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 Post subject: Changing mindsets.
PostPosted: Feb 03, 2013 6:05 pm 
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That all may be true. I'm a graduate of the US Naval Nuclear Power School, so I know all about Adm. Rickover. However, I do not believe that the electric power utilities in the US, such as Exelon, Duke, Southern Company, are very interested in what the culture was in the 1950's or 1970's when they make business decisions concerning new power generation. Neither, I believe, are Westinghouse, General Electric and Areva. They will design and promote reactors they think will sell in today's market, and right now I don't see anyone seriously considering thorium.

You have done a fine job extolling the virtues of thorium, but there must be considerable drawbacks you're not discussing, or the management and boards of all those companies I mentioned are indeed idiots. I chose to believe they aren't.


I got this response to a thread on LFTRs I started, from another member of a science forum I'm part of and it raises several questions for me. First off how to you go about undoing years of myth that the thorium fuel cycle in MSRs must be unworkable because it was never really tried. The MSRE showed that the concept was viable, but further development was ended because people like Milton Shaw wanted to develop the LMFBR.

So how do you get around the, "It wasn't tried so it must not work" mentality that seems to exist with many present and former professionals in the nuclear sector. You can talk(or post) yourself blue, but it still seems to come back to this belief on the part of people who should know better?

Also it seems to me one of the reasons that safety and security is such an issue around nuclear power is due to the characteristics of PWRs, there was always going to be a real risk of catastrophic failure such as we've seen with Fukushima and Chernobyl. Safety is almost a religion with former Navy reactor people and with good reason, they had to live and work in close proximity with reactors that could be very unforgiving. With it's inherently safe design, an LFTR isn't going to present many of the challenges of PWRs and shouldn't be treated in the same risk category.

And yet when you explain that to some people familiar with PWRs they claim you're leaving out important aspects of the reactor and fuel cycle with thorium and LFTRs. It's kind of frustrating, but I imagine that others here deal with this much more often.


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 Post subject: Re: Changing mindsets.
PostPosted: Feb 03, 2013 6:25 pm 
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Safety is still a big issue - even with LFTR. In fact, I bet that any power source that generates 1GWe is going to require great care - it is an awful lot of power and you'd better be sure it is flowing in exactly the right place.

LWRs actually have a very impressive safety record. LFTRs do enjoy some significant safety advantages - the primary one being a chance to re-open the debate and allow people to take the position that LWRs were not sufficiently safe but LFTRs are. I don't believe there is a real safety problem with LWRs but I can argue that LFTRs are safer.

In answer to there must be a problem - of course there are technical problems to be solved. However, they are manageable. The very big problem is that it is a large, long term investment subject to becoming worthless due to government decision independent of science. That is a problem that private funds have a very hard time getting over. Government funds are blocked by politics (as was the decision to stop MSRE in the first place).

It isn't foolishness on the part of the big companies to decide that investing a few billion into LFTR is too risky. The NRC is all about being certain that no mistakes are made ever and no risks taken. With that attitude the safest thing for them to say is no to anything new. They are not required to balance the risks in nuclear power against the risks of an alternative or of going without power. That makes it really really tough for anything new. Industry figured this out and so they take only baby steps and often do it first in Russia or China so that they can show that nothing bad happens.

What has to change is that the NRC must be responsible for minimizing risks - not only if they take an action but also the risks implied if they say no (for example more coal power).


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 Post subject: Re: Changing mindsets.
PostPosted: Feb 03, 2013 6:29 pm 
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Location: NoOPWA
Betamax was the better format, but everyone else except Sony was doing VHS (which was also invented by Sony).
LFTR was the better NPP but everyone else (except Weinburg's team) was doing solid fueled LWRs which were also invented by Weinburg).

_________________
DRJ : Engineer - NAVSEA : (Retired)


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 Post subject: Re: Changing mindsets.
PostPosted: Feb 03, 2013 6:47 pm 
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Joined: Apr 28, 2011 10:44 am
Posts: 250
You need St. Paul.

The managers of Westinghouse et all are not idiots,
nor presumably is your correspondent,
But changing mindsets is difficult, and only a few can do it.
St Paul knew this and harped on it. Metanoeite.
shows up in all his writings. It's usually translated "repent";
but that's not what it means. It literally means
"change your mindset". Paul knew what it meant
and knew it was hard, much harder than a simple repentance.

One of the few who could was Rickover.
Everyone including the experts at Westinghouse, etc
cited by yr correspondent told him he was crazy.
But he had changed his mindset.
Using yr correspondents argument,
Rickover was doomed to failure.


He succeeded.
Yr correspondents ad hominum argument was wrong.
Unfortunately, Rickover was a jerk.
Once he had successfully built the PWR from scratch.
He then proceeded to put in place a regulatory system
and mindset to make it as difficult as possible
for any one coming along with a better idea
to repeat his success. And he made sure that a great number
of people had a stake in the new status quo.

Yr correspondent has a choice he can examine the merits
of yr argument, or he can join the vast majority
that accepts the staus quo because it is the status quo.


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 Post subject: Re: Changing mindsets.
PostPosted: Feb 03, 2013 11:21 pm 
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Location: Calgary, Alberta
Why do LWR's continue to rule the roost over fluid fuelled reactor options like LFTR/MSR?

There are many reasons, inertia is a big one, everything including the regulatory oversight which is geared to this one design and let's be honest it works pretty well. While liquid fluoride reactors can improve on the current technology and they have special advantages when it comes to utilising thorium as compared to LWR's using solid fuel. Those differences don't seem to be big enough to to incent Westinghouse and Areva to spend billions to invent a competing technology which if successful will decimate the value of their existing IP and investment in LWR designs. Commercially they have incentives to make as much money as possible out of existing IP for as long as possible, but if they are smart they will be prepared to be a 'fast follower' once the competing technology breaks out.

Newcomers don't have the 'handbrake' of massive existing investments in LWR tech to blunt their interests in developing LFTR/MSR technology, but that have many other challenges like access to capital and government funding.

This is just one example of the inertia that exists when considering the reasons why there has been no recent major investment in LFTR/MSR. One of my points being that technical superiority is not necessarily the key driver for the management and boards of directors for large players like Westinghouse, Areva and GE staying with LWR tech and not supporting the development of MSR tech.


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 Post subject: Re: Changing mindsets.
PostPosted: Feb 04, 2013 12:34 am 
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There is a very simple reason: risk. Investment does not like the risk of not having a clear licensing path for a new technology. So incremental funding to try to move closer to a pathway can be done but no one would embark on a full blown development project (in the USA) with an unknown pathway to licensing. What is a better technology has little to do with it other than hopefully over time there will be a shift so that a better solution can be pursued without arbitrary licencing fears.

The current "rules" do not even envision LFTRs. In such a situation, the question of what is better is meaningless. LFTRs (or some related new version of the technology) may be more efficient, safer, and less costly, but until regulations are supportive, investment is hampered. This will change in time and someday thorium most certainly must become a major fuel of choice. In the mean time, poor logic is the problem, not some deficiency of the LFTR concept. Actually, poor leadership is the larger problem. We spend far and away enough money on energy development it is just not wisely spent in my opinion. If we opened up the path to a better and cleaner energy future, investment would follow in a stampede; it always has because energy is one of those key basic commodities that partially define the quality of life in societies so there is always a market for energy.

It is a sad situation but we do not have the best technology because ... look in the mirror.


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 Post subject: Re: Changing mindsets.
PostPosted: Feb 04, 2013 10:15 am 
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Location: Newport Beach, CA
DougC wrote:
Quote:
That all may be true. I'm a graduate of the US Naval Nuclear Power School, so I know all about Adm. Rickover. However, I do not believe that the electric power utilities in the US, such as Exelon, Duke, Southern Company, are very interested in what the culture was in the 1950's or 1970's when they make business decisions concerning new power generation. Neither, I believe, are Westinghouse, General Electric and Areva. They will design and promote reactors they think will sell in today's market, and right now I don't see anyone seriously considering thorium.

You have done a fine job extolling the virtues of thorium, but there must be considerable drawbacks you're not discussing, or the management and boards of all those companies I mentioned are indeed idiots. I chose to believe they aren't.


I got this response to a thread on LFTRs I started, from another member of a science forum I'm part of and it raises several questions for me. First off how to you go about undoing years of myth that the thorium fuel cycle in MSRs must be unworkable because it was never really tried. The MSRE showed that the concept was viable, but further development was ended because people like Milton Shaw wanted to develop the LMFBR.

So how do you get around the, "It wasn't tried so it must not work" mentality that seems to exist with many present and former professionals in the nuclear sector. You can talk(or post) yourself blue, but it still seems to come back to this belief on the part of people who should know better?

Also it seems to me one of the reasons that safety and security is such an issue around nuclear power is due to the characteristics of PWRs, there was always going to be a real risk of catastrophic failure such as we've seen with Fukushima and Chernobyl. Safety is almost a religion with former Navy reactor people and with good reason, they had to live and work in close proximity with reactors that could be very unforgiving. With it's inherently safe design, an LFTR isn't going to present many of the challenges of PWRs and shouldn't be treated in the same risk category.

And yet when you explain that to some people familiar with PWRs they claim you're leaving out important aspects of the reactor and fuel cycle with thorium and LFTRs. It's kind of frustrating, but I imagine that others here deal with this much more often.


This is a really odd argument to be making these days. You can point to MSR & Thorium R&D programs underway in China, India, France, Czech Republic, Norway & USA (FHR); there are also plenty of new firms pushing commercialization, one of which is publicly traded (Lightbridge, Ottawa Valley Research Associates, Flibe Energy, Thorenco...). The established nuclear technology companies never had an incentive to shift out of Uranium/LWR but you don't even need to go into that level of detail to give a reason "why not". Thorium/MSR development was just being demonstrated in the early 1970s when public opinion turned against nuclear. Westinghouse/GE/Toshiba et. al. are not idiots, but they don't have a head start or much of a comparative advantage; why should they have invested in such different technologies if they knew how difficult new builds/licences would be.


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 Post subject: Re: Changing mindsets.
PostPosted: Feb 04, 2013 1:58 pm 
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So it sounds like the answer is to consistently chip away at the conservatism that has built up in the energy sector around nuclear power. The impression I get is it's like entropy that increases in a system over time making work harder to do.

Another professional in the nuclear industry also responded on that thread and pointed out that a lot of fossil fuel companies also have holdings in the nuclear sector like Southern. And it's against their interests to develop something that will in all likelihood replace their primary product.


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 Post subject: Re: Changing mindsets.
PostPosted: Feb 05, 2013 4:57 am 
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There can be no doubt that the current regulatory and licensing situation is debillitating to innovation. Even the slightest changes to PWRs take decades from idea to commercial common practise. The industry has grown used to it and shuns any risk that can be shunned. A new fuel cycle is a major change and thus a risk to industry. If change is slow, painful and dangerous, then you try to not change where ever possible.

There are also some real technical issues with thorium in solid fuels. For one thing, the high power density of LWRs would increase losses of neutrons to protactinium. For another, thorium has no fissile isotope. It can't be enriched like uranium. It doesn't have the valuable fissile component. To get a thorium cycle going you need very high enriched uranium or plutonium which is expensive, difficult from a regulations perspective, and just means even more painful change.

The current regulatory mindset of rule based, technology inflexible licensing and the zero risk/remove all risk upfront has to change. We need an expert-based, functionally design based, risk based licensing system. The NRC has to be abolished, this much is clear. It is a bureaucratic monster incapable of this change. Better to start with a clean slate.


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 Post subject: Re: Changing mindsets.
PostPosted: Feb 05, 2013 1:11 pm 
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Can the enriched uranium or plutonium needed for a thorium MSR startup be considered a one-time cost like construction?


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 Post subject: Re: Changing mindsets.
PostPosted: Feb 07, 2013 4:23 pm 
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Of course. It might even be rented. Another way, usable in 2-fluid designs is to use spent nuclear fuel from LWRs, which is also fissionable in MSRs.


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 Post subject: Re: Changing mindsets.
PostPosted: Feb 09, 2013 1:32 pm 
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That's an apples and oranges comparison. You should be comparing LFTRs to other fourth generation reactor technologies. The advantages and disadvantages of fourth generation reactors aren't exclusive to LFTRs. Uranium fourth generation reactors could also have reduced or minimal waste, high fuel efficiency and designs with greater inherent safety (though for any new reactor design there would need to be tests and operational time to make sure there weren't any hidden safety problems - this also applies to LFTRs).


I was comparing LFTRs with uranium oxide fueled LWRs and got this response, how accurate is it that Gen IV reactors now being developed will have the same kind of safety and efficiency characteristics as LFTRs and are at comparable levels of development, and is it really appropriate to refer to LFTRs as a Gen IV design?


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 Post subject: Re: Changing mindsets.
PostPosted: Feb 11, 2013 3:33 am 
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At present, the change of mindset is working away from nuclear. There is only one possible future activity which could bring it back. If the energy benefits to China from nuclear power development make a perceptible impression on the world, it may bring the others round.


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 Post subject: Re: Changing mindsets.
PostPosted: Feb 11, 2013 9:13 am 
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Largely agree about China, but maybe Robert Stone's film premiered at Sundance, 'Pandora's Promise' will start to make a real change. Apologies for a couple of long cut and pastes but here is Stone's statement on the films Website:

DIRECTOR’S NOTE

I’ve considered myself a passionate environmentalist for about as long as I can remember. My mother read me Silent Spring when I was nine and the specter of a Cold War nuclear holocaust was not an uncommon topic around the dinner table in my family. So my anti-nuclear and environmental roots run very deep. My first film was an anti-nuclear (weapons) documentary, Radio Bikini, that premiered at Sundance in 1988 and went on to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Feature Documentary. My film “Earth Days”, which was Closing Night Film at Sundance in 2009, chronicles the rise of the environmental movement of my youth. In the course of making Earth Days I began for the first time to see the deep pessimism that has infused today’s environmental movement, and to recognize the depth of its failure to address climate change. It was initially through getting to know Stewart Brand that I was introduced to a new and more optimistic view of our environmental challenges that was pro-development and pro-technology. From there I began to seek out and discover a small but growing cadre of people around the world who were beginning to stand up and challenge what had become the rigid orthodoxy of modern environmentalism.

It’s no easy thing for me to have come to the conclusion that the rapid deployment of nuclear power is now the greatest hope we have for saving us from an environmental catastrophe. Yet this growing realization has led me to question many of the founding tenets of traditional environmentalism, from the belief that we can dramatically reduce our energy demand through energy efficiency to the belief that solar and wind power will one day power the planet. The almost theological adherence to a set of unquestionable beliefs by most liberals and environmentalists has likely contributed as much or more to prolonging our addiction to fossil fuels as the equally appalling state of denial among many conservatives when it comes to climate change. Both sides are locked into rigid, self-righteous ideological positions with potentially disastrous consequences for us all unless we begin to face the facts.

For the past three years I have devoted almost every waking moment to taking these ideas and shaping them into a documentary about what is perhaps the biggest and most unwieldy subjects imaginable: how do we continue to power human civilization without destroying the environmental conditions that has made modern civilization possible? I knew from the beginning that this film would have to be firmly grounded in personal narrative if it were to have any impact at all on a mass audience. Early on I determined that the film would be framed around a few key individuals who had undergone a dramatic intellectual metamorphosis on the issue of nuclear power, as I, myself had done. The evolution of their apostasy on this issue — their journey from being staunchly anti-nuclear to passionately pro-nuclear — forms the central dramatic arc of the film. My hope is to take the audience on a similar journey of discovery through the process of watching the film.

Pandora’s Promise is without question the most personal and important film of my career. I’ve learned that just about everything I thought I knew about energy turned out to be wrong. And most of what I thought I knew about nuclear energy and its historical events has turned out to be precisely the opposite of what really happened.

The making of this film has taken me to four continents on a grand tour of the hidden world of nuclear energy. I’ve been inside the doomed power plant at Chernobyl (the first cameraman to do so, I believe), deep into the Fukushima exclusion zone, and to a popular beach in Brazil that has a naturally occurring background radiation level that’s over 300 times what is considered normal! I’ve visited a little known research facility in Idaho where a new kind of reactor was developed 20 years ago that can’t meltdown and is fueled by nuclear waste.

If there was a single AHAH moment it was when I was granted entry into a room in France (the size of a basketball court) where all the waste from powering 80% of the country for 30 years is stored: four cylindrical tubes 10 meters long and 1 meter wide are all that’s left from powering the city of Paris for 30 years with clean nuclear energy! I thought, “my God, what on Earth were we thinking?”

A little known detail in the myth of Pandora’s box is that at the bottom of the box she found hope.

- Robert Stone


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 Post subject: Re: Changing mindsets.
PostPosted: Feb 11, 2013 9:14 am 
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And, here is a review by Owen Gleiberman, a widely read film critic for EW Weekly:

Owen Gleiberman Review of Film for EW Weekly:

When was the last time you saw a documentary that fundamentally changed the way you think? It’s no secret that just about every political and socially-minded documentary shown at Sundance is preaching to the liberal-left choir. The issue may be dairy farming, human rights abuses in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the marketing of AIDS drugs, or Occupy Wall Street (to list the topics of four festival docs this year), but the point of view is almost always conventionally “progressive” and orthodox. So when Robert Stone, who may be the most under-celebrated great documentary filmmaker in America (watch Oswald’s Ghost if you want to touch the elusive truth of the JFK assassination), arrived at Sundance this year with Pandora’s Promise, a look at the myths and realities of nuclear power, he was walking into the lion’s den. For this isn’t a movie that preaches to the choir. It’s a movie that says: “Stop thinking what you’ve been thinking, because if you don’t, you’re going to collude in wrecking the world.” Pandora’s Promise is built around what should be the real liberal agenda: looking at an issue not with orthodoxy, but with open eyes.

In Pandora’s Promise, Stone interviews a major swath of environmentalists, scientists, and energy planners, all of whom spent years being anti-nuclear power — and then, as they began to look at the evidence, changed their minds. The film begins with a deep examination of the psychology of the anti-nuclear view: how it took hold and became dogma. It goes all the way back to 1945, of course, and the horror of the atomic bomb. From that moment, really, the very word nuclear was tainted. It meant something that was going to kill you, in the form of lethal radiation that you can’t see. By the time of the “No Nukes” protests of the ’70s, to be “anti-nuclear” was to conflate nuclear weapons and nuclear power into a single category of scientific evil, a point of view whipped up, over the years, into a doctrinaire frenzy of righteous fear and loathing by anti-nuclear activists like Dr. Helen Caldicott and reinforced by movies like The China Syndrome and even, in its benign satirical way, The Simpsons.

Stone, a lifelong environmental lefty himself, unravels that thinking. The film’s incredibly articulate — and deeply progressive — spokesmen and women explain the nuts and bolts of why nuclear power, manufactured with the sophisticated breeder reactors that are available today, is fundamentally clean, efficient, and, yes, safe. As Richard Rhodes puts it in the movie: “To be anti-nuclear is basically to be in favor of burning fossil fuels.” Pandora’s Promise makes a powerful case that in an age when former Third World countries, striving for modernization, are beginning to consume energy in much vaster amounts (and why shouldn’t they have the right to do so?), none of the alternative energy sources that are commonly talked about by environmentalists (wind, solar, etc.) can begin to fill the planet’s energy needs. Only nuclear energy can. That’s why France, faced with its own energy crisis several decades ago, went nuclear. (Eighty percent of France’s energy is now generated by nuclear power plants.)

Ah, you say, but what about Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima? The ultimate issue raised by nuclear power — the one that, according to conventional progressive thinking, stops the pro-nuclear argument right in its tracks — is, of course, the issue of safety. And the very names of those three locales cast a dark mythological shadow. You hear them and think: Meltdown. Radiation poisoning. Death. Disaster. But this is where, as a society, we desperately need more filmmakers like Robert Stone. Carefully, piece by piece, without hysteria and without dogma, he looks at the evidence of what actually happened during those three infamous catastrophes: the reality of the damage, and the reality of the aftermath. The results, if you truly listen to them, are almost spectacularly counterintuitive. They won’t leave you shaken. They will begin to shake you out of your old tired ways of thinking.

The most startling argument mounted by Pandora’s Promise is that the rise of nuclear power is not merely a good thing, but probably inevitable, because it is, in fact, the only way that we can power the planet and save it at the same time. In what has to be the ultimate liberal-documentary irony, Stone demonstrates that the dire threat of global warming all but demands nuclear power as the key to its solution. Without it, the debate will go on, but carbon dioxide will continue to fill the atmosphere, and liberals everywhere, caught up in reflexive modes of environmental “activism” that are now not just complacent but perilously out-of-date, will continue to let their anxieties trump reality.


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