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Thursday, June 20, 2013

A New Technical Approach to Nuclear Power

For John, BLUFSafe nuclear power is possible.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

International Herald Tribune
From the 13 June issue of The New Yorker we have the article "A New Way to Do Nuclear", by Interviewer Gareth Cook.  The thrust of the short piece is that there may be a way to have safe nuclear power.  The sub-point is that even current nuclear power may be safer than coal and natural gas.
When nuclear power plants fail, they do so dramatically.  Coal and natural gas, through air pollution, kill many more people every year, but the effects are diffuse.  One recent paper estimated that nuclear power has prevented 1.84 million air-pollution-related deaths globally.  Nobody died at Three Mile Island.
So, The New Yorker has realized that going green is complex.  Further, if the elevators are to operate in the building housing The New Yorker we are going to need electric power.  It is time to think about where we are going to get that power, given that solar and wind are not doing the job and water has its own environmental burdens.  (Well, if the late Teddy Kennedy is to be believed, so does wind, obstructing the view of the beautiful people.)

Two MIT Students, now Dr Leslie Dewan and PhD Candidate Mark Massie, came up with the idea of having a "molten salt" nuclear reactor, thus obviating the need for some of the current machinery, which could cause mechanical problems for a nuclear reactor.  Details can be found at the article—you wouldn't want me to test the edge of copyright, would you?  The Pair, Ms Dewan and Mr Massie, have formed a startup, Transatomic Power.

They are a startup and going through the throws of moving from idea to market.  The article summed up the problem with the phrase "valley of death":

In many industries, companies trying to do something hard face what investors call the “valley of death”: that long, financially barren stretch between proving a concept with a bit of seed money and taking the first commercial steps.
I wish Transatomic Power the very best of luck.  We will be needing the extra power they can supply fairly soon.

Regards  —  Cliff

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