Monday, June 14, 2010

Energy from Thorium Discussion On Target.

Kirk Sorenson gave his blog, Energy From Thorium, an unusual three part organization. First, there is a document repository, which contains pdf copies of hundreds of research document, most of which originated in Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The repository documents ORNL research and thinking about a unique and until recently poorly understood Molten Salt Reactor technology that was developed in Oak Ridge over a period of a generation between 1947 and 1980. The document repository contains one of the larger energy related sets of documents accessible on the internet. The other two parts of Kirk's blog might be viewed as commentary on the documents.

The second part of the blog is conventional blog, with posts that date back from 2006 to the present. Most of the blog posts can be viewed as commentary on the document repository. Some blog Posts discuss the history of Molten Salt Reactor technology development at Oak Ridge. Some posts also describe scientists, engineers, bureaucrats and politicians whose lives at least touched on Molten Salt Reactor development. Other posts describe individual documents contained in the repository, and still other posts explore potential designs and uses of Molten Salt Reactors.

The third part of Energy from Thorium is a Discussion Forum. The EfT discussion forum contains a great deal of commentary on the documents found in the EfT archive. There are currently over 700 registered members of the EfT forum, and they are a diverse lot, including scientist, engineers, students, lay people, technophiles, geeks and bloggers. You do not have to be a nuclear scientist to read and participate in EfT discussions. No one gets put down for asking questions intended to fill gaps in their knowledge. Since Kirk Started started EFT in late 2006 over 700 people have joined the site. Those 700 + people have generated over 28,000 comments on over 1800 topics.

Although the the central focus of the discussion is on the thorium breeding version of the molten salt reactor, the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR), just about any matter that is energy related is fair gain for comment. Discussions are conducted on a technical, simi-technical and non technical levels. Anyone who has a passing interest in nuclear engineering, can learn all they would like to know about MSR/LFTR design. Even more exotic liquid chloride fast reactors receive attention. Water cooled, gas cooled, liquid metal, and hybrid liquid salt cooled reactors receive heir own sub-sections. Still other sections deal with Uranium Enrichment and the Uranium and Thorium supply.

The EfT forum is sometimes described as open science, but this is not quite accurate. EfT discussion at best attempts to draw plausible conclusions from reactor technology research that was conducted at ORNL between 1950 and 1980. ORNL researchers regarded their MSR research project a major success, with large implications for the future of energy, and human economic development. It is not absurd to speak of an ORNL Paradigm, which informs much of EfT the discussion. At its broadest, the EfT discussion reflects the earliest stage of a potential paradigm shift.

One goal of the EfT is the growth of public knowledge of the potential of LFTRs and of the Thorium fuel cycle. A sub-forum, Thorium in the News tracks the increase of media attention to the LFTR/thorium story.

Other forum sub-sections deal with nuclear developments in the United States, Canada, Europe, China, Japan, Korea, Europe and India. These sections allow for exploration of topics related to more conventional nuclear technology.

The discussion section format is flexible, and some of the ORNL and related papers found in the archive are reproduced and/or discussed here. Much of the discussion in the EfT discussion forum is dependent on acquaintance with documents found in the archive. EfT participants are skeptical of claims made by the renewable energy lobby. This cannot be simply due to pro, nuclear prejudice, most commenters take a fact based approach to questions about renewable reliability and cost. Critics of nuclear power get quite a pasting from EfT commenters., with well known energy writer Joe Romm standing at the head of the EfT unpopularity list.

For 2 1/2 years EfT participants have worked on a Thorium Grand Plan. Over 500 suggestions have been offered to date.

EfT is far from being a typical blog. It is a major venue for internet based energy discussion, with much attention focused on advanced forms of nuclear energy. The EfT discussion, as it explores the future potentials of nuclear energy, is beginning to effect broaded energy discussions in out society. 2010 is beginning to look like the year during which the EfT broak through to the mainstream media. A story in the January 2010 issue of Wired Magazine, featured Thorium, the LFTR and Kirk Sorensen. More attention has recently followed in science and engineering media. Thorium related stories and videos are showing up in unlikely places. There is a thorium buzz on Twitter, There is a growing interest in Congress.

All this is quite an accomplishment for a 3 1/2 year old endeavor.


SteveK9 said...

There was also a very nice story on thorium nuclear energy in 'Chemical & Engineering News' a few months back. C&E News is the magazine of the American Chemical Society. The ACS is the largest scientific society in the world, with just under 162,000 members.

Charles Barton said...

Thanks for the Note, my father use to read the C&E News religiously. He was a long time member of the ACS, and of course a reactor chemist.


Blog Archive

Some neat videos

Nuclear Advocacy Webring
Ring Owner: Nuclear is Our Future Site: Nuclear is Our Future
Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet
Get Your Free Web Ring
Dr. Joe Bonometti speaking on thorium/LFTR technology at Georgia Tech David LeBlanc on LFTR/MSR technology Robert Hargraves on AIM High