Atomic Insights has a discussion happening that has caught the attention of some of the unconverted old school nuclear advocates as well as some LFTR advocates.
The original post was meant to compliment Kirk Sorensen for his recent Google Tech Talk but now has over 150 comments.
Compliments to Kirk for answering an often difficult to answer question. With all of the advantages of Thorium why did it never take off? Much of the first part gets technical but it appeals to the initiated and technically aware nuclear advocates.
This additional comment is a highlight of the discussion by Robert Steinhaus who also is a regular commenter on the Facebook group EnergyFromThorium
I would like to thank Kirk Sorensen for providing a very excellent review of the history that surrounded the decision to abandon Molten Salt Reactor development .
It would also like to thank Atomic Insights Blog for featuring this recent Google Tech Talk and for making this information available to a broader nuclear interested audience.
I offer the following short quotes from ORNL Laboratory Directors that may also bear on this subject.
Question: Why wasn’t this (Thorium Molten Salt Reactors) not done?
Comments by Dr. Alvin Weinberg – ORNL Director (1955-1973}
1. Politically established plutonium industry –
“Why didn’t the molten-salt system, so elegant and so well thought-out, prevail? I’ve already given the political reason: that the plutonium fast breeder arrived first and was therefore able to consolidate its political position within the AEC.”
2. Appearance of daunting technology -
“But there was another, more technical reason. The molten-salt technology is entirely different from the technology of any other reactor. To the inexperienced, [fluoride] technology is daunting…”
3. Breaking existing mindset –
“Perhaps the moral to be drawn is that a technology that differs too much from an existing technology has not one hurdle to overcome—to demonstrate its feasibility—but another even greater one—to convince influential individuals and organizations who are intellectually and emotionally attached to a different technology that they should adopt the new path”
4. Deferred to the future -
“It was a successful technology that was dropped because it was too different from the main lines of reactor development… I hope that in a second nuclear era, the [fluoride-reactor] technology will be resurrected.”
ORNL Deputy Director H.G. MacPherson:
1. Lack of technical understanding -
“The political and technical support for the program in the United States was too thin geographically. Within the United States, only in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was the technology really understood and appreciated.”
2. Existing bureaucracy -
“The thorium-fueled fluoride reactor program was in competition with the plutonium fast breeder program, which got an early start and had copious government development funds being spent in many parts of the United States. When the fluoride reactor development program had progressed far enough to justify a greatly expanded program leading to commercial development, the Atomic Energy Commission could not justify the diversion of substantial funds from the plutonium breeder to a competing program.”