Friday, December 24, 2010

Nuclear Green at three years

Blogs are by their nature vehicles of personal expression. I founded Nuclear Green as a means of advancing certain ideas about energy many of which had emerged during communicati0ns with David Roberts of Grist in May and June of 2007. I cannot use the word dialogue to describe our communications, because Roberts was clearly not listening at that time. Roberts is simply incapable of listenting to information that supports the use of nuclear energy in a post carbon world. I was listening, however, and the views I expressed to Roberts, together later views which I later began to advocate began to form a post carbon energy paradigm - a conceptual system for thinking about energy in a high energy world where fossil fuels are no longer a source of energy.

I do not claim originality for most of the ideas that constitute the Nuclear Green post-carbon paradigm. I think my most original suggestion is the notion that Molten Salt Reactors can be used to provide reserve and peak generation capavity for the grid. Originally I focused on the potential for rapid spinup of Molten Salt Reactor electrical generators, pointing that a drop in electrical generation or an increase in electrical demand could automatically trigger a process that would bring electricity from MSRs online without operator intermention. Later, I suggested a second peak capacity/reserve capacity solution, which involved the storage of high temperature molten salts, that could be used to power closed cycle turbines. The electrical output of the turbines could be considerably greater than the thermal capacity of the reactor, with the heat used to power the reserve generating capacity flowing into reserve heated salts, and later retrived as electrical demand warrented. I do not claim originality for this form of MSR peak/reserve generating capacity.

Many of my ideas had their origin in Oak Ridge, at ORNL, and ORAU. My primary connection with ORNL came through my father who was a member of Warren Grimes nuclear chemistry group/division at ORNL from 1950 to 1969. Prior to July 1950 my father had been a chemist with Warren Grimes Y-12 Group. That grouo had been administratively transfered to ORNL in 1950, to serve as the core of the Oak Ridge effort to debelop MSR chemistry research. My father remained under Warren Grimes' supervision until he was loaned to the ORNL Health Physics group in 1969, later his research project was assigned to the ORNL Environmental Studies Division. During his Health Physics period, I got to work at ONNL for a year. I participated in the ORNL-NSF Environmental studies program, where I worked with people like Ralph Nader's sister Clair, and Clinton Era Presidential Science advisor John Gibbons.

Later conversations with my father, reading his papers, and ORNL and ORAU research related documents provided me with much of the picture. Other details came from the Oak Ridge newspaper, the Oak Ridger. In 2007, I picked up at the point I had dropped off when I left Oak Ridge in 1971. And indeed many of he 1971 issues remained issues in 2007.

By the time I began writting on environment/energy related issues in 2007, I had been blogging for three years. In late 2007 I decided that I had something which I regarded as important to say, and that if I wanted to be taken seriously I needed to seperate my energy/environmental blogging from other blogging concerns. this lead to my decision to launch Nuclear Green.

At the time the first Nuclear Green post appeared on the internet, Molten Salt Reactor technology was virtually unknown. Another and very unique blog, Kirk Sorensens, Energy from Thorium had been launched in 2006 as for a vehicle for advocating thorium fuel cycle Molten Salt technology, and it was beginning to make headway. Kirk's blog had a couple of interesting features that made it unique among internet energy related blogs. First it had an extensive energy related document repository, that consisted primarily of research related reports that documented MSR related research at ORNL. A second major feature was a discussion form that focused focused on scientific and technical issues related to nuclear generated electricity, Molten Salt Nuclear technology, the thorium fuel cycle and the future of carbon free energy. Many of the discussions were of a decidedly scientific nature, and thus the Energy from Thorium Discussion Forum became one of the best known examples of Open Science on the Internet. The success of the combined Energy from Thorium/Nuclear Green enterprise can be measured by the fact that when I joined the EfT discussion Forum in June of 2007, it had 33 members. There are currently 860 names on the EfT Discussion Forum Membership list.

One of those names was soon to be Daily Kos blogger David Walters who started mentioning molten salt nuclear technology a couple of months after I launched Nuclear Green.

In addition to writing Nuclear Green and making contributions to Energy from Thorium, I attempted to increase knowledge about Molten Salt Nuclear technology, by commenting on numerous internet posts.

I had been forced to retire by health problems. My health had limited my employability since 1991, and by 2006 I was simply not able to hold a job, due to heart and respatory problems. Fortunately I was still able to maintain a blog. Recently, however, continued deterioriation of my health has made regular blog posting more problematic. I am on oxygen 24 hours a day. I recently acquired a lung and respatory specialist. He has already found that half of my diaphram is paralized. My blood oxygen level with out breathing oxygen can be quite low, and would definately interfear with my normal functioning. Whether anything can be done to improved my blood oxygen level without resorting to oxygen is still not clear.

Obviously, since I am writing a post this morning, I can still write and post. It is not clear however, how much technical related posting I can produce. Thus the exact future of Nuclear Green is open to question. This becomes a good point to assess what I have accomplished. What we have accomplished may be a better thing to evaluate, because many of my readers have participated in the accomplishments.

We have, during the last three years, revived interest in what was in 2007, a virtually unknown technology, the thorium breeding molten salt reactors have entered the current energy conversation. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR) advocates have used a variety of social media, including blogs, discussion forums, You Tube videos, tweets, and Facebook to make molten salt nuclear technology bettwe known. We have been quite successful, exactly how sucessful might not be known for several more years, but as of yet the MSR internet pioneers of 2006-2007 have no reason to be disapointed. Our great ambitions appear to be on track toward fulfillment.

Thus Nuclear Green has fulfilled its primary purpose of making Molten Salt Reacto technology better known, and reserving potential plces for the LFTR and other Molten Salt Reactors, on the list of potentially viable energy solutions. I do believe that Nuclear Green has had other notable accomplishments, and I will plan another post to list at least some of them.

I am, however, satisfied that that even if I dever offer another post, that I will hve made a contrifution to future human well being.


carl said...

Nuclear Green was one of the first resources on LFTR I found in 2007. You have made a great contribution, especially by advocating nuclear from the left (if I may).

Meredith Angwin said...

Charles. You have made a huge difference. You provided the push and the historical background for considering cycles beyond LWR and U-235. We all owe you.

I wish and hope your health will improve. I am impressed and humbled by the amount of influence you have had, and the work you have done, despite your major health problems.

Be well. Know that you are loved. Know that you are admired.

Charles Barton said...

Carl and Meredith, thank you for your kind words. It is easy to look good if you are the only one doing something, or at least one of the first. I use to think all the time, there are people who are better qualified than me who could and probably should be writing about this. but right now i am the one who knows it should be written about, so it is up till me until the better people come along. Now, with regards to many problems, they have.

Anonymous said...


You are an inspiration to us all.


Robw said...


I think it was about 2 years ago that I somehow stumbled upon your blog. I had never heard of Thorium or the Molten Salt reactor, and as I read your posts I couldn’t believe my eyes – the breakthrough energy technology that we have been waiting for has been around for a long time, just waiting to be ‘rediscovered’.

Since that time, it seems that the awareness of this technology has grown exponentially – I see blogs, comments, and videos about the LFTR seemingly everywhere. Now, we just need to go from just an awareness of this technology to an actual implementation…it will be a long road ahead, but I believe well worth the fight.

So bringing awareness of this technology - one so important that it may be classified as a savior of mankind, is quite a legacy to leave behind… even if never write another post again. Thanks Charles.


Unknown said...

Charles, My 83 year-old uncle had half of his diaphragm paralyzed in a heart operation, some 15 years' ago. Although he is only hauling in the halibut nets in his sleep these days, he is still active and a joy to have around. May you continue to write your wonderful essays for many years' to come.

Rick Maltese said...

Charles. I still think there's a feature film possibility and your life would be an essential part of that as I see it. Just wish I had the means and collaborators. Your father, your self, Weinberg, Kirk, Rod all significant characters. Your blog is probably a great resource but would like more accounts of the old days at ORNL and your personal observations about some of the characters there.

Anonymous said...

Best wishes. I hope you get better

Andrew Jaremko said...


Thank you for your posts, and especially for this view of where you are coming from. I've been discovering all the nuclear sand energy related blogs and bloggers over the last four months or so.

I share your desire for a high energy world where fossil fuels are no longer a source of energy. I also want a world that is more equitable for us humans and for the biosphere of which we should be only one part. It is up to us to set these goals and somehow build the consensus that will let us make these changes. Thank you for contributing to this supremely important work.

I look forward to many more posts from you! Season's greetings to you all who come here.


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Some neat videos

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