Thursday, March 22, 2012

Molten Salt Reactors : Preface

Note: I have held this for several days, in the hope that Becky could assist me in editing it. We have been exceedingly busy, and thus Becky has been unavaliable to edit it. This is, of course, not her fault. I have been the cause of her distraction. My vision is worse than ever. I offer this unedited preface to my book in hope that my reders will enjoy it despite its faults. The introduction will probably take some time to write.

I am writing both a preface before the Introduction in order to warn some of my readers that they may find the Introduction heavy going. Feel free to skip the Introduction if you wish. The introduction is not about energy. Rather it is about methods of thinking about energy. I will be attempting to establish an intellectual base for my arguments in the introduction. As far as I know I am going to be the first energy issues writer to write a "discourse on method."

Some of my readers will recognize that phases like "discourse on method" and A Guide for the Preplexed suggest a certain philosophical background. When I went to graduate school in 1971, I hoped to find philosophers interested in the philosophical issues related to environmental and energy problems. I had spent the previous year as a glorified Inturn in the ORNL-NSF Environmental Studies Program. I had, a few months before my departure, learned of the CO2/grobal warming problem from Jerry Olsen. After briefing Alvin Weinberg about the problem a few weeks before, Weinberg comissioned Olsen to be a sort of ORNL Paul Revere. Jerry made the rounds at ORNL which quickly became the only atmospheric CO2 research center in the world.

My father had begun working on a revolutionary reactor technology. the Molten Salt Reactor in 1950. His last MSR research was in 1969 when Milton Shaw of the AEC shut down the MSRE and ordered a halt to most MSR research at ORNL.

When I arrived at graduate school I hoped to find faculty members who shared my concerns in energy and environmental issues. I quickly learned that at no Universities in the United States were Philosophers seriously interested in Energy or the CO2/Global Warming issues. Disapointed I went on to get my MA in Philosophy. I put the energy and CO2 issues on the shelf for over 40 years until one day in 2006 Al Gore reached into the back of my closet and pulled them out and handed them to me. I had just retired. I went on line and debated anthropogenic global warming skeptics. I regarded figures such as Joe Romm and David Roberts as my allies in my debates but then discovered that they were as much idiots as the AGW skeptics.

Both Romm and Roberts were opposed to nuclear power on what I regarded as highly irrational reasons. I tried to argue with Roberts, and pointed out that all of his objections could be answered by one simple and well understood nuclear technology, the Molten Salt Reactor. Roberts was not interested. But I was and my interests began to shift from the CO2 issue to to the Molten Salt Reactor. I became active on Kirk Sorensens web site, Energy from Thorium.

Kirk is a charsmatic figure in the future nuclear energy field. At one time we worked in close colaberation and my name became linked to Kirk' favorite reactor concept the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR). The LFTR was based on a breeder reactor concept MSBR developed by ORNL in the 1960's and 70's. My father had worked on chemistry problems related to the MSBR and found them tough sledging, but I considered it important for many that MSR backers speak with a single voice, so I was a spear chucker for the LFTR. Eventually I had a falling out with Kirk, mainly because I am a stubborn and quarrelsome old man. At any rate, I returned to the MSR concept mainly because I was aware that some of the leaders of the LFTR movement were designing MSRs.

I have had fights with Dan Yerman, Rod Adams and Barry Brook, all very able pro-nuclear bloggers. My fights with these gentlemen who I truly respect have always been caused by the same problem. I was right and they were wrong. (I some times tell jokes ar my own expense).

At any rate, in graduate school, I learned a good deal about concept analysis, the philosophy of science, and after teaching logic for a year, a good deal about informal logical fallacies. All of which proved valuable skills for my work as an energy blogger.

By 2007 I had reached the conclusion that the MSR was by far the best solution to the global energy crisis that was about to set upon us like hungry wolves attacking a heard of sheep. As a student of Carl Popper, I realized that my views needed to be tested by examining alternative energy solutions, and testing the claims that were being made about those alternative solutions. The introductory chapter is about standards of truth and how much or little we can rely on the truth of energy related claims. Unfortunately no one else has bothered to do this, and thus energy related discourse resembles Platos myth of prisoners in a cave. We see shadows on the cave wall, but imagine them to be reality. Hopefully I have escaped the cave, and the purpose of this book is to share with other prisoners reality as it looks in the light of day.

This is a book about energy, not philosophy. My readers who are only interested in energy can skip the introduction.


Anon said...

I could only find two errors, truly has an extra e in it in the 7th paragraph and in the 9th Platos should have an apostrophe.

Now you've just got to post that introduction (it actually does seem interesting to me).

MCX Trade Tips said...

HI, I very like your sharing, thank you spend your time to share these. Hope to see you next time the good sharing!!

Unknown said...

Excellent, please keep writing Charles!

Anonymous said...

Hello Charles, great to have you back, so happy to see you are doing better! I also think Joe Romm and David Roberts are idiots but don't think you should say that in our book. Howard

Alex P. said...

have you ever considered a potential symbiosis between MSR and other energy options ?
For example, it might be interesting to use MSR high temp heat and electricity (and/or hydrogen) to produce very sustainable liquid fuels from biomass (through Fischer-Tropsch not very inefficient fermentation processes), for example :

In the most efficient/highest yield version it takes about 10 electric kWh to produce one liter of ultra clean diesel fuel, but with a mass yield of 55-60 % that is 550-600 kg of diesel fuel per tonn of dry biomass ( > 750 liters per tonn)

Anonymous said...

Some paragraphs are a list of I´s: I did this, I did that, I realized this, I realized that, etc.

You may want to change that.

Rick Maltese said...

Glad to see your blogging again. Great idea, a book. I have started reading Superfuel by Richard Martin. Worth a read. Well written and researched. Has a couple of surprises.

Kirk Sorensen said...

We had a falling-out? What about? I don't remember one.

Charles Barton said...

Kirk, I will Resoind to your comment in private.

Anonymous said...

When can we purchase a copy of the book? Definately a good book on MSR is much needed at the present. Best part is that you can self publish on Kindle or Amazon. Many people will see it there. Much exposure.....


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