Friday, October 7, 2011

"Help us take this Message Forward": Kirk Sorensen Invades the United Kingdom

About five and a half years ago, a young NASA engineer, Kirk Sorensen began a new blog, Energy from Thorium. It was not obvious at the time, but Kirk was not just an aero-space engineer, but a revolutionary who advocated am almost unknown approach to the way society could produce energy in the future. A Wired Magazine story told how kirk made his discovery.
(I)n 2000, Sorensen was just 25, engaged to be married and thrilled to be employed at his first serious job as a real aerospace engineer . . .
His job was with NASA and he had been assigned the task of researching the application of nuclear power to space based applications. A
thick hardbound volume was sitting on a shelf in a colleague’s office when Kirk Sorensen spotted it. . . . the book’s title — Fluid Fuel Reactors, (Addison-Wesley, 1958.) — jumped out at him. He picked it up and thumbed through it. Hours later, he was still reading, enchanted by the ideas but struggling with the arcane writing. “
The book was an account of a nuclear reactor research projects that were underway at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) during the 1950's. Kirk was fascinated by the book, and wanted to learn more. He discovered that ORNL maintained an archive of hundreds of documents that had been produced from the 1950's to the 1970's to document ORNL research on the Molten Salt Reactor. These ORNL documents are unusual in their thoroughness, lucidity and approachability.

Scientists tell me that what is most unusual about these working papers in that they document the ORNL MSR research and its background in detail and with an accurateness that many researchers fail of achieve. The Addison-Wesley book was produced by the same ORNL scientists who were documenting their research with such unusual thoroughness. Anyone who is scientifically Literate can read the ORNL MSR documents and appreciate what the ORNL scientists accomplished, and why they came to the conclusions they did. This is unfortunately not the case with the work of Argonne National Laboratory scientists, who Australian Environmental Scientist Barry Brook acknowledged left the grounds for many of their informal conclusions out of their reports. Brook stated.
Well-meaning folks like Charles Barton and co., with whom I agree on most issues, will and does like to try and dispute these figures and complain about lack of public open-source documentation on these details, and of course he’s quite within his right to object on this or any other matter regarding fast reactors, if he chooses. But it doesn’t change what is known by those engineers and scientists who worked on this technology for many decades, and understand the systems — their strengths, benefits, problems and outstanding issues — nor what data has been accumulated, tested and archived that is not public. As I have said before, it is these experts, not bloggers, who will ultimately need to convince decision makers and financiers as to the viability of a given system like the IFR.
Unlike the Argonne scientists I was trained to a reporting standard which can be stated as,
if it is not documented it did not happen.
Thus the failure of ANL scientist and engineers to accurately document their research and how they reached their findings is a significant weakness for their case.

If a literature search is the foundation for high quality science, Kirk Sorensen's approach was first rate. During the next few years Kirk, with the aid of the ORNL Library collected and digitized hundreds of ORNL documents related too ORNL's MSR research.

Kirk is not alone in recognizing the value of ORNL's well documented Molten Salt Reactor research. Scientist in other countries including Russia, Japan and France continue to do Molten Salt nuclear technology research, drawing on ORNL produced data. One recent Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory documentt noted,
Oak Ridge National Laboratory took the lead in researching the MSR through the 1960s, and much of their work culminated with the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE). The MSRE
was a 7.4 MWth test reactor simulating the neutronics “kernel” of an inherently safe epithermal thorium-breeder reactor. . . .
Kirk not only created a web site in which these ORNL documents can be located and linked too, he also created a web page in which those documents can be discussed. The Energy from Thorium Discussion Forum. This page is open to all comers and its only requirement is that participants be willing to participate in give and take written discussions. The give and take requirement would seem simple, but every now and then participants appear unwilling to take. A participant will make a point, but refuse to acknowledge that a second participant has made factually accurate and well reasoned response to his or her point. This is especially distressing to other discussion participants when the response by the original participant is not factually accurate or is supported by recourse to logically fallacious arguments.

Thus Kirk's discussion form adheres to Open Science standards. In addition Kirk created a standard blog in which he states his own opinions.

In addition to the standard blogging, documentation tools, Kirk has created a Facebook Energy from Thorium site, and has used Twitter and YouTube To increase his communications outreach.

During the summer of 2009 Kirk traveled to the United Kingdom in order to offer a presentation on the Thorium Breeding Molten Salt Reactor (the LFTR), to an event that was staged as part of the 2009 Manchester Festival. The event, sponsored by a British Newspaper with a long time association with Manchester, "The Guardian." The Guardian sponsored event offered a chance for new technologies intended to mittigate Global Warming to get a hearing, not just from attendees at a pannel of judges and other atendes at the Festival but from the readers of the Guardian, and from participants in the UN Conference on Climate Change, that was to take place in December of 2009. Presenters who were to offer accounts to the Manchester Report Pannel were ask to describe innovative technologies for mitigating Anthropogenic Global Warming. Kirk had submitted a paper to the pannel, and had been accepted to offer a presentation.

Kirk's presentation was considered one of the top 10 presentatrons by the Manchester Report pannel, and the LFTR was included in the Manchester Report as well as as mentioned on a story on the report by The Guardian. The Guardian coverage opended the door to subsequent British coverage of the LFTR by the main stream media of the United Kingdom.

Among the Pannelists who wrote the Manchester Report was a recently appointed member of the House of Lords, Baroness Bryony Worthington, who is an Independently environmental activist. Not only did Baroness Worthington, support the LFTR in the Manchester Report, she discussed it on the pages of the Guardian, and in the House of Lords. She also helped to organize a lobbying and advocacy endeavor called the Weinberg Foundation. The Launch of the Weinberg Foundation gave Kirk a chance to go back to the United Kingdom. Kirk gave a speech in the Palace of Westminister:

Kirk also briefed Charles Hendry, The UK Minister of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change. On September 9, Kirk gave a presentation to top DECC top officials and staff.

Clearly then Kirk has come a long way quickly, and no where has the advance been greayer than In the UK, where

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