up and spread via the Internet(2).
The next step in the development of Molten Salt Fission Technology was the creation of the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) program(8). This program was initiated in the 1980s by the U.S. Department of Energy. The goal of the IFR program was to create a fission machine that was capable of recycling its own fuel, reducing the need for new fuel to be mined and demonstrating the efficient and safe use of high temperature molten systems – those ideally suited for Thorium Fission. The IFR program was a huge success, demonstrating the feasibility of closed fuel cycles for fission machines. The IFR program also provided valuable data on the behavior of fast-neutron-spectrum fission burners, which are critical components of modern fission technology. And, true to form. this program also suffered at the hands of it’s competition with the program being cancelled 3 years before it was completed in 1994 by Clinton and his oil cronies. Ironically, at the same time that excuses where being pushed through Congress to defund the program by Clinton and Energy Secretary Hazel R. O’Leary, O’Leary herself awarded the lead IFR scientist, Dr. Yoon Chang of Argonne Labs, Chicago(9) with $10,000 and a gold medal, with the citation stating his work to develop IFR technology provided “improved safety, more efficient use of fuel and less radioactive waste.”
“My children were wondering, Why are they are trying to kill the project on the one hand and then giving you this award?” Chang said with a chuckle. “How ironic. I just cannot understand how a nation that created atomic energy in the first place and leads the world in technology in this field would want to take a back seat on waste conversion,” Chang said. “I also have confidence in the democratic process that the true facts and technological rationale will prevail in the end.” Dr. Chang during an interview published 8 February 1994 by Elaine S. Povich(10), then a Chicago Tribune Staff Writer(11).
Despite these setbacks, there has been a resurgence of interest in Molten Salt Fission Energy in recent years, with a number of programs and initiatives being developed around the world. In France, the National Centre for Scientific and Technical Research in Nuclear Energy( CRNC ) is working on a number of projects related to this technology, including the development of a prototype fission burner. In Switzerland, ETH Zurich (home of Einstein’s work on E=mc^2) is also exploring the potential of Molten Salt Fission Energy, with a number of projects underway.
There are also a number of other countries that are actively pursuing Molten Salt Fission Energy, including the Czech Republic, Russia, Japan, China, the United States, Canada, and Australia. Each of these countries has its own unique approach to the technology, and is working to advance the state of the art in different ways.
In conclusion, the history and development of Molten Salt Fission Technology powered by Thorium is a fascinating subject that highlights the innovations and advancements in the field of nuclear energy. From the “Atoms for Peace” program initiated by President Dwight Eisenhower, which attracted prominent scientists like Dr. Alvin Weinberg and Dr. Eugenie Wigner, to the efforts of Hyman Rickover to redirect public funds away from the technology, this technology has faced numerous challenges along the way. The introduction of Linear Non Threshold (LNT) and As Low as Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) by the Rockefellers in an effort to stop the growth of nuclear energy and the fraudulent work of Professor Hermann Muller have also played a significant role in the history of this technology.
Despite these challenges, the potential benefits of using Thorium as a fuel source for fission burners are significant. The technology is considered safer and more efficient than traditional nuclear reactors, and it has the potential to produce much less nuclear waste. Additionally, the abundance of Thorium on Earth makes it a more sustainable source of energy than other options, such as uranium.
While much work remains to be done to fully realize the potential of Molten Salt Fission Technology powered by Thorium, the future looks bright. In the next 15 years, we can expect to see significant advancements in the technology in many parts of the world, including new designs and prototypes that will demonstrate the full potential of this technology. And, in our children’s’ children’s future, 50, years and more, we can imagine a world where Molten Salt Fission Technology is the main component of our energy infrastructure, providing clean, safe, and sustainable energy for everyone.
As an anti-nuclear advocate who has come to support nuclear energy, I understand that many others in the anti-nuclear community may be hesitant to reexamine their beliefs. However, I believe that it is important for all of us to be open to new information and to consider all of the available evidence before making decisions.
To help other anti-nuclear advocates take the time to learn about nuclear energy and potentially switch to supporting it, I recommend designing an awareness campaign that focuses on the following:
Highlighting the potential benefits of nuclear energy: There are several compelling reasons why nuclear energy is an excellent choice for our energy mix. For example, it is a low-carbon source of electricity that does not emit greenhouse gases or other pollutants. It is also reliable, with plants capable of operating at high capacity for extended periods of time.
Addressing common misconceptions about nuclear energy: I have found that many people who are opposed to nuclear energy simply lack the appropriate knowledge about issues such as safety, waste management, and cost. It is important to address these concerns head-on and provide accurate information about the measures that are in place to address them. Misinformation and misconceptions kill many ideas.
Encouraging open-mindedness and critical thinking: It is important to encourage anti-nuclear advocates to approach the topic of nuclear energy with an open mind and to be willing to consider all of the available evidence. This may involve encouraging them to read reports from reputable organizations, watch documentaries or talks by experts in the field, or participate in discussions with people who have different viewpoints.
Providing a platform for dialogue: One way to encourage open-mindedness and critical thinking is to provide a platform for respectful dialogue and debate. This could involve hosting events or online forums where people with different viewpoints can discuss the pros and cons of nuclear energy in a respectful manner.
By focusing on these key areas, I believe that it is possible to help other anti-nuclear advocates take the time to learn about nuclear energy and potentially switch to supporting it.
NÜKAD CHAIRMAN GÜL GÖKTEPE: “THE SECRET TO SUCCESS IN THIS INDUSTRY IS TO BE PASSIONATE”
Tarih boyunca devrim niteliğinde buluşlarıyla çok sayıda kadın insanlığın gelişimine katkı sağlayan sayısız başarıya imza atarken, bu başarıların çoğu gölgede kaldı. Bilim, teknoloji, mühendislik ve matematik alanlarında çalışan kadınlara yönelik asırlardır var olan ve Einstein’ın “atom çekirdeğini parçalamaktan daha zordur” dediği ön yargıların da bunda etkisi büyük oldu. Yaşadıkları dönemin önüne geçmeyi başaran bilim kadınları ise halen günümüze ışık olmaya devam ediyorlar. Radyolojiden kanser tedavilerinde kullanılan radyoterapiye kadar çok sayıda alanın temelini oluşturan, iki Nobel ödüllü Polonya asıllı Kimyager ve Fizikçi Marie Curie, nükleer füzyon konusundaki buluşları ile tarihe geçmeyi başaran Avusturyalı Fizikçi Lise Meitner, nükleer endüstriye kazandırdığı teknolojilerle ‘elementlere hükmeden kadın’ diye tanımlanan Rus nükleer fizikçi Zinaida Yerşova nükleer alanda ‘ilham kaynağı’ olan önemli isimler.
While many women have achieved countless successes that have contributed to the development of humanity with their revolutionary inventions throughout history, most of these successes have been overshadowed. The prejudices against women working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which have existed for centuries and that Einstein said “it is harder than splitting the atomic nucleus”, had a great effect on this. The women of science who managed to get ahead of the period they lived in still continue to be the light of today. Two Nobel laureates, Polish-born Chemist and Physicist Marie Curie, which forms the basis of many fields from radiology to radiotherapy used in cancer treatments, Austrian Physicist Lise Meitner, who managed to go down in history with her discoveries on nuclear fusion, Russian nuclear physicist who is defined as “the woman who rules the elements” with the technologies she brought to the nuclear industry. Zinaida Yerşova is an important name in the nuclear field who is an ‘inspiration’.
ROL MODELLERİN ROLÜ
Zorlu koşullara göğüs gererek, inandığı şeyden vazgeçmeyen cesur ve güçlü kadınların ‘yaşanabilir bir dünya için’ mücadeleleri bugün de devam ediyor. Ancak, hem ortaöğretim hem de yükseköğretimde kadın sayısındaki artışlara rağmen, halen “STEM” adı verilen bilim, teknoloji, mühendislik ve matematik alanlarında yeterince temsil edilmiyorlar. Uluslararası Atom Enerjisi Ajansı’na (IAEA) göre gençler meslek seçimi yaparken, toplumun bir bilim insanının neye benzediğine dair klişe bakış açılarından ve önyargılarından çok etkileniyorlar. Özellikle nükleer alanda rol modellerin, gençlerin tercihinde önemli rol oynadığına dikkat çekiliyor. Türkiye’de de son yıllarda başarılı bilim kadınları, ilham veren hikâyeleri ve yürüttükleri projelerle pek çok gence ilham kaynağı oluyorlar. Radyolojiden çevreye, sağlıktan tarıma, güvenlikten iklim değişikliğine kadar farklı alanlarındaki örnek çalışmalarıyla nükleere yönelik mitlerin ve ön yargıların önüne geçmeyi de başarıyorlar.
THE ROLE OF ROLE MODELS
The struggle of brave and strong women, who do not give up on what they believe in by enduring difficult conditions, continues today for a livable world. However, despite the increases in the number of women in both secondary and higher education, they are still underrepresented in the so-called “STEM” fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), when choosing a career, young people are influenced by society’s stereotypical viewpoints and prejudices about what a scientist looks like. It is noted that role models, especially in the nuclear field, play an important role in the choice of young people. In recent years, successful women scientists in Turkey have been a source of inspiration for many young people with their inspiring stories and projects. With their exemplary work in different fields from radiology to the environment, from health to agriculture, from security to climate change, they also succeed in preventing myths and prejudices about nuclear.
SORUNLAR İÇİN ORTAK MÜCADELE
Avrupa Nükleer Araştırma Merkezi CERN’de önemli çalışmalara imza atan, uzay radyasyonu ve uzay fiziği konularında uluslararası başarılara sahip, “Dünyanın bilime, bilimin kadınlara ihtiyacı var” mottosu ile verilen ‘Uluslararası UNESCO Yükselen Yetenek Ödülü’nü 2017 yılında alan Prof. Dr. Bilge Demirköz, önemli rol modellerden biri. Türkiye’nin ilk ‘Parçacık Radyasyonu Test Altyapısı Projesi’ şu anda onun liderliğinde sürdürülüyor. Demirköz, bir yandan da gençleri bilim dünyasına teşvik edecek projelere katılıyor, konferanslar veriyor, sergiler düzenliyor. Demirköz, kadınları bilime teşvik etmenin önemini şöyle anlatıyor: “Dünyanın yükleri ve problemleri artıyor. Bu problemleri çözmek için güce ihtiyacımız var. Bu gücün yüzde 50’sini kadınlar oluşturuyor. Küreselleşen dünyada ise kadının geride kaldığı toplumlar gelişemez. Bu nedenle hem problemleri hep birlikte çözmek hem de kadınların gelişimini desteklemek için kadınları bilime daha çok teşvik etmeliyiz.”
COMMON FIGHTING FOR PROBLEMS
Having carried out important studies at the European Nuclear Research Center, CERN, having international achievements in space radiation and space physics, and receiving the “International UNESCO Emerging Talent Award” in 2017, given with the motto “The world needs science and science needs women”, Prof. Dr. Bilge Demirköz is one of the important role models. Turkey’s first ‘Particle Radiation Test Infrastructure Project’ is currently under his leadership. Demirkoz also participates in projects that will encourage young people to the world of science, gives conferences and organizes exhibitions. Demirköz explains the importance of encouraging women to science as follows: “The burdens and problems of the world are increasing. We need power to solve these problems. Women make up 50 percent of this power. In the globalizing world, societies where women are left behind cannot develop. For this reason, we should encourage women to science more, both to solve problems together and to support the development of women.”
TÜM DÜNYADA BİTKİLERDE VERİM ARTIŞI
Türkiye’de yürüttüğü sayısız başarılı tarım projesinin ardından IAEA’da Nükleer Bilimler ve Uygulamalar Bölümü’nde ‘Bitki Islahçısı ve Genetikçi’ olarak çalışan Türk bilim insanı Ziraat Mühendisi Fatma Sarsu, ‘rol model’ kadınlardan biri. Sarsu, IAEA’nın sitesinde çok sayıda gence ilham verecek hikâyesini şöyle anlatıyor: “Babamın çiftliğinde büyüdüm. Onun ekinlerine duyduğu sevgiyi, onlara nasıl baktığını izlemek beni tarımda çalışmaya ikna etti. Ürün ve mutasyon ıslahını incelemek, mahsul verimliliğini nasıl artıracağımızı öğrenmenin en hızlı yolu olarak ortaya çıktı. IAEA’da bitki ıslahı ve genetiği üzerinde çalışmak, tüm dünyada tarım ürünleri verimliliğini artırmak gibi daha da büyük bir çiftlik verdi bana. Her gün profesyonel bir tarım bilimcisi olarak insanlığın yararına çalıştığımı bilmek bana büyük mutluluk veriyor.”
INCREASED PRODUCTION OF PLANTS ALL OVER THE WORLD
Agricultural Engineer Fatma Sarsu, a Turkish scientist working as a ‘Plant Breeder and Geneticist’ in the Nuclear Sciences and Applications Department of the IAEA, after numerous successful agricultural projects she carried out in Turkey, is one of the ‘role model’ women. Sarsu tells his story that will inspire many young people on the IAEA website: “I grew up on my father’s farm. Watching his love for his crops and how he looked after them convinced me to work in agriculture. Studying crop and mutation breeding has emerged as the fastest way to learn how to increase crop productivity. Working on plant breeding and genetics at the IAEA has given me an even bigger farm to increase crop productivity around the world. It gives me great pleasure to know that every day I work for the benefit of humanity as a professional agronomist.”
YAŞAMI İYİLEŞTİRME SORUMLULUĞU
Türkiye’nin çeşitli dönemlerdeki nükleer teknoloji transferi ve nükleer santral kurma hazırlık süreçlerine yakından tanıklık eden Türkiye’de “Nükleer Alanda Kadınlar” (NÜKAD) olarak bilinen, “WIN (Women in Nuclear) Global Turkey” Grubu’nun kurucusu ve Başkanı olan B. Gül Göktepe de nükleer alanın öncü isimlerinden. Çekmece Nükleer Araştırma Merkezi için geliştirdiği Göl Projesi, Birleşmiş Milletler (BM) ve Uluslararası Atom Enerjisi Ajansı’nın (IAEA) en başarılı teknik işbirliği projeleri arasında gösterilen “Karadeniz’in Çevresel Yönetimi” gibi dikkat çeken çevre projelerine imza attı. BM Viyana Daimi Temsilciliği’nde Türkiye’nin ilk kadın Nükleer Ataşesi olarak görev yaptı. “Nükleer alanda çalışmak büyüleyici olduğu kadar zordur da” ifadelerini kullanan Göktepe, “Yaşamı iyileştirmek ve gezegeni korumak gibi büyük sorumluluk taşıyoruz. Ve bu sektörde başarılı olmanın sırrı, tutkulu olmak! Nükleerde kadın sayımız gün geçtikçe artacak, buna inanıyorum. Yapacak çok işimiz var ve dünyanın bize ihtiyacı var!” diyor.
LIFE IMPROVEMENT RESPONSIBILITY
Witnessing Turkey’s nuclear technology transfer and nuclear power plant preparation processes in various periods, Gül Göktepe., the founder and President of the “WIN (Women in Nuclear) Global Turkey” Group, known as “Women in the Nuclear Field” (NÜKAD) in Turkey. Gül Göktepe is one of the leading names in the nuclear field. She undersigned remarkable environmental projects such as the Lake Project she developed for the Çekmece Nuclear Research Center and the “Environmental Management of the Black Sea”, which is shown as one of the most successful technical cooperation projects of the United Nations (UN) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). She served as Turkey’s first female Nuclear Attaché at the UN Vienna Permanent Mission. Göktepe said, “Working in the nuclear field is as challenging as it is fascinating” and said, “We have a great responsibility to improve life and protect the planet. And the secret to success in this industry is to be passionate! I believe that the number of women in nuclear will increase day by day. We have a lot of work to do and the world needs us!” she says.
AKKUYU GİBİ UZUN İNCE BİR YOL
Hayat hikâyesini “Türkiye’nin Akkuyu hikâyesi gibi zorluklarla dolu, çok uzun ve ince bir yol” olarak tanımlayan Göktepe, İngiltere’de atom mühendisliği okuduğunu, ülkeye dönüşünde katıldığı enerji kongresinde, dönemin Enerji ve Tabii Kaynaklar Bakanının ‘600 MW gücündeki ilk nükleer santralin Akkuyu’da kurulacağı ve 1986 yılında işletmeye alınacağı müjdesi’ ile sektöre umutla adım attığını söylüyor. “O kongreden bu yana nerdeyse 44 yıl geçmiş. Düşünüyorum da o zamandan bu yana nükleerde dünya nerede, biz neredeyiz” diyen Göktepe, Türkiye’nin nükleer santral hikâyesini ise şu sözlerle özetliyor: “Türkiye’nin ilk nükleer santrali Akkuyu Nükleer Santrali projesinde geçmişte öngörülemeyen zorluklar, ertelemeler yaşandı. Şimdi, ne mutlu ki inşaatı tüm hızıyla sürüyor. Kafamda bunca yıllık zorlu mücadeleden sonra değişmeyen bir tek olgu var. O da nükleer teknolojinin dünyanın ve Türkiye’nin geleceği için vazgeçilemez olduğu. Şu anda dünyanın geleceğini tehdit eden en büyük tehlike; iklim değişikliği. Sera gazı emisyonlarını azaltmak için karbonsuz elektrik üretimine ihtiyaç var. O da yenilenebilir enerji, nükleer santraller ve karbon yakalama ve depolamalı fosil yakıtlar (carbon capture and storage-CCS) olmak üzere sadece üç yoldan elde edilebiliyor.”
A LONG THIN ROAD LIKE AKKUYU
Defining her life story as “a very long and narrow road full of difficulties, like Turkey’s Akkuyu story”, Göktepe said that she studied atomic engineering in England, and that she attended the energy congress on her return to the country, and that the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of the time said that the first nuclear power plant with 600 MW power was Akkuyu. She says that she stepped into the sector with hope with the good news that it will be established in ‘Turkey and will be put into operation in 1986’. “It has been almost 44 years since that congress. Goktepe, who says, “Where are we and where are we in the nuclear field since then,” said, and summarizes Turkey’s nuclear power plant story with these words: “In the past, unforeseen difficulties and delays were experienced in the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant project, Turkey’s first nuclear power plant. Now, fortunately, its construction is in full swing. There is only one fact in my mind that has not changed after all these years of hard struggle. That nuclear technology is indispensable for the future of the world and Turkey. The biggest danger threatening the future of the world right now; climate change. Carbon-free electricity generation is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It can be obtained in only three ways: renewable energy, nuclear power plants and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS).
President of Nutek inc, and Women in Nuclear, Turkey, Gül Göktepe of Istanbul, Turkey was the first women representing Turkey at the IAEA in Vienna, Austria, having also spent time on numerous international nuclear missions, including the Chernobyl and Fukushima incidents. She has published over one hundred and thirty scientific papers and authored many articles related to nuclear power stations, and the Black Sea. She has received numerous awards and fellowships including an international medal, the Black Sea Medal, awarded for outstanding services to protect the Black Sea environment, by UNDP GEF, BSC and BSERP.
BAŞARILARI DİKKAT ÇEKİCİ
Hacettepe Üniversitesi Radyasyon Onkolojisi Ana Bilimdalı Radyoterapi Fiziği Programı’ndaki doktora çalışması kapsamında geliştirdiği ‘radyoterapide her hastaya ve bölgeye (meme, tiroid vb.) uyabilecek zırh ve karşı memeyi tedavi alanından uzaklaştıracak sütyen tasarımıyla Hacettepe Üniversitesi ve Hacettepe Teknokent Teknoloji Transfer Merkezi işbirliği ile düzenlenen “Hacettepe Hamle İnovasyon Yarışması”nda 2018 yılında Sağlık Teknolojileri alanında birinci olan Nükleer Enerji Mühendisi Nur Kodaloğlu, alanın genç ve başarılı isimlerinden biri. 2019 yılında Teknofest kapsamında Türk Patent Enstitüsü’nün düzenlediği ISIF 2019- Uluslararası Buluş Fuarı’nda “İkincil Kanser Riskini Azaltan Bir Sütyen” patenti ile ‘bronz madalya’ ile ödüllendirilen ve yeni buluşlar üzerinde çalışan Kodaloğlu kadınların bilime katkısını şu sözlerle vurguluyor: “Farklı meslek gruplarındaki kadınlar toplumun çeşitliliğini yansıtmaktadır. Bugün hem nükleer mühendislik alanında, hem de hastanelerin radyoterapi bölümlerindeki kadın medikal fizikçi ve kadın hekimler ile nükleer tıp, radyoloji bölümlerindeki kadın hekimlerin sayısı azımsanmayacak kadar çok. Yaptıkları yayınlar göz önünde bulundurulduğunda bilime yaptıkları katkının da bir o kadar fazla olduğu görülecektir. Kadınların toplumun nükleer teknolojilere olan güvenini arttırmada da önemli rolleri var.”
Organized in cooperation with Hacettepe University and Hacettepe Teknokent Technology Transfer Center, with the armor design that can fit each patient and region (breast, thyroid, etc.) and the bra that will move the opposite breast away from the treatment area, she developed within the scope of her doctoral study in the Radiation Oncology Department of Hacettepe University, Radiotherapy Physics Program. Nuclear Energy Engineer Nur Kodaloğlu, who won the first place in the field of Health Technologies in the Hacettepe Move Innovation Competition in 2018, is one of the young and successful names in the field. Kodaloğlu, who was awarded the ‘bronze medal’ with the patent “A Bra that Reduces the Risk of Secondary Cancer” at the ISIF 2019-International Inventions Fair organized by the Turkish Patent Institute within the scope of Teknofest in 2019 and working on new inventions, emphasizes the contribution of women to science with the following words: “Different professions Today, the number of female medical physicists and female physicians in both nuclear engineering and radiotherapy departments of hospitals, and female physicians in nuclear medicine and radiology departments is substantial. “Women also play an important role in increasing society’s confidence in nuclear technologies.”
POZİTİF KATKI SAĞLIYORUZ
“Teknolojik gelişmeyle paralel nükleer enerjinin kullanıldığı her alanda Türkiye’yi ileriye taşıyacağına inanıyorum” diyen Feride Kutbay, nükleer reaktör güvenliği alanında yaptığı çalışmalarla dikkat çeken başarılı genç bilim insanlarından biri. İstanbul Teknik Üniversitesi (İTÜ) Enerji Enstitüsü’nde Nükleer Araştırmalar Ana Bilim Dalı’nda Araştırma Görevlisi olarak görev yapan Kutbay, Türkiye’de bu alanda yeni iş fırsatlarının da artmaya başladığına dikkat çekerek, şunları ifade ediyor: “Nükleer güç santralini barındıran bir ülke olarak, nükleer reaktörlerin işletilmesi için yetiştirilen uzmanların dışında IAEA standartlarının ülkemizde uygulanmasında görev alacak uzmanlara da ihtiyaç var. Şu anda Rusya’da eğitim gören öğrencilerimizin dışında Türkiye, son birkaç yıldır Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı’na bağlı yurt dışı yüksek lisans bursu ile nükleer alanda yetiştirilmek üzere farklı ülkelere öğrenci gönderiyor. Geleceğe yönelik insan kaynağımızı güçlendiriyoruz. Kadın istihdam oranının artırılması ve kadın profesyonellerin yetiştirilmesine yönelik adımların Türkiye’de gelişmekte olan nükleer sektöre pozitif yönde etki edeceğini düşünüyorum. Kadınlar bu mesleğe enerji ve güç veriyor.”
WE PROVIDE POSITIVE CONTRIBUTION
Feride Kutbay, who said, “I believe that it will carry Turkey forward in every field in which nuclear energy is used in parallel with technological development,” is one of the successful young scientists who draw attention with her studies in the field of nuclear reactor safety. Kutbay, who works as a Research Assistant in the Department of Nuclear Research at Istanbul Technical University (ITU) Energy Institute, draws attention to the fact that new job opportunities have started to increase in this field in Turkey, and says: “As a country that hosts a nuclear power plant, In addition to the experts trained for the operation of nuclear reactors, there is also a need for experts who will take part in the implementation of IAEA standards in our country. Apart from our students currently studying in Russia, Turkey has been sending students to different countries to be trained in the nuclear field for the last few years, with a graduate scholarship from the Ministry of National Education. We are strengthening our human resources for the future. I think that steps towards increasing the rate of female employment and training female professionals will have a positive impact on the developing nuclear sector in Turkey. Women give energy and strength to this profession.”
Ordinally appearing in LinkedIn Pulse. Reproduced for educational purposes and with permission.
The Pentagon recently halted the delivery of F-35 fighter jets when it was discovered that they contained Chinese rare earth components. If the Pentagon would look a little more closely, they would find that Chinese rare earth derived components are ubiquitously distributed throughout all U.S. / NATO weapon systems.
It isn’t only U.S. weapon systems, China controls global access to rare earth metals and magnets (and other downstream critical materials) for EVs, wind turbines, and most other green- technology.
However, China’s vision is much more ambitious than controlling the supply-chain for high-tech commodities, they are leveraging their dominance into the clean energy sector. Last month Chinese authorities authorized the startup of what should be considered the world’s only Generation-5 nuclear reactor: a reactor that is inherently safe, non-proliferating, and can consume nuclear waste.
The goal of Net-Zero, and any potential economic benefits, are entirely under China’s control.
China’s leadership position in both of these areas can be traced back to irrational policies and legacy prejudices specific to thorium, a mildly radioactive element that is commonly found in heavy rare earth minerals.
The words that follow, detail the history of how China surpassed the U.S. with its own nuclear technology and displaced its historic leadership position in rare earths.
A Short History on U.S. Nuclear Development
In 1962 Nobel Prize Winning scientist Glenn Seaborg responded to President John F. Kennedy’s request for a Sustainable U.S. Energy Plan. The report titled “Civilian Nuclear Power” called for the development and deployment of Thorium Molten Salt Breeder Reactors.
These ultra-safe reactors are nothing like the legacy reactors that make up today’s Light Water fleet (LWR). When deployed globally, many believe they will be the primary backbone of Green Energy – replacing the existing natural gas dispatchable power that makes up over 70% of the ‘balance-of-power’ in renewable systems.
Unfortunately, Seaborg’s plan died with Kennedy. The cold-war preference for uranium and plutonium over thorium in the 1960s and 70s, coupled with the 1980s modification to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Committee (NRC) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations that also impacted how thorium is classified and processed, led to the termination of the U.S. Thorium Molten Salt Reactor program and, effectively, the U.S. (French and Japanese) rare earth industry.
Today, China controls the downstream production of rare earth metals and magnets (used in EVs, Wind Turbines and U.S. / NATO weapon systems) and is boldly pursuing Glenn Seaborg’s plan for clean, safe energy. China’s nuclear regulatory authorities have cleared the 2MWt TMSR-LF1, China’s first Thorium Molten Salt Reactor (Th-MSR), for startup. There is no U.S. equivalent program on the horizon.
Considering that the U.S. initially developed this reactor, it begs the question of why China is leading with its commercial development. That requires a bit of a history lesson.
The goal of harnessing nuclear energy began shortly after World War II. At that time, a number of Manhattan Project scientists were tasked with quickly developing civilian nuclear power. One of the mission goals was to distribute the ongoing cost of producing bomb-making materials across our secretive Manhattan Project campuses onto a ‘civilian’ nuclear energy program. That program eventually morphed into the Atomic Energy Commission and then to the Department of Energy.
Results came quickly. The first reactor designs, still in use today, are essentially ‘first concept reactors’: something more than a Ford Model T, but possibly less than a Model A, as economies of standardization were purposely never attempted in the USA, and therefore the USA never achieved the economies of scale that comes from making only 1 type of reactor model like the French and Japanese do.
The rollout of Thorium MSRs will be the equivalent of a modern-day automobile (with standardization of parts and licensing, automated assembly-line production and centralized operation permitting).
Every U.S. Light Water Reactor (LWR) facility is uniquely engineered from the ground up— maximizing its cost. Every permit application is unique. Permit requirements, timelines and outcomes are fluid. The timeline from initial funding for permitting to buildout can take decades. This equates to tying up tens of billions of dollars in financial commitments over a very long time for an uncertain outcome (a number of reactor projects were terminated during the buildout phase, with some near completion). There is an incentive to drag projects out because the EPC builders of the plan are not the operators, so they have to make all their money in the build. For example, the most recent U.S. nuclear buildout is 8 years behind schedule and at twice the estimated cost. This is a recipe for failure.
The original LWR designs, largely developed by Alvin Weinberg, boiled water under immense pressure to turn a shaft, similar to the turbines of a coal fired power plant. The use of water as a coolant is one of the largest contributors to LWR system complexity, risk and costs.
Water’s liquid phase range at normal pressure is 1 to 99°C. Water’s natural boiling temperature does not generate sufficient pressure to economically operate traditional steam turbines so all LWR type reactors use high pressure to force water to remain liquid at higher temperatures. The need to contain coolant failures in such a high-pressure operating environment greatly effects the safety and cost of the entire system. All water-cooled reactors have an inherent design risk, no matter how small, built in.
Weinberg knew there must be a better design, but government and military support rushed in to prop up the development of the Light Water Reactor design. Admiral Hyman Rickover was the leading advocate, quickly developing the first nuclear-powered submarine. The U.S. Army also got in the game, developing a prototype mobile field reactor. The Air Force, feeling left out, looked to Alvin Weinberg to develop a nuclear-powered aircraft.
The Air Force Reactor project required that he develop something entirely new; keeping in mind that this reactor would operate inside an airplane with a crew and live ordinance. These are truly remarkable constraints in terms of weight, size, safety, and power output. Weinberg’s insight led to a reactor that used a liquid fuel instead of solid fuel rods. It was simply known as Alvin’s 3P reactor, all he needed was a Pot, a Pipe and a Pump to build his new reactor design.
Elegant in its simplicity, its safety was based on physics and geometry – not pumps, values, backup generators and emergency protocols.
The Air Force Reactor program was able to prove out all requirements of the program. It was / is possible to build a nuclear-powered bomber aircraft and keep the crew ‘reasonably safe’. However, the development of nuclear-launch capable submarines and the Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile supplanted the need for a nuclear bomber.
The original Air Force Reactor Experiment evolved into the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) developed at Oak Ridge National Lab. This moderated reactor operated for 19,000 hours over 5 years. The reactor was designed to run on a Thorium-uranium mixed fuel. Prior to termination of the project, all operational, safety, material science, and corrosion issues were resolved.
More importantly, the MSRE project proved that you could build a revolutionary nuclear reactor that eliminated all of the inherent safety concerns of the LWR while minimizing the spent fuel issue (what some people call nuclear waste).
The new reactor, commonly known as a Molten Salt Reactor (MSR), used heated salt with a liquid-to-boil temperature range that can exceed 1000°C (a function of chemistry), to act both as coolant and fuel. The recirculation of the liquid fuel/coolant allowed for the fuller utilization (burn up) of the actinides and fission products. The salt’s higher temperature operation that did not need water for cooling, eliminated the need to operate under extreme pressures.
This salt coolant cannot overheat, and meets the definition of having inherent safety – MSR’s are inherently safe reactors that eliminate scores of redundant systems, significantly increasing the simplicity of the overall system while lowering risks and cost and increasing its safety profile.
Another advantage is that MSR’s higher operating temperatures allow it to utilize liquid CO2 (or other high compression gases), thus eliminating H2O steam from the system. Moving away from the Rankine turbine system to much smaller and more efficient Brayton turbines delivers a much higher energy conversion at lower costs. The real promise of the MSR was that it produced process heat directly, for hydrogen, desalination, fertilizer, steel production – avoiding inefficient electricity production all while utilizing 100% of the heat energy directly.
Another beneficial feature is the reduced quantity and timeframe of storage requirements for spent fuel (aka: nuclear waste). Inherent to their design, MSRs use-up nuclear fuel far more efficiently than LWRs, less than 1% of the original fuel load can end up as spent fuel, and due to acceleration of decay under the recirculation of the fuel/coolant load the residual spent fuel decays to background (radiation levels equal to the natural environment) in as little as 300 years.
LWRs utilize about 3% of the available energy in solid fuels and the spent fuel does not decay to background levels for tens of thousands of years.
The most promising MSR design feature was found to be that fission criticality (a sustained chain reaction) is self-regulating due to the reactor’s geometry and self-purging features that dumped the fuel/coolant into holding tanks and regulated fission rates (again, based on geometry) if the reactor exceeded design operating temperatures. These features made a reactor “meltdown” impossible and “walk-away safe”.
Because the salt coolant has such a high liquid phase the system can be air cooled (in any atmosphere: the artic, the desert , even versions for space). The elimination of water from the system eliminates the primary failure-point of all conventional nuclear reactors, including explosive events that can occur with water cooled reactors.
NOTE: LWR reactor explosions are due to disassociation of water into hydrogen and oxygen when exposed to Zirconium at high temperatures during coolant system failure. The zirconium fuel casings act as a catalyst, causing a massive rapid atmospheric expansion. This atmospheric expansion was the cause of the explosive event associated with the Fukushima disaster.
The elimination of any high-pressure hydrogen event excludes the potential for widespread radiation release and thus, the need for a massive containment vessel.
Alvin Weinberg’s reactor design also solved another challenge of that time. Prior to the mid- 1970s the U.S. government believed that global uranium resources were very scarce. This new reactor, fueled with a small amount of fissile material added to the Thorium salt, could breed new fuel. In fact, it turned out that the reactor could also be used to dispose of weapons grade plutonium or even spent fuel (stockpiled nuclear waste).
Unlike natural mined Uranium, which needed intensive processing to concentrate the fissile U235, Thorium is widely abundant and a byproduct of phosphate, titanium, zircon and rare earth ores. Thorium can be used in a nuclear reactor after minimal processing, all benefits that were unheeded in the 60s and 70s.
Since MSRs run at a much higher temperature than LWRs, the greatest benefit would be the direct utilization of thermal energy for industrial processes requiring thermal loads (allowing for the carbon free production of steel, cement and chemicals that make up nearly 25% of all CO2 emissions). Possibilities seemed endless.
Glenn Seaborg’s 1962 report to President Kennedy devised a national plan for sustainable civilian nuclear power. Evaluating the relative safety, efficiency, and economy of the Th-MSR vs. the LWR, Seaborg recommended that the U.S. phase out LWRs in favor of Alvin Weinberg’s Th- MSR Thorium “breeder reactor”.
So why didn’t this reactor design prevail? Considering its economic advantages, the Th-MSR would cause the phase out of the existing nuclear fleet and would be more cost competitive than coal or natural gas (and could replace petroleum via a nuclear-powered Fischer Tropes process), it is no wonder that the reactor was rejected by the prevailing political-economy of cold-war industrialism and what was primarily a hydro-carbon based economy.
The production cost for these reactors was a key concern. The relative cost of assembly line built MSRs reactor would be a fraction of traditional LWRs (these are small modular reactors). As such, MSRs could bring installed cost per megawatt in line with coal fired power plants.
The construction cost advantages are numerous: inherent safety based on geometry (translates into simplicity of design and construction), small, modular, assembly-line built, roll-off permitting, air cooled (eliminating the primary critical failure risk of LWRs and, thus the possibility for a wide-spread radiation event), no need for a massive containment vessel, and small Bryton turbines.
The Thorium fuel would be a byproduct of rare earths (no enrichment is necessary). Rare earths would be a byproduct of some other mined commodity.
Regardless of the economic opposition, there was also a geopolitical conflict. Fueled with Thorium, the MSR did not produce plutonium (fissile bomb making materials) or anything else that was practically usable for the production of nuclear weapons. The reactor was highly proliferation resistant—and who would not like that?
The Nixon Administration, for one. American politics in 1968 were largely influenced by the U.S.’s relative status in the nuclear weapons arms race with Russia. Nixon, a nuclear hawk, killed the MSR program and committed the country to the development of fast spectrum breeder reactors (the program was a total failure), circa 1972.
As early as 1970 a new, safe, clean, cost-efficient, and self-generating energy economy was technically possible but was sacrificed to the objectives of the cold war and preservation of the existing LWR fleet.
If the U.S. had followed Seaborg’s advice the entire world could be pulling up to the curb of Net-Zero today and U.S. energy hegemony would be preserved long into the future.
Instead, today, China is leading the world in the development of Thorium fueled reactors and Thorium based critical materials. They intend to use it as a geopolitical tool: the Chinese version of “Atoms for Peace”. This would end U.S. energy hegemony.
Sadly, most Americans can’t fathom how that would impact their standard of living and create a domestic energy source that would cement their position in the world.
But the story of how Thorium politics and policy derailed U.S. energy and national security interests does not end there.
The Story of Rare Earths
A decade later, the production and proliferation of nuclear weapons material became an international matter of concern. In 1980 the NRC and IAEA collaborated on regulations to ratchet down on the production and transportation of uranium. The regulatory mechanism 10 CFR 40, 75 applied the rules and definitions specific to the uranium mining industry to all mining activity, using the 1954 Atomic Energy Act terminology of nuclear “source material” to define the materials to be controlled.
This caused a new and unintended problem. At the time, nearly 100 percent of the world’s supply of heavy rare earths contained Thorium in their mineralization and were the byproduct of some other mined commodity. Consequently, when these commodity producers extracted their target ores (titanium, zirconium, iron, phosphates, etc.) they triggered the new regulatory definition of ‘processed or refined ore (under 10 CFR 40)’ for these historical rare earth byproducts, causing the Thorium-bearing rare earth mineralization to be classified as “source material”.
In order to avoid the onerous costs, regulations, and liabilities associated with being a source material producer these commodity producers disposed of these Thorium-bearing resources along with their other mining waste and continue to do so today.
Currently, in the U.S. alone, the annual quantity of rare earths disposed of to avoid the NRC source material regulations exceeds the non-Chinese world’s demand by a factor of two or more. The amount of Thorium that is also disposed of with these rare earths could power the entire western hemisphere if utilized in MSRs.
The scale of this potential energy waste dwarfs the collective efforts of every environmentalist on a global basis (including all of the World Economic Forum programs being forced on farmers and consumers across the globe).
As a result, all downstream rare earth value chain companies in the U.S. and IAEA compliant countries lost access to reliable supplies for these rare earth resources.
Capitalizing on these regulatory changes, China quickly became the world’s RE producer.
During the 1980s, China increased its leverage by initiating tax incentives and creating economically favorable manufacturing zones for companies that moved rare earth technology inside China.
U.S., French and Japanese companies were happy to off-shore their technology and environmental risks (mostly related to Thorium regulations). The 1980 regulatory change and China’s aggressive investment policies allowed China to quickly acquire a foothold in metallurgical and magnet capabilities.
For example: China signed rare earth supply contracts with Japan that required Japan to transfer rare earth machinery and process technology to mainland China while establishing state-sponsored acquisition strategies for targeted U.S. metallurgical and magnetic manufacturing technologies.
By 1995 the U.S. had sold its only NdFeB magnet producer, and all of its IP, to what turned out to be Deng Xiaoping’s family.
In just two decades China moved from a low value resource producer to having monopoly control over global production and access to rare earth technology metals.
By 2002 the U.S. became 100% dependent on China for all post-oxide rare earth materials. Today, China’s monopoly is concentrated on downstream metallics and magnets. In 2018, Japan, the only country that continued to produce rare earth metals outside of China, informed the U.S. government that they no longer make “new” rare earth metals.
Thorium policy was the leading culprit in America’s failure to lead the world in the evolution of the rare earth dependent technologies. From its powerful vantage point, China was able to force technology companies to move operations inside China. From a practical standpoint all past and future breakthroughs in rare earth based material science and technology migrate to China.
The best example of this is Apple. Because the iPhone is highly rare earth dependent, Apple was forced to manufacture it in China. In January 2007 Apple introduced its revolutionary iPhone. By August of the same year high quality Chinese knockoffs were being produced by a largely unknown company named Huawei. By 2017 Huawei was outselling Apple on a worldwide basis.
This story is not uncommon. It is typical of what happens to Western companies who move manufacturing inside China. Apple knew this but had no choice: developing a domestic rare earth value chain was impossible for any single company, industry, or even country by this point in the game.
Today China’s monopoly power allows them to control the supply chain of the U.S. military and NATO defense contractors.
From its diminished vantage point, the Pentagon is somehow unable to understand that China’s monopoly is a National Program of Industrial and Defense Policy.
Instead, the Pentagon pretends that this is a problem that can be solved by ‘the free market’, naively betting U.S. national security on a hodgepodge of junior rare earth mining ventures with economically questionable deposits, no downstream metal refining capabilities and no access to the critical heavy rare earths.
The Pentagon twice bet our national security on a geochemically incompatible deposit in California. The first time was in 2010. The Pentagon was forewarned that the deposit controlled by Molycorp, was incompatible with U.S. technology and defense needs, due to its lack of heavy rare earths, and that its business plan was “unworkable”. The company was bankrupt in just 5 years.
In 2020, despite the same deposit’s intractable deficiencies, Chinese ownership and a commitment to supply China, the Pentagon backed a venture capital group ‘developing’ the deposit under the name MP Materials. The new company has made the same unfulfillable promises as its predecessor but further domestic downstream capability into metallics is unlikely.
MP may remain profitable as long as it continues to sell concentrate and oxides into China, but profitable downstream refining into metallics / magnets is not possible when accounting for China’s internal cost, scale and subsidy advantages (and control over price).
The Pentagon, like so many other investors, fails to accept the reality of China’s monopoly.
It is both an economic monopoly, and a geopolitical monopoly.
Consequently, there have been over 400 bankruptcies in rare earth projects since 2010. Only two western controlled rare earth mines went into production: Molycorp, mentioned above, and Lynas, the Australian company Lynas. Lynas’s success is mostly due the current environment of higher prices (ultimately under China’s control) and a modestly superior rare earth chemistry when compared with the Molycorp Mt. Pass deposit. Lynas survived the 2015 downturn through direct subsidies form the Japanese government, price supports and debt forgiveness from its customers and investors.
Today the U.S. and all western governments find themselves outmaneuvered in rare earths (and other critical materials), the green economy and Thorium nuclear energy.
China’s first to market strategy can be expected to conform to their tendency to vertically and horizontally monopolize industries, like rare earths. As such, China is poised to control the global roll out of this technology—displacing the U.S. as the global energy hegemon.
Because the U.S. failed to rationalize Thorium policy it has lost control of its destiny in rare earths and the future of safe, clean, affordable, and sustainable nuclear energy.
Unchallenged, China will be the global champion of net-zero energy.
What are the domestic obstacle to achieving Thorium MSR?
Opposition is directly linked to the cold war policies of the past and the intersection of legacy energy producers (LWR nuclear, coal, natural gas and petroleum) and renewable energy producers. These energy sectors individually and collectively are the political constituents of the DoE. So, despite the opposing interests between each of these energy sectors, the threat of Th-MSR expresses itself as DoE opposition (that is beginning to change).
The other problem with Th-MSR development is the regulatory environment. Regulations are more about protecting legacy interests than public safety. In nuclear regulation it is all about protecting the legacy fleet from new entrants.
For example, the company Nuscale spent over $600 million, over a decade, to certify a new nuclear reactor design. This expense was not to build a reactor. It was the regulatory cost of permitting a new reactor design that (highly conforms to existing LWR designs).
What people overlook is that the real cost and risk in new reactor design is a function of time, money and investor expectations.
In the case of Nuscale, the regulatory and construction cost of a new reactor will be in the multi-billion-dollar range, with over a decade of investor money tied up in the highly speculative investment (speculative in regulatory outcomes and customer orders against existing and alternative technologies) makes this the highest investment risk imaginable.
Accounting for the magnitude of these risks and return expectations, this type of investment is at the outer bounds of what is achievable — in the absence of a monopoly. That is why public investment was always necessary in the nuclear industry. China understands this and has acted accordingly.
What are the domestic obstacles to a domestic rare earth value chain?
The current rare earth issue has not been a mining issue but rather a regulatory issue. The U.S. continues to mine enough rare earths, as the byproduct of some other commodity, to exceed the entire non-Chinese world demand. These resources would quickly become available if the U.S. rationalized its Thorium policy.
The larger downstream problems resulting from China’s massive overinvestment and negligible return requirements in its rare earth industry have yet to express themselves, as the U.S. government blindly funds non-compatible, non-viable, non-economic downstream projects.
Without a production tax credit to off-set Chinese subsides, all of these projects will fail.
Balancing the comparative cost of capital and investor return expectation also must be answered.
There are potential solutions. For rare earths there is a production tax credit bill that could off- set China’s generous subsidies, zero-cost capital and production cost advantages (comparative labor & environmental costs). There may also soon be proposed legislation to solve the Thorium problem. This same proposal would also provide a funding and development platform for a U.S. based Thorium MSR reactor industry.
By Wade Allison, professor of physics at Oxford University. Written 20 September 2022
Though an ideal energy source, nuclear made an unfortunate entry into world affairs. Accompanied by frightening tales of destruction it failed early on to gain the confidence required of a leading contributor to future human prosperity. Is radioactivity and nuclear radiation particularly dangerous? It has been wielded as a political weapon for 70 years. But does the myth of a possible radiation holocaust have objective substance? The inhibition that surrounds nuclear radiation obstructs the optimum solution to real dangers today – climate change, the supply of water, food and energy, and socio-economic stability.
Primary Energy Sources
By studying the natural world, humans have succeeded where other creatures failed. Satisfying our needs depends on understanding the benefits that nature offers. In particular, the study of energy and the acceptance by society of improved sources have been critical to prospects for the human race several times in the past. The first occasion was pre-historic, perhaps 600,000 years ago, when fire was domesticated. Confidence and good practice spread through the use of speech and education. Then came the harnessing of sunshine and the weather, delivered by windmills, watermills and the growth of food and vegetation. Nevertheless, these energy supplies were weak and notoriously unreliable. Additional energy was routinely provided by slave labour and teams of animals. Generally though, life was short and miserable.
The use of fossil fuels and their reliable engines began in the 18th Century and displaced the use of intermittent sources. Life was transformed for those who had the fuels. Health, sport, holidays, leisure and human rights flourished, all previously unavailable. Political affairs were largely concerned with which people had access to fossil fuels. Though fossil fuels were never safe or environmental, their combustion probably triggered, if not caused, changes to the climate. Consequently, the decision was taken in Paris in 2015 to discontinue their use. What should replace them? And how may we live in a climate that is never likely ever to revert to the way it was?
Fortunately, natural science today has a firm and complete account of energy – that is apart from one or two intriguing cosmological goings-on such as “dark matter”. Secondary sources, such as hydrogen, ammonia, batteries, electricity and biofuels, are beside the point, because they need to be generated from some primary source, and it’s the latter we need to secure. The weak, unreliable and weather-dependent primary sources that failed previously continue to be inadequate. Without fossil fuels, that leaves only one widely available source, sufficient to support the continuation of society as we know it, namely nuclear energy. It ticks every box, except that many know little about it and are wary of it.
One who learnt early was Winston Churchill. In 1931 he wrote prophetically in the Strand Magazine that nuclear energy is a million times that of the fuel that powered the Industrial Revolution.
Both chemical and nuclear energy can be released explosively. Unfortunately, it was as a weapon that many in society first heard about nuclear energy. Released in anger at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the combination of blast and fire produced was fatal to the majority of inhabitants within a mile or two. Those much further away were not affected, nor were those who came to the site weeks afterwards. The result of the nuclear bombs was similar to the destruction by conventional explosives and fire storm in WWII of Tokyo, Hamburg and Dresden – or by explosives in recent years of Chechnya, Aleppo and Mariupol – except that it may come from a single device.
It comes as a surprise to many people that nuclear radiation makes no major contribution to the mortality of a nuclear explosion, even in later years. That is not what they have been told. What is the truth and why has it remained hidden?
Is Radiation a Danger to Life?
A great deal has been learnt about the effect of radiation on life in the past 120 years. When nuclear radiation was discovered by Marie Curie and others in the last years of the 19th Century, they took great care to study its effect on life. Shortly thereafter, high doses were used successfully to cure patients of cancer, as they still are today. Millions of people have reason to be thankful as a result.
As with any new technology, much was learnt from accidents and mistakes in the early days. But by 1934 international agreement had been reached on the scale of a safe radiation dose, 0.2 roentgen per day – in modern units, 2 milli-gray (or milli-Sievert) per day. In 1980 Lauriston Taylor (1902-2004), the doyen of radiation health physicists, affirmed that “nobody has been identifiably injured by a lesser dose”– a statement that remains true today.
At first sight it is strange that ionising radiation, with its energy easily sufficient to break the critical molecules of life, should be harmless in low and moderate doses. And it does indeed break such molecules indiscriminately, but living tissue fights back because it has evolved the ability to do so. In early epochs the natural radiation environment on Earth was more intense than today. Life would have died out long ago, if it had not developed multiple layers of defence. These act within hours or days by repairing and replacing molecules and whole cells, too. Control of these mechanisms was devolved to the cellular level long ago, and it is a mistake for human regulations to try to micromanage the protection already provided by nature. So, although the details of natural protection and its workings are still being discovered today, the effectiveness of the safety it provides were known and agreed already in 1934.
But then in the mid-1950s, in spite of initiatives like “Atoms for Peace” by President Eisenhower, human society lost its nerve about nuclear energy and its radiation. What went wrong?
When fear hid the benefits of nuclear and its radiation
Few today are old enough to remember those days, as I do. The 1950s was an unpleasant time with military threats abroad, spying, secrecy and mistrust at home. In the USA it was the era of Senator Joseph McCarthy when all manner of innocent people were accused of being communist sympathisers or Soviet agents. Suspicion was everywhere. Already following the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, knowledge of nuclear radiation was seen as a “no-go” area, supposedly too difficult to understand and beyond the educational paygrade of normal people. After the War a vast employment structure, the industrial military complex, continued to develop, test and stockpile nuclear weapons to the horror of large sections of the populace, worldwide. They were supported in their concern by many scientists, including Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Andre Sakharov and many Nobel Laureates. Whether they were knowledgeable in radiobiology or not – and few were – they did not trust the judgement of the military and political authorities with this new energy and its million-fold increase. Everybody was frightened that the power might fall into foreign hands or be used irresponsibly by allies. This fear increased after 1949 when the Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear device. As the years went by, ever larger popular marches and political demonstrations attempted to halt the nuclear Arms Race with the USSR, frequently alarming civil authorities with their threats to law and order.
This civil disturbance had more success in stopping the Arms Race when it focused on the biological effects of nuclear radiation. Few in the industrial military complex knew much about this – they were mostly engineers, physical and mathematical scientists. In truth, few other scientists did either and in the absence of data were easily alarmed. The concern was that irreparable radiation damage incurred by the human genome might be transmitted to subsequent generations. Such a prediction was made by Hermann Muller, a Nobel Prize winning geneticist – without any evidence. A ghoulish spectre of deformed descendants was eagerly adopted by the media as real. The popular magazine Life, dated May 1955 page 37, explicitly quoted Muller, saying “atomic war may cause” such hereditary damage (emphasis added). The qualification of the possibility was lost on the media and general public – the horror was seen as just too awful. It was widely taken as likely to be true by academic opinion, too, as there was no evidence to deny it.
Significantly, it is not difficult to detect levels of radiation exposure many thousand times lower than the level accepted as safe in 1934. Anxious to quell popular pressure, regulatory authorities acceded to a regime in which life should be spared any radiation exposure above a level As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA). For the public, the advice was set at 1 milli-Sievert per year, a modest fraction of the typical natural background received from rocks and space. National regulatory authorities, concerned to protect themselves from liability, readily adopted the advice of the International Commission for Radiological Protection (ICRP) under the auspices of the United Nations.
These regulations are based, not on evidence, but on a philosophy of caution, namely that any exposure to radiation is harmful and that all such damage accumulates throughout life – in denial of the natural protection provided by evolution. A discredited ad hoc theory of risk, the Linear No Threshold model (LNT)[9,10], supplanted the Threshold Model of 1934 at the behest of the BEAR Committee of the US Natural Academy of Sciences in 1956.
Such excessive caution incurs huge extra costs. Worse, adherence to ALARA/LNT regulations has caused serious social and environmental damage – for instance, in the response to the accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi. International bodies and committees, unlike individuals, stick rigidly to their terms of reference. So, the ICRP still supports ALARA/LNT today and advocates protection which is not necessary – except in extreme cases.
What about these extreme cases? Muller supposed that an exposure to radiation can alter a person’s genetic code and that this error can then be passed onto off-spring. But the medical records of the survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, their children and grandchildren never supported this. As a result, nobody today maintains that there is any evidence for such inheritable genetic changes. This is confirmed in animal experiments, and was accepted even by the ICRP in 2007 – to be precise they lowered their estimated genetic risk factor by an order of magnitude. So Muller was wrong. Incidentally, he was also wrong about the evidence for which he received the Nobel Prize in 1946.
Dedicated to protect people against radiological damage, the ICRP focused on the induction of cancer by radiation instead of inheritable genetic defects. The medical history of 87,000 survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with their children, have been followed since 1950. Data on solid cancers and leukaemia in 50 years and their correlation with individually estimated exposures have been published by DL Preston et al (, Tables 3 and 7). Inevitably, some survivors died from these diseases anyway, but their numbers are allowed for by comparing with distant residents who received no dose, being too far away. Some 68,000 survivors received a dose less than 100 milli-Sievert and these showed no evidence of extra cancers. Altogether, between 1950 and 2000 there were 10,127 deaths from solid cancers and 296 from leukaemia – 480 and 93, respectively, more than expected on the basis of data for those not irradiated. This number of extra deaths, 573, is significant, but less than half a percent of those who died from the blast and fire. Furthermore, it is only a third of the number of deaths reported as caused by the unnecessary and ill-judged evacuation at Fukushima Daiichi, an accident in which nobody died from radiation, or is likely to. Evidently, the fear of radiation can be far more life-threatening than its actual effect, even as recorded in the bombing of two large cities. This conclusion in no way belittles the enormous loss of life from the blast and fire of a nuclear explosion with its localised range and limited duration.
But it is important to check that all available evidence corroborates this conclusion. How are other biological risks checked? A new vaccine is checked with blind tests in which patients are unaware of whether they have been treated or been given a placebo. In similar studies with radiation on groups of animals, one is irradiated every day throughout life and the other not. Those irradiated daily show a threshold of about 2 milli-Sievert per day for additional cancer death or other life shortening disease, similar to the threshold set in 1934. In fact doses below threshold increase life expectancy and the same is found for humans.
At Chernobyl 28 fire fighters died of acute radiation syndrome in a short time, 27 from doses above 4000 milli-Sievert and 1 from a dose between 2000 and 4000 milli-Sievert. There were 15 deaths from thyroid cancer (but opinion is divided on these). Other cases of ill health were related to severe social and mental disturbance. Being told “you have been irradiated and are being evacuated immediately” is disorientating. Like Voodoo or a mediaeval curse, it can be life-threatening. Notably, the wild animals in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone are thriving, as seen on wildlife programmes[19, 20] – but then they have not been shown videos on the horrors of radiation!
An important question is how human society has persisted with such a gross misperception for seventy years. Entertainment, courage and excitement are important emotional exercises that prepare us to face real dangers, although there is a need to distinguish fact from fiction. The Placebo Effect describes the genuine health benefits found by patients who think they have been treated when they have not. The Nocebo Effect is its inverse, that is where people who have not been harmed, suffer real symptoms as if they had. In the aftermath of the Fukushima accident families endured terrible suffering including family break up and alcoholism – as a direct consequence of regulations based on ALARA and LNT. If the regulations had been based on the 1934 threshold, no evacuation longer than a week would have been justified.
The nuclear option for generations to come
Evidently, committees that advocate regulation based on ALARA/LNT are harmful and should be disbanded. Future generations should be free to make informed decisions involving nuclear energy, in peace or war, unencumbered by the erroneous legacy of the 1950s.
In years to come, when reference is made to the “nuclear option” in other contexts, we may hope that it will be shorthand for “the best solution”. In medicine this is nearly true now. During a course of radiotherapy the healthy tissue close to a tumour receives a high dose – about 1000 milli-Gray, every weekday for several weeks. By spreading the treatment over many days, this healthy tissue just recovers, and radiologists ensure that this huge dose seldom causes a secondary cancer. This would be disastrous strategy according to LNT – in six weeks or so the equivalent of about 30,000 years at the precautionary dose limit of 1 milli-Sievert per year!
In future we should not allow ourselves to be blackmailed by fear of the radiation from a nuclear weapon. That may have terrified our parents, but we should ensure that our children understand that radiation is dangerous only in the immediate vicinity of a nuclear detonation where death is caused by the blast and fire. At school all teenagers should study natural science and understand how nuclear energy compares with other sources, for safety, availability, reliability, security and preservation of the environment. Then they should go home and reassure their parents.
Professor Wade Allison, Oxford, United Kingdom, 20 September 2022
National Research Council (1956). Effect of Exposure to the Atomic Bombs on Pregnancy Termination in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/18776 .
Finding sufficient energy is essential to all life. Humans have excelled at this, notably when they studied and overcame their innate fear of fire some 600,000 years ago. Until the Industrial Revolution they made do with energy derived, directly or indirectly, from the daily sunshine that drives waterpower, the wind and other manifestations including the production of vegetation and food. But, although better than for other creatures, human life was short and miserable for the population at large. The causes were the anemic strength of the Sun’s rays, averaging 340 watts per square meter, and its random interruption by unpredicted weather.
With fossil fuels, available energy increased, anywhere at any time. Life expectancy doubled and the world population quadrupled. For 200 years whoever had access to fossil fuels had world power. However, at the 2015 Paris Conference nations agreed that the emission of carbon posed an existential threat and that, sooner rather than later, this should cease.
Technology may be challenging and exciting, but it cannot deliver energy where none exists, today as in pre-industrial times. Writing in 1867, Karl Marx dismissed wind power as “too inconstant and uncontrollable”. He saw waterpower as better, but “as the predominant power [it] was beset with difficulties”. Today, the vast size of hydro, wind and solar plants comparative to their power reflects their weakness and destructive impact on flora and fauna – a point often curiously ignored by environmentalists.
If renewables are simply inadequate and fossil fuel emissions only accelerate climate change further, what abundant primary energy source might permit political and economic stability for the next 200 years? Natural science can say without doubt, the only answer is nuclear.
In 1931, Winston Churchill wrote: “The coal a man can get in a day can easily do 500 times as much work as the man himself. Nuclear energy is at least one million times more powerful still… There is no question among scientists that this gigantic source of energy exists. What is lacking is the match to set the bonfire alight… The discovery and control of such sources of power would cause changes in human affairs incomparably greater than those produced by the steam-engine four generations ago.”
He was right, but this transition requires adequate public education. In recovering from World War Two and its aftermath, the world lost confidence and demonised nuclear energy. This denial of an exceptional benefit to society has persisted for 70 years supported by bogus scientific claims around radiation and oil interests. But, aside from the blast of a nuclear explosion, nuclear energy and its radiation are safer than the combustion of fossil fuels, as confirmed by evidence from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Furthermore, nuclear applications in medicine pioneered by Marie Curie (such as the use of radiation to treat cancerous tumours) have been widely appreciated for 120 years.
Regulation around nuclear needs to be commensurate with actual risk, and it should be financed appropriately, with richer nations covering the costs for developing countries.
Fully informed, everybody should welcome the security of small, mass-produced, cheap, local nuclear energy plants dedicated to serving modest-sized communities for 80 years with on-demand electricity, off-peak hydrogen, fertiliser, industrial heat, and seasonless farming.
The only real challenges are in building a new generation with the relevant scientific knowledge and skills, and instilling public confidence.
Today we spotlight the most recent production from Oak Ridge National Laboratories in Tennessee, USA, (ORNL). The report is all about Molten Salt Fission Technology Powered by Thorium. This concise 54 page report is akin to the ORNL report produced 44 years ago in August 1978, entitled Molten-Salt Reactors Efficient Nuclear Fuel Utilization without Plutonium Separation and further extends the ORNL work reported in The Development Status of Molten Salt Breeder Reactors from August 1972. (It appears that August is the month of important reports by ORNL). This later behemoth 434 page report is the mother lode of information for all work done at ONRL regarding Molten Salt Fission Energy Technology powered by Thorium. Anyone looking at investing into this technology must make it a priority read – all of the work has been done before. The report can be found further below in this post.
Before we discuss the report, first we’ll discuss why it’s important to define new terminology for nuclear energy sector.
For generations massive amounts of negative press and target funding has branded the word nuclear as simply bad. And let’s face it. Nuclear Physics is complicated, and so conversations get complicated pretty quickly too. Let’s just look at the elements we can play with.
Out of 118 elements in the Periodic Table, 80 are stable having 339 isotopes, leaving 38 elements – those heavier than lead – as unstable. These 38 elements have over 3,000 possible isotope existent states. Hence thousands of unstable isotopes, lead to 10’s of thousands of combinations of decay, neutron absorption, and possible fission events, from neutrons both fast – high energy particles, and thermal – low energy particles, and then hundreds of other non responsive isotopes of non responsive elements that exhibit different behaviours over time and distance. For example water is better for absorbing fast neutrons and lead is better for thermal neutrons. Boron-10 absorbs neutrons, whilst boron-11 does not. Neutrons bounce off, are reflected by graphite, beryllium, steel, tungsten carbide, and gold (There are more too). OK, so the picture is clear – fission energy gets complicated very quickly.
Remember too, that this all started in a race to build nuclear weapons – not to make energy. Weapons should all be dismantled and destroyed. USA and UK should follow in the footsteps of South Africa who dismantled their last bomb in 1989. Today the USA and UK combined have enough firepower to destroy humanity entirely 150 times over. We are thankful that Molten Salt technology was pursued with such vigor precisely because it cannot make weapons. It only makes energy.
We call them Machines, not reactors. (By the way, there’s no reactions going on, and indeed in the core region fuel is “burned” according to the physics text books. In Fission, atoms are split, so “splitter” is the correct term!)
We say Molten Salt Fission Energy Technology – MSFT. Not anything else. Calling it LFTR ties the technology to a specific fluid-fuel type. Even the company FLIBE are considering changing the Beryllium metal to Sodium metal (the BE means Beryllium in their company’s name).
And Fission – Nuclear Energy – is effectively Carbon Free. Even Bill Gates knows this.
The latest ORNL report is excellent at defining the challenges already identified 50 years ago. The net result is that ORNL have made recommendations to modify the Flibe design thus eliminating any chance of weapons production from Molten Salt Fission Energy Technology powered by Thorium.
Some of these recommendations are:
Use multiple, smaller decay vessels for salt distribution for emergency shutdown events.
Install stringent material monitoring systems with tamper evident features for fuel processing.
Use batch fuel processing and not continuous for better inventory controls.
Recombine fuel elements to increase gamma activity of the fuel processing cycle.
Allow U232 production to increase hence increasing the self protection mechanism.
Eliminate the decay fluorinator entirely by allowing protactinium to decay in the fuel salt.
Remove physical access to the UF6 stream by have vessels immediately adjacent to each other.
These, and other recommendations, effectively define Molten Salt Fission Technology powered by Thorium as proliferation proof.
The latest ORNL report must be read in conjunction with a 1978 report, also by ORNL staff – and also released in the month of August – where proliferation concerns of the earlier designs where addressed. In that report the authors J. R. Engel, W. R. Grimes, W. A. Rhoades and J. F. Dearing allowed the build up of U232 to create self protection whilst still maintaining machine performance – “denatured”, as they called it.
Here is that report, Technical Memorandum TM 6413, from August 1978:
ORNL TM 6413 August 1978 Molten-Salt Reactors for Efficient Nuclear Fuel Utilization Without Plutonium Separation
Here’s one of the authors of that report – John Richard “Dick” Engel – shortly before his passing in 2017.
The following documents should also be read together with ORNL report 2022/2394 to ensure full understanding:
ORNL TM 3708 1964 Molten Salt Reactor Program Semiannual Progress Report for Period Ending July 31, 1964
This report summarized the work leading up to the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, that ran from 1965 to 1969 – the “most boring experiment ever. It did everything we expected it to do.”, said by Dr. Sydney Ball.
ORNL TM 4812 August 1972 Development Status of Molten-Salt Breeder Reactors
This is the report that ended in the program being shut down. The USD 1 billion funding request was too obvious to ignore and many people realised what impact this would have on existing business interests in energy.
EPRI collaborated with Southern Company on an independent technology assessment of an innovative molten salt reactor (MSR) design—the liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR)—as a potentially transformational technology for meeting future energy needs in the face of uncertain market, policy, and regulatory constraints. The LFTR is a liquid-fueled, graphite-moderated thermal spectrum breeder reactor optimized for operation on a Th-233U fuel cycle. The LFTR design considered in this work draws heavily from the 1960s-era Molten Salt Reactor Experiment and subsequent design work on a similar two-fluid molten salt breeder reactor design. Enhanced safety characteristics, increased natural resource utilization, and high operating temperatures, among other features, offer utilities and other potential owners/operators access to new products, markets, applications, and modes of operation. The LFTR represents a dramatic departure from today’s dominant and proven commercial light water reactor technology. Accordingly, the innovative and commercially unproven nature of MSRs, as with many other advanced reactor concepts, presents significant challenges and risks in terms of financing, licensing, construction, operation, and maintenance.
This technology assessment comprises three principal activities based on adaptation of standardized methods and guidelines: 1) rendering of preliminary LFTR design information into a standardized system design description format; 2) performance of a preliminary process hazards analysis; and 3) determination of technology readiness levels for key systems and components. The results of the assessment provide value for a number of stakeholders. For utility or other technology customers, the study presents structured information on the LFTR design status that can directly inform a broader technology feasibility assessment in terms of safety and technology maturity. For the developer, the assessment can focus and drive further design development and documentation and establish a baseline for the technological maturity of key MSR systems and components. For EPRI, the study offers an opportunity to exercise and further develop advanced nuclear technology assessment tools and expertise through application to a specific reactor design.
The early design stage of the LFTR concept indicates the need for significant investment in further development and demonstration of novel systems and components. The application of technology assessment tools early in reactor system design can provide real value and facilitate advancement by identifying important knowledge and design performance gaps at a stage when changes can be incorporated with the least impact to cost, schedule, and licensing.
Finally, a reminder. Why all the fuss about Thorium Molten Salt anyway? What did those giants of nuclear energy see starting way back in 1947 that we don’t see today? It’s because of this chart by ANSTO of Australia. It’s a little known – public – secret, that Australia, part of the Generation IV Forum, but ironically staunchly anti nuclear, is also one of the strongest countries in technology development for Molten Salt Fission Energy powered by Thorium.
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