John Kutsch’s Field Trip to Washington DC for Small Modular Reactor Conference and the London ITHEO Thorium Energy Conference Monday October 18, 2010 (Both events the same week)
Small Modular Reactor Conference
Morning session – a deadly combination – Dull and Depressing. It was supposed to be about the licensing procedure for an S.M.R The DOE and NRC droned on about the absolute nature of the NRC. They gave a monotonous panel discussion that amounted to:
1) Things are going to stay exactly as they are
2) We know best and have the track record to prove it
3) We may get around to licensing Small Modular Reactors in the next decade or so
– new fuel arrangements (no mention of Liquid Fuels) could beapproved in 20 to 30 years, depending on staffing levels. Basically a repeat of what was said at the Blue Ribbon Commission in Washington DC I attended.
The afternoon session was to be about the economics of Small Modular Reactors. First, there would be three speakers from industry first, then Jim Kennedy from Wings Iron and I would speak about LFTR / MSR, Thorium and Rare Earths.
The first speakers presented some basic information about what size reactors would make sense, a bit about what they might cost, how to deploy them in a reasonable manner, and even a little bit about what nation(s) may get around to licensing such reactors.
The icing on the cake was when the last speaker of the three said “There is no example of aworking small reactor, so this is all uncharted territory . . .”
I said “ What about Submarines and University reactors” – I wish Rod Adams was there. After a break when I thought we would lose the noticeably weary audience, it was our turn to talk. [I believe I need to thank Stephan Colvin, a Public Relations person who heroically made the trip to DC, who I hear told folks they should stay for the talk.] The moderator got up and asked “Has anyone here heard of Thorium?” – about ¼ of the hands went up. [This was at a SMR conference]
My talk was this: Thorium Energy Alliance is here to help reawaken research and deployment of the Molten Salt Reactor. I told them the core points about Thorium that we all know but was clearly news to them. I gave a very brief history mentioning the Shipping Port Reactor, The Aircraft Reactor, and the MSRE – pointedly noting that these are real reactors that ran for thousands of hours and not paper reactors. I let them know that the MSR Type reactor is the original Small Modular Reactor. I showed them some plans and a layout of what a Molten Salt (LFTR) Reactor would look like, specifically our proposed pre-commercial consortium facility that we are working to place at the University of Illinois.
I asked them to make an urgent appeal to save the Uranium 233 from needless destruction. I also made the point that you find Thorium Oxide most everywhere in the world, it was much cleaner to mine than Uranium, and you always find some amount of it with Rare Earth Deposits. So if we made domestic Rare Earth concentrates for things like the technologies of the future , we would also get the the fuel element to run the technology of the future. I ended by telling them that they aredoing important work and that I hope they consider switching to Thorium.
An impact must have been made, because I got several questions. The questions came from the Canadians, an Indian, and 2 Men from England – I am assuming the folks in the audience giving me the hairy eyeball were the Americans from Hyperion, B&W, and NuScale.
Jim Kennedy, from Wings Iron and the Peabody Mine was the final speaker and took up the talk about the need for a domestic Rare Earth Facility. Most importantly, by far, was the announcement at the conference that Jim had gotten backing for the Peabody Mine operation from Glencore, a huge start to having a full Rare Earth Refinery back in operation in the USA. It was so great to see that Jim, after years of struggle in the middle of a huge recession had finally gotten the message through and had deservedly finally got the backing to bring the USA back into the business of making things. Jim made the the case that we are loosing the ability to retain advanced manufacturing in the USA because China is using the leverage of control of the worlds supply of Rare Earths to force companies to relocate to China.
It was fortunate to have the example of the Japan incident to show China was willing to play black mailer. It was good to finally be able to show China’s true stripes to the Senate staff that Jim met with just before the conference. Jim pointed out that China has a game plan and that the United States and the rest of the world do not, that if we wanted the materials of the future and the energy of the future we must have a plan for domestic lanthinide production and a means to stockpile Thorium.
Jim ended the talk by saying that we need to solve some core problems as well as energy generation from domestic sources if we want a future for our children. There was a tremendous response to Jim, and the questions came very fast. I urged them to go to ThoriumEnergyAlliance.com and learn about the issues and join us, before I had to leave to London – Jim Kennedy and Stephen Colvin answered questions for an hour more, they had to be told to clear the room.
Jim had predicted from the time we signed on to speak that we would cause a ruckus, it would appear we knocked the scales from many of the attendees eyes. I need to look up what Rod Adams experience was the next day. I hope we primed the audience for him. Gwyneth Cravens was also there, I’ll have to see what her take on the event was.
Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 – ITHEO Thorium Conference
I actually arrived on Tuesday the 19th, I am very disappointed that I missed Kirk Sorensen speak but I did get to see one of my favorite speakers Dave LeBlanc.
Dave gave a great rundown of his work designing reactors and had a great visual display using a golf ball, a soccer ball and the Auditorium of the Royal Institution which is ball shaped to point out the energy density of Thorium, Uranium and Coal , but Jet-lag is a bummer and my brain seized up late in the day and I crashed at the Mermaid Hotel after only a few Ales at the corner pub.
I arrived back at the Royal Institution in the morning more or less just in time to jump up to the podium (I need to look at those conference notes closer). What I said was this: The Thorium Energy Alliance exists to help the worlds Nuclear community switch to a Thorium based energy economy. I spoke some about our concept for the consortium MSR for University of Illinois (or maybe University of Missouri).
I asked for their support in trying to save the stock pile of U233. Ask their governments and institutions to contact ours, etc.
I think the most pertinent point I stressed was that absolute intractable nature of the NRC. I explained my experience at the BRC and the SMR conference, and I pointed out that they need to be concerned because OUR NRC is THEIR NRC whether they like it or not. The NRC is the regulator of the world and their work will depend on how successful we are in getting some reform at the NRC that will be a responsive licensor of new technologies.
At that point I thanked them, told them I was proud of all their hard work and I gave Andreas Norlin a Thorium Energy Alliance T-Shirt and thanked him for organizing the conference.
Later in the afternoon there was a question and answer session for the media.
I need to thank Kirk Sorensen for correcting a missperception I had had that Admiral Rickover was primarily responsible for the demise of the MSRE, apparently I need to brush up on my history a little.
Robert Hargraves gave a wonderful bit of evidence that he is having an impact on the international dialog by showing how Peabody Coal(?) had pilfered some of his talking points almost word for word. Always a great surprise to hear what Robert has to say.
Andreas Norlin ended the conference, and I think he should be very proud of his great work in wrangling folks from far and wide. Kirk and I spoke about having another TEAC event in March, I think he is right on. I’ll have to wait until he has the venue secured to make a firm announcement.
Kirk really summed it up noting that it had ONLY been exactly a year since the first ThoriumEnergy Alliance Conference in Washington DC. He made my day when he waxed on about the great progress made in just a year – he gave me great hope that rapid progress can be made and that some impatient folks willing to put their time and resources behind some thing can move mountains. Thank you all for your inquiries and interest, you are the reason I do this – can’t wait until we meet again!
– John Kutsch , Executive Director , ThoriumEnergyAlliance.com 312-303-5019