29 August 2011

Professor Paul Howarth of NNL puts up the Shutters.

This is my letter to Professor Howarth. I'm not asking a lot, am I? I'm just asking for the NNL to apprise themselves of the latest thinking on LFTRs, before they commit the politicians of the UK to a generation of thorium oblivion: 
                                                                                         16 July 2011.

National Nuclear Laboratory,
CA20 1PG

For the attention of: Professor Paul Howarth.

Dear Professor Howarth,

07 July 2011, Question from Baroness Smith on Nuclear Reactors:

In his reply, Lord Marland announced that the Secretary of State has asked the National Nuclear Laboratory to prepare a report on the use of thorium in nuclear reactors. He referred to a previous NNL assessment (probably your Position Paper ‘The Thorium Fuel Cycle’ of August 2010), and stated “the risks and resources involved in achieving commercial deployment are significant”.

You will be aware that the Position Paper made no mention of the successful performance of thorium fuel in molten salt reactor operation at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), under the Directorship of Alvin Weinberg, from 1954 through to 1969. The accompanying ‘Hand-Out’ is one I use, at gatherings discussing energy’s future, and it does carry the ‘Timeline’  to which I refer.

Kirk Sorensen rediscovered the paper archives of the ORNL’s molten salt reactor designs, operations and experimentation and has painstakingly made these available, in PDF format, on his Blog Energy from Thorium. As a taxpaying voter, now retired after 53 years in mechanical engineering, I am more anxious than ever that the taxes taken from my very limited income are spent wisely. Lord Marland clearly demonstrated in his comments, the utter dependence politicians engaged in energy matters have, on expert advice. What you and your colleagues say this time about thorium will dictate the UK’s direction for the foreseeable future.
In my humble opinion, before you reach your conclusions and issue your report, I think you owe it to the tax-paying public to invite Kirk Sorensen over, to present the case for the latter-day molten salt reactor: the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR). Are you able to do this? Are you willing to do this?

I would most appreciate your early reply, as I believe your report is to be before the Secretary of State, by late summer.

Yours sincerely,

Colin Megson.

This is Professor Howarth's predictable reply:

Would anyone reading this please put pen to paper and write to Professor Howarth, to try to pursuade him and the NNL to put a bit more effort into UK involvement in the future of LFTR technology?

1 comment:

  1. I'm putting this comment as somone who has read only these 2 letters, and I am not a follower of your blog, so this may be addressed elsewhere, however, are you familiar with the complications of operating an LFTR? Flurine salts are incredible corrosive and difficult to handle. Whilst the ORNL reported their research as a success, you will find that it did not run at a commercially viable state, as the salt was constantly corroding the reactor materials.
    Whilst I do not disagree with your position, and also believe that molten salt reactors present interesting, and significant benefits that remain to be explored, I think you will find that it is not NNL you should be making your protests to. As Paul has said in his letter, NNL are operated to run as a commercial entity, and without sufficient funding, could not run the lengthy and complex research required to design and develop LFTR technology. If you want to protest anyone, I suggest you seek support from your local MP and encourage them to petition government to increase funding for such research. Now may be an ideal time to do this, as research bodies, such as NNL may be integrated back into government in the next year or so.