Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Paths to disaster

bility and innovation.  Thus chineses scholars are very good at following standard models, but not at developing their own.  Chinese military aircraft design,  relies heavily on Russian aircraft, which the Chinese buy and then copy.  The Chinese LFTR development program, already appears to fallen behind its projected staff level, and the Chinese LFTR project date, is highly dependent on having a large and well qualified staff working on the project.  

Fortunately major progress in the development of efficient, safe, low cost, and highly scalable nuclear technology is possible without fully developing the LFTR.  There are molten salt nuclear technologies, that have been tested at ORNL that are in no need of further development.  Thus the Chinese will probably make rapid progress as long as they work off ORNL technologies, and tested technology.  But even putting solid fuel, molten salt cooled reactors into production will mark a major breakthrough in the development of nuclear technology.  On the basis of a sucessful test of Advanced High Temperature Reactor (AHTR), the Chinese can begin to replace coal fired power plants with small, low cost, very efficient and safe nuclear power plants.

The Chinese may not however, be able to push that revolution all the way to the extermination of coal, an eextermination that would be highly desirable.  That is because the AHTR like it its cousin the uranium fueled MST Converter, a reactor that will not produce enough fissionable actinides to keep a reactor critical without the donation of outside fuel.   Without a MSR Breeder the MDR eill not reach its full potential in China.  So China desp[erately needs the art of Innovation, or at least have the innovation supplied by outsiders.

In North America we were once capable of innovation, but no more.  While MSRs may be promising, no one is willing to take a risk, even though the odds are in the gamblers favor, and the consequences of not taking the risk could mount up to huge losses.  People likr Kitk Sorensen, David LeBlanc, Robert Hargraves, and yes even Charles J. Barton, Jr. among others. have been telling the Molten Salt Reactor, thorium, LFTR story for nearly a decade.  We have found an increasing number of listners, but not among people with power.  Maintaining the status quo may be viewed by those in power as being in their interest, but doing nothing in the face of inpending disaster is the surrest route to ruin I know.

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