Posts Tagged Alvin Weinberg

“Th” Thorium Doc Chapters: “Greens”, “MSRE”

Generally I don’t post updates concerning the thorium documentary “Th” here, as it is still a work in progress and my updates are so incremental they’re really only worthy of short tweets.

But I think a couple of the chapters have reached a quality level that I should try direct people to them.

Thorium Documentary “Th” Chapter 8: Greens vs Nuclear (& Thorium)

Of course not all environmentalists dismiss nuclear. Baroness Bryony Worthington has strong environmentalist/activist credentials. She drove with us towards Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and so her perspective is captured in the greatest detail. Many other environmentalists quoted in this chapter to help explain why they’ve rethought their anti-nuclear positions.

Thorium Documentary “Th” Chapter 9: Alvin Weinberg’s Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment

And here we reach our destination: Oak Ridge National Lab. We tour the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (that’s an extremely rare tour!) The MSRE is discussed with researchers who took part.

The Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment demonstrated that nuclear fuel could be dissolved in molten salts… that solid fuel rods and water coolant were not the only game in town when designing a nuclear reactor.

There are a great many advantages to dissolving nuclear fuel and keeping it in a molten state during normal operation. Only a few are touched on here.

But if you’re opposed to nuclear power, I do think these two videos are worth your time.

Anyone who’s opposed to nuclear ought to be opposed for specific reasons… not just fission itself. That’s like being opposed to gravity, thermodynamics or our planet having a molten core. Fission happens. It’s happened naturally on the surface of the Earth. It happens (along with fusion) every day in the sun.

Concerns about nuclear safety, nuclear waste disposal and weapons proliferation deserve serious consideration. Careful researching today’s water-cooled reactors, tomorrow’s water-cooled reactors and molten-salt reactors might lead someone opposed to nuclear power to decide some reactor designs are acceptable, and some are not.

But to dismiss nuclear out-of-hand as dangerous is a mistake. I came to this with no opinion (or interest) in nuclear power, except for my own larger concerns about global warming.

As I learn more and more about nuclear fission, and about the challenges of renewable energy alternatives (such as solar, wind and geothermal), I’ve come to the conclusion that many environmentalists are simply as incurious as I once was about nuclear fission.

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Thorium Remix 2009

Update: Further trimmed video’s length to 16 minutes! That’s as brief as I can possibly make it.

Kirk Sorensen’s Google Tech Talk “Energy from Thorium” made a big impression on me. But when I recommended it to others, the typical response was “it’s 82 minutes long”. So I shortened it. In fact, I combined 3 Google Tech Talks on Thorium into first a single 25 minute summary (below), and now a 16 minute summary (above).

If you are care about climate change, energy independence or nuclear fission byproducts (some take thousands of years to decay), then please check this out. The liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) is a fascinating concept, and watching a remix may be the fastest way to get up to speed. Prefer reading copy? Chemical & Engineering News just posted an excellent Thorium overview.

197 minutes of Google Tech Talks were reviewed and compressed to make this video. The video quality is what it is because it is all second generation YouTube content. Should anyone knowledgeable about LFTR pay a visit to Calgary (or Edmonton), I’ll be happy to record a lecture on the subject, and provide a sharper summary video.

Canada’s oil sands may represent the most likely scenario for LFTR adoption in Canada. Regardless of the energy source used to extract oil from bitumen, Alberta will be responsible for emitting a lot of CO2 as oil sands development continues. That appears politically inevitable. The resource is in the ground, we’re going to dig it up. Hopefully it will proceed as slowly as possible (as the bitumen will only increase in value over time), and as efficiently as possible.

LFTR R&D might be only considered “Oil Sands R&D” in the short term. But if it enables Canada to expand our CANDU reactor line to include liquid-fluoride thorium reactors, we wouldn’t just have better energy options at home, but more reactor options for export.

With that in mind, I created a MP3 audio-only version (6 MB), and an iPhone/iPod friendly MPEG-4 version (115 MB).

Those alternate formats are the 25 minute version, not 16 minute version. If you want to take a stab at creating a still shorter version (I think a video needs to be under 8 minutes to go viral), a high quality MPEG-4 version of the 16 minute remix is right here (89 MB). Giv’er.

2011-10-21 Update:

THORIUM REMIX 2011 is now complete. This is my recommended video resource for learning about the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (a type of Thorium Molten Salt Reactor). It begins with a brief summary comparing LFTR to Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR).

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