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The Nuclear Trolls Are Out Tonight

This web log’s Google Analytics hit rate rocketed on Sunday evening.

What on Earth is going on, I thought ?

I normally only get massive web click counts when somebody’s written something critical about me, or I’ve written something that a lot of people disagree with.

Last week, for example, it appears many people frequented, only to read my not-entirely-supportive comments about the Occupy movement :-

So what was with the Sunday evening crowding ? And why so many new visitors (as evidenced in the frequency data) ? It seems the “fourth generation” nuclear power fanatics were out in full flight formation last night, judging by the number of comments I received in relation to old posts :-

So, I’ll say it again, only louder and more clearly : non-nuclear molten salt technology should be used as energy storage in concentrated solar power plants. It’s something that can be done to smooth over renewable energy variability now, efficiently, sustainably. We don’t need to wait four decades or more for working, widely-available Thorium reactors – if they ever get built – for a major non-fossil fuel energy supply. Thorium nuclear power is a red herring, a technological cul-de-sac. We don’t need it and we don’t want it (all of us, apart from the Thorium Trolls, that is).

5 replies on “The Nuclear Trolls Are Out Tonight”

By the way you completely dismiss Molten Salt Reactors, it seems like you haven’t even looked at it.
Molten Salt Reactors solves all the issues current nuclear technology faces. It also solves our current legacy of spent fuel by actually destroying it, and just for that it should be developed.

Alvin Weinberg is responsible for the development of the current reactors we use today, the PWR and BWR.
He saw useful applications for it, but knew that they had safety risks, and as such wouldn’t be good for commercial power generation.
That’s why he started working on Molten Salt Reactors, as the fluid fuel allows for a completely different operating and safety situation.

While being the director at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, he led the research and the construction of two Molten Salt Reactors, the Aircraft Reactor Experiment and the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment.
The ARE verified the initial concept, and set a record of being the highest temperature reactor ever constructed. It ran successfully for 1000 hours.
The MSRE ran for four years, between 1965 and 1969, and tested the technologies that would be required for a commercial reactor.
It proved the concepts of online refueling and reprocessing, ambient pressure operation, inherent passive safety, throttling of reactor output by reacting to change in load in less than 60 seconds and verified the use of all different nuclear fuels as usable options in a Molten Salt Reactor.
It was a complete success and ran for the entire duration without any issues. The problems they uncovered during the time, they found solutions for.
They did this with only a few million dollars of yearly funding.

The largest tragedy that happened was that the US administration had already decided to go with the plutonium fast breeder reactor many years earlier. This, coupled with Alvin Weinberg being critical of the safety of using the reactors he designed for commercial power generation, led to him being fired from ORNL, and subsequently all research on Molten Salt Reactors was halted.
It was entirely a political issue that stopped it. There were no technical obstacles in the way, in contrast to all the problems that plagued the plutonium fast breeder program faced with multiple meltdowns, sodium fires and the like. And even with hundreds of millions in yearly funding in the late 60’s, they couldn’t suitable solutions to safety issues. Even today it’s still a problem.

It’s not thorium that’s important, it’s the Molten Salt Reactor technology itself. It’s already been verified by the greatest minds of the time. If the program hadn’t been cancelled, the next step would have been to design a commercial reactor, which is the step we’re still at today.

China has a fully funded Molten Salt Reactor program, to the tune of 1$ billion. This is the estimate of what it is needed to develop a full commercial reactor, and they plan to have it done by 2020, not four decades in to the future.

I hope you take of your renewable rose-colored glasses and actually look at the Molten Salt Reactor technology from a neutral standpoint.

The current nuclear industry doesn’t actually want it, as it completely eliminates fuel fabrication by just dissolving the fuel in the molten salt. As nuclear power companies earn their revenue from nuclear fuel contracts in a razor-blade model, their entire revenue stream is eliminated.

Just FYI, you’re not using the term “troll” right; trolls come to harass and provoke an emotional reaction without actually caring about the subject.

“‘fourth generation’ nuclear power fanatics” is at least more accurate; just ‘Thorium fans’ would do though.

Also, who is “we” in “We don’t need it and we don’t want it”? Can you dismiss Bryony Worthington as a “Thorium Troll”?

Anyway, in case you are actually curious, I suspect the source of your Sunday visitor spike was the same reason I came to look then; your observation that “I normally only get massive web click counts when somebody’s written something critical about me, or I’ve written something that a lot of people disagree with.” is correct: Kirk Sorensen posted a link to the “George Monbiot bites Thorium bait” article on Facebook (see the group “EnergyFromThorium”) with the comment:

“Astroturfing”? I think this woman has no idea what she is talking about. If she thinks she speaks for environmentalists then perhaps she should have been in the room when we briefed Friends of the Earth UK and observed the response.”

I have yet to get a check, BTW.

Kirk Sorensen has not only diverted people from the proper use of molten salt technology (that is, as energy storage for concentrated solar towers), in his little Tedx talk (starting 7 minutes 53 seconds), he also usurped developments in renewable gas and renewable liquid fuels, claiming that Thorium can provide, when actually, we don’t need the Thorium Fuel Cycle to make renewable gas and renewable liquid fuels. To my mind, Kirk Sorensen is a propagandist – or rather a new technology salesman – why, he’s even selling you the Moon ! Check out his career history and get back to me about whether he might or might not be attempting to pull a business confidence trick.

By the way, convincing Friends of the Earth that the Thorium Fuel Cycle is a viable, timely solution for the energy crisis is not exactly rocket science – they are not engineers.

This is untrue : “no one seems to disagree that it’s a good idea.“. There are plenty of actual energy engineers who think pursuing the Thorium Fuel Cycle is a waste of valuable time and resources, and doubt it can ever be scaled up.


show me these ‘actual energy engineers’you speak of, and I will show you how they are linked – directly or indrectly – to one or more of the major fossil fuel industries, the renewables industry (which is in the pocket of the fossil fuel lobby), or the existing nuclear industry (which REALLY does not want molten-salt reactors to come of age).

just to preface that argument, let it be known that the existing nuclear industry (ie the manufacturers of LWR designs and their fuel)has NEVER pursued molten-salt technology, and has only investigated thorium for use in their own existing designs as a possible replacement for solid uranium – where it really isnt used to its true potential.

Regarding “he’s even selling you the Moon ! Check out his career history and get back to me about whether he might or might not be attempting to pull a business confidence trick.”

I’m not sure exactly what you’re getting at; he used to work for NASA and (unsurprisingly 🙂 they have rather romantic dreams about the moon… ~6:35 min into the TEDxYYC talk, he raises a good point that if (IF) you were going to build a moon base, you’d need (NEED) to recycle everything and that (~7min) that would be great here too (followed by how we are not currently). That costs energy though…

Regarding “he also usurped developments in renewable gas and renewable liquid fuels” He’s just saying that using thorium to generate the heat for those chemical processes would work just as well and be a great use for the heat generated.

Sorensen basically sees a fork in the road ahead; see

“what would otherwise be the outcome if we continue with fossil fuels. And if you’re familiar with peak oil, you know it is a pretty bleak subject to contemplate a future where we don’t have access to affordable energy. I think we could be looking at societal regression if we don’t have access to affordable energy.”

Fuel poverty is a scary thing. I live in the province of Saskatchewan in Canada. It gets brutally cold here in the winter (there’s usually a few days when it drops to -40 C). There is no way we could survive (right now) without natural gas… also all the fresh fruit and vegetables in the winter need to be shipped here. We’re burning through a lot of carbon to survive the winter. Solar, wind and hydro are not going to get us through the cold months. Geothermal, to the extent that it can help, is for the rich. I would *like* to be able to live without melting the arctic, but short of a million people abandoning the province, I don’t know what sort of carbon-neutral future is here without nuclear.

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