back to article Bill Gates' nuclear firm plans hot, salty push into power

The nuclear power firm being hailed by Bill Gates as the answer to mankind's future energy needs is planning a proprietary approach to an old atomic idea to further its global ambitions. TerraPower is an offshoot of patent holding company Intellectual Ventures, which was co-founded by former 14-year Microsoftie Nathan Myhrvold …

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  3. xperroni

    "Proprietary" and "patents"

    I love Open Source as much as the next guy, but why such insistence on terms like "proprietary" and "patents"?

    That's how new technology is usually developed – innovators get a grace period to cash in, before their designs are granted to society. Too often the system gets abused by incumbents, but it is not in itself bad, as has often been pointed around here.

    Surely El Reg has no intention to take part in the nuclear bashing that is so common among less enlightened vehicles?

    1. Grikath Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: "Proprietary" and "patents"

      Well, opposed to Bounce-Back and Rouded Corners, nuclear technology is something you want to have patents on. Not in the least to have a decent chance of recouping the costs of proving the technology to be "safe".

      I definitely like the idea of reactors that repurpose spent rods for more bang for your buck. Feed the waste of the old reactors into the new. Get Paid Twice, as Tagon would say..

      1. xperroni

        Re: "Proprietary" and "patents"

        Indeed. Though the involvement of ex-Microsofties gives margin to all sort of jokes, I hope they can turn their idea into an actual (and lucrative) product – the sooner the better.

        1. returnmyjedi

          What MS jokes?

          Surely you're not suggesting that the uranium rod is shaped like Clippy?

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Meh

        One small problem

        America actually has a policy of not reprocessing its spent fuel rods (by spent I mean that have used maybe 1-2% of their fissionable material).

        USG policy is it encourages proliferation because you'd have to split the fissionables right down to Pu and U235 and that could be diverted (this is the US I'm talking about) into making illegal nukes.

        However newer processes split it into "fissionable" and "crap" streams. Adequate for nuclear fuel use but (in principal) much too difficult to engineer into a viable A-bomb.

        AFAIK everyone else just ships their spent rods to the repro plant in their country and gets new rods in return (possibly with a discount, but the prices are pretty secret).

        So for Terra Powers cunning plan to work they have to get either a)The USG to accept reprocessing in the US or b)Allow export of spent fuel to Europe/Japan/Russia for separation.

        Note this idea originated with Dr Strangelove Edmund Teller and the joker is that enriched "spark plug" was pretty enriched IE > 20% (Low Enriched Uranium) to HEU (or "bomb grade" as some call it).

        USG is quite keen on reducing the number of places that use HEU, not increasing them (even if it will burn up fairly quickly and be inaccessible for the next 30-100 years).

        Engineering a new reactor design is (and I use the term relatively) the easy part.

        Getting it certified in the US will be tough.

        So good luck with that.

        1. Graham Cobb

          Re: One small problem

          Interesting comment. But I assume this is not necessarily focused on the US. Plenty of other countries with spent fuel rods.

          1. oolor

            Re: One small problem

            >Interesting comment. But I assume this is not necessarily focused on the US. Plenty of other countries with spent fuel rods.

            Bingo, like China.

            1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Meh

              @oolour

              "Bingo, like China."

              Yes I'd heard the Chinese are legendary for their lack of spent fuel rod processing technology.

              Not to mention their keenness to outsource the reprocessing abroad because of their worries about proliferation.

              It's such an obvious market when you think about it.

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

              2. oolor
                Mushroom

                @ Jon Smyth 9teen

                I was referring to a previous El Reg article that was linked in the article itself:

                http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/12/07/bill_gates_terrapower_china/

                I don't know why building something related to this would be out of the realm of plausibility from an intellectual property or export control perspective when the Chinese already operate nuclear plants based on Western technology and are partners in fusion research (though I have a feeling that is not going anywhere).

                N.B. the o's are knuckles, and the r a thumb, I am sure you can figure out the rest. Not sure if you are insinuating a genetic defect or trying to frenchify my handle ;)

          2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            Re: One small problem

            "Interesting comment. But I assume this is not necessarily focused on the US. Plenty of other countries with spent fuel rods."

            Because they already have nuclear reactors and a reprocessing chain to recycle them through.

            And good luck with exporting nuclear technology out of the "Land of the Free (TM)"

            1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

              Re: One small problem

              I'm pretty sure that most of the French nuke plants are based off American designs, which I believe would be exporting of nuke tech outside the land of the free :)

            2. Tom 13

              Re: And good luck with exporting nuclear technology

              Depends on the nature of the nuclear technology. If it is something that actually reduces the chances of nuclear proliferation I think you've got a decent chance of getting it passed. But it has to be truly reductive and not just a rationalization of exporting otherwise potentially dangerous technology.

        2. xperroni
          Boffin

          Re: One small problem

          America actually has a policy of not reprocessing its spent fuel rods (by spent I mean that have used maybe 1-2% of their fissionable material).

          Well, technically molten salt reactors don't "reprocess" spent fuel, they take it as-is, and continually "burn" the fissionable material until there is seldom anything radioactive left in it.

          This is often marketed as an advantage (both economic and political) of the design, as it would both provide a safe destination for all that spent fuel, and make energy (i.e. money) from it.

          Of course it all makes your friendly neighborhood oil trusts less than ecstatic about them...

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Boffin

            @xperroni

            "This is often marketed as an advantage (both economic and political) of the design, as it would both provide a safe destination for all that spent fuel, and make energy (i.e. money) from it."

            It's also good for burning all that weapons grade HEU from excess nukes and can run on Thorium. I agree, what's not to love.

            Actually if it's a conspiracy you want I'd look to the existing reactor mfgs.

            Somewhat like disposable head razors they tend to make their money on the fuel elements, which turn out to be grossly incompatible between designs. Buy the reactor, sign up to the replacement service for life.

            OTOH the MSR refueling tool is (potentially) a shovel and some (heavily shielded) bags of salt.

            No reactor mfg would have come up with the MSR on their own.

            1. xperroni
              Big Brother

              Re: @xperroni

              Actually if it's a conspiracy you want I'd look to the existing reactor mfgs.

              Incumbents will take measures to make life difficult to new entrants. This is no conspiracy, it's a fact of capitalism we're all familiar with. It is true in IT, I don't see how it wouldn't be in any other industry, including energy.

              So it should come as no surprise to anyone here that established energy companies of all colors will go from political lobbying to outright smear campaigns to prevent or slow down adoption of these new technologies – though I'd guess nuclear companies would be less enthusiastic about striking too close to home, while fossil fuel companies would have nothing to lose, and much to retain.

              And of course, there are always those who can be convinced to campaign for measures that are ultimately against their own best interests...

              1. King1Con
                Angel

                Re: @xperroni

                Established energy companies invest in new technologies, if there is a return on the investment. Same thing with IT technologies. If there is a return, there is investment. If there is greater return on running older technologies, there is no investment.

                Government regulation determines the speed to return on investment. Reduce the regulation, this decreases the speed to implementation, which decreases the cost, the solution shows a return on investment, the investment starts, jobs are created. Government is the problem, in the energy sector.

                The smear tactics are used against "carbon" based energy, today. This is against everyone's interest. Carbon carries hydrogen atoms efficiently and breaking those bonds creates energy (as well as H2O and CO2 - both of which allow plants to make sugar & grow, so human food can have something to eat!) ;-)

                As an example: we have natural gas buses and cars - well established technologies... yet politicians are killing coal plants to re-direct portable [clean natural gas] fuel to fixed power stations [located far from human populations.] This is dumb since dependence upon portable petrol could be reduced with clean natural gas [in heavily human populated areas] increasingly introduced for portable transportation.

                I know how everyone loves electric & hybrid cars, but those are really dirty... the byproducts from batteries. I love batteries, don't get me wrong, but they are far more dangerous than byproducts from carbon based fuel.

                Nuclear is a far better solution to Natural Gas for base-power. Coal based plants should remain on-line until they can be replaced with nuclear plants which can run on nuclear waste - which solves many more long term issues. (Keeps the rail line profitable, to subsidise mass transportation costs!)

                (nuclear explosion icon, for effect)

                1. xperroni
                  Headmaster

                  Re: @xperroni

                  Established energy companies invest in new technologies, if there is a return on the investment.

                  Established companies of all kinds invest into incremental improvements to their core business infrastructure. Investing in anything "disruptive" – i.e. that obviates any relevant amount of current equipment, personnel etc – is either blocked or sabotaged by internal politics, as the bosses responsible for said kit and bods will fight to keep their departments relevant.

                  IBM saw the PC revolution coming a mile away, yet it couldn't for the life of it avoid crippling OS/2. Before that, Edison passed on the chance of adopting AC technology for his electric company because it would disrupt its intended business case of selling generators wholesale. Before that, Western Union snubbed the telephone because it didn't fit in the paper-centric workflow of telegraph machines...

                  The list goes on and on.

                  The smear tactics are used against "carbon" based energy, today. This is against everyone's interest.

                  You would think so, but in fact no.

                  All those fancy new "renewable" wind and solar plants people gush about – what do you think powers the grid when the wind is not blowing or the Sun isn't shining?

                  Tip: it starts with "fossil fuel" and ends with "plants".

                  The current "renewables" craze is doing wonders for the fossil fuel market, as every "clean" plant needs a couple thermoelectric counterparts to take up from where they let us down.

                  yet politicians are killing coal plants

                  Germany is deploying new coal plants like there's no tomorrow. I have yet to learn of any decommissioning of comparable size anywhere in the world...

                  [clean natural gas]

                  Natural gas is "clean" only in the sense that it releases less soot and sulfur than other fossil fuels, but it still produces large amounts of carbon gasses. It also got terrific price volatility, so you might want to think again about basing much of an economy on it.

                  I know how everyone loves electric & hybrid cars, but those are really dirty...

                  And anyway, you'll need something to power all those batteries.

                  I still stand by my previous point: incumbent energy companies will slow down adoption of technologies that pose a threat to their current businesses, just like companies in any other market. The fact they'll promote those technologies that secure and / or complement their investments doesn't change that.

            2. Wzrd1

              Re: @xperroni

              "No reactor mfg would have come up with the MSR on their own."

              Actually, the US DoD had developed those originally, as well as molten sodium reactors.

              1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
                Happy

                @Wzrd1

                "Actually, the US DoD had developed those originally, as well as molten sodium reactors."

                Yes.

                That was my point.

                Westinghouse developed the PWR under contract to the USN because they knew about steam turbine systems and that's basically what this is.

                Oak Ridge designed molten salt to meet the NPB nuclear plane programme. Their priorities were totally different.

        3. Tom 13

          Re: America actually has a policy of not reprocessing its spent fuel rods

          I don't see that as a major obstacle.

          A few campaign donations here and there, some sweet investment opportunities for family members but not the actual congresscritters and it should all go away.

          What concerns me is that this process ought to outrage me, but I seem to be running out of outrage.

        4. Wzrd1

          Re: One small problem

          Just as there's one really minor problem with MSR units, true, lose power, they shut down.

          Starting them is a cast iron bitch though, or more accurately, cast salt bitch, as one has to find a way to remelt that solidified salt. It's the same problem with liquid metal reactors.

          If I were heading that project, we'd not be using silly traveling wave units, but seeing about a more condensed sized thorium reactor, with a small separator for the radioisotopes that poison the reaction until they decay into a useful isotope again.

    2. Paul Shirley

      Re: "Proprietary" and "patents"

      "innovators get a grace period to cash in, before their designs are granted to society"

      Intellectual Ventures is just part of an industry practising hard to get better at avoiding the 'granted to society' part. Highly appropriate though, for an industry with such long lead times they'll need all the patent life prolonging tricks in their arsenal to fund the tech!

      Still, nice to see some moves on safer and more efficient fission. Amazing what can happen when there's less pressure to generate useful side products for the military and actual make sane design choices.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forget fusion?

    Why don't Bill Gates, Warren Buffett et al. each chuck a couple of billion of their personal wealth into the pot and just get the job done?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Money != Progress

      Economical power generating fusion is hard. It's hard in a way that can not be solved by throwing money at it.

      1. Turtle

        Re: Money != Progress

        "Money != Progress. Economical power generating fusion is hard. It's hard in a way that can not be solved by throwing money at it."

        The prevalence of people who don't realize this is very distressing. Parenthetically, and sadly, "Money = Progress" seems to be the basis of modern politics.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Money != Progress

          "The prevalence of people who don't realize this is very distressing. Parenthetically, and sadly, "Money = Progress" seems to be the basis of modern politics."

          As a scientist I wholeheartedly disagree with you. Throwing money/resources and the best brains at tricky problems most certainly can produce stunning results. Just look at the Manhattan Project and the Apollo space programme as examples in support of this argument.

          With governments around the world implementing austerity measures and large science projects seen as a soft target, I'm afraid the only solution, short of a more progressive taxation system, is for the obscenely wealthy elite to be just a little more philanthropic. After all, at last count, this tiny group of people were sitting on purely financial assets (excluding property, yachts, gold etc.) in excess of $32 trillion!

          http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/22/us-offshore-wealth-idUSBRE86L03U20120722

          1. NullReference Exception
            Meh

            Yes and no

            The Manhattan Project constructed a small number of big, expensive atomic bombs, and the Apollo program constructed a small number of big, expensive moon rockets. But this was enough to get the job done - the US won World War II and beat the Russians to the Moon. Economies of scale were not necessary.

            We *have* tried this approach with fusion - we've thrown lots of money and brainpower at it, and have designed and built a small number of big, expensive demonstration reactors that show that it is indeed possible to generate electricity from nuclear fusion. But, in this case, this is NOT enough to do the job. You've got to scale it up. You need to build a Model T, not a Saturn V.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Yes and no

              "We *have* tried this approach with fusion - we've thrown lots of money and brainpower at it..."

              Errr no, we really haven't. I would urge you to check the figures below:

              Adjusting for inflation total US fusion spending is $29.1 Billion.

              That’s for 57 years of fusion funding.

              That’s an average of $393 Million a year - adjusted to $510 million per year in the US.  This includes NIF as well as Tokamaks and alternatives.

              Some perspective:

              - Those 57 years of fusion research cost less than half of what congress wants to spend this year on Stealth bombers ($68.1 Billion) - each stealth bomber costs around $512 million, so that’s one year of fusion research.

              - 57 years of fusion research costs as much as 72 days of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

              - 57 years of fusion research costs as much as one year of health industry research.  Health is important, but this is a good opportunity to reflect on the routine practice of pharmaceutical companies in R&D - they spend billions on trials of new pharmaceuticals, many of which do not make it to the marketplace.  They consider this a cost of business, rather than waste or failure.

              - 57 years of fusion research is equal to one fifth of Wall Street executive bonuses this year ($144 Billion).

              - This is a little more than what BP had to put aside for the gulf oil spill ($20 Billion).

              - The United Arab Emirates dropped a quick $20 billion on building an experimental Carbon Neutral City.

              - Americans spent $2 Billion on life coaches, $500 million on self-help tapes, and $180 million on male pedicures in one year (per Harley Davidson Ad).

              http://focusfusion.org/index.php/site/reframe/wasteful

            2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Unhappy

              Re: Yes and no

              "We *have* tried this approach with fusion - we've thrown lots of money and brainpower at it, and have designed and built a small number of big, expensive demonstration reactors that show that it is indeed possible to generate electricity from nuclear fusion. "

              No.

              AFAIK no fusion reactor has ever generated electricity.

              An after the act analysis may have indicated the fusion energy released exceeded the power consumption but so far actual energy collection and generation systems are still in planning.

            3. Wzrd1

              Re: Yes and no

              "But, in this case, this is NOT enough to do the job. You've got to scale it up. You need to build a Model T, not a Saturn V."

              I disagree. To develop effective and efficient fusion, you need to build a Saturn V from hell on steroids, someone will then add improvements to make a Model T fusion plant later.

              First, get the damned thing working, then tune it and scale it down.

              Nuclear warheads taught us that lesson quite effectively, if you ever look at the size of the first models, then modern equivalents.

              1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
                Unhappy

                Re: Yes and no

                "Nuclear warheads taught us that lesson quite effectively, if you ever look at the size of the first models, then modern equivalents."

                True.

                Problem is it's been close to 70 years and no one seems able to get the big one working yet.

                But man has it produced a really healthy crop of fusion and plasma PhD's,

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Money != Progress

            @ac 00:23 As a scientist you should know better than to cherry pick results <grin>. I would counter with (for example) breast cancer. A lot of time, a lot of money but still a killer.

            1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

              Re: Money != Progress

              "(for example) breast cancer. A lot of time, a lot of money but still a killer."

              While the stats are subject to the usual errors that pay-for-procedure produces (over diagnosis of the people who can pay etc) I'm pretty sure that breast cancer mortality rates are declining.

              Whether it's declining at rate that is acceptable for the huge focus on funding it gets compared to other more life threatening cancers, or other diseases. It's also not really a killer by any relative measure. Something like 40,000 deaths from breast cancer out of ~600,000 deaths from cancer out of the ~2.4 million deaths a year. Those figures are from USA, western Europe should be about the same, poorer countries usually have lower cancer mortality rates, be it from lack of detection/reporting or early mortality.

              Want a real killer disease? TB. We've got drugs to treat it, very cheaply, and it still kills 1.4 million people worldwide. For women in low to mid income countries it's the second or third most likely cause of death. There continue to be great strides forward, and by 2015 total TB infections might, for the first time ever, be reducing.

              This is the real issue with any technology (medicine, power generation). It's not just making the theory, it's all the fiddly putting it into practice. LTS reactors have been built that generate. Engineering this technology upwards is going to be costly, but doable in the next 10-30 years for commercial power generation. Fusion is hundreds of years away from commercial production, if ever. We can already make fusion bombs, so no need for studying controlled fusion ;)

              As for making money, if/when LTS reactors come online that can be fed spent fuel rods then the liabilities that the various nation states have taken upon themselves can finally have a way of being resolved. My understanding was always that from a business perspective a LTS reactor is far better, but doesn't get your country a seat on the security council. So in exchange for the weapons grade stuff, the governments will cover the future waste disposal. Which currently consists of hundreds of tons of hot metal sitting in ponds of circulating water, waiting for a solution.

              As a scientist, I always want our frontiers of knowledge to be pushed back. As an engineer, I always want apply our knowledge to improve our lives. Got to balance the two :)

              I'd also rather we where using safe-ish nuke plants, bio gas, and other such tech to help stretch our extracted hydrocarbons. Gonna need everything we can get if we're gonna go and conquer space :)

              1. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge
                Pirate

                TB and how not to control it

                Apologies for derailing the topic, but current practice with TB in Britain at least could be likened to a lesson in how not to do things. The first problem with TB is to realise that to get rid of it, you need to get rid of any and all carriers of the disease. The second problem is to convince politicians that no, this is not an optional policy and that no, this problem is not going to go away if they ignore it. The final problem is that most environmental campaigners are quite startlingly stupid, extremely noisy and not a bit shy about parading blithering ignorance to the world in general; politicians mistake noisy morons for valuable votes.

                Bovine tuberculosis is a zoonotic; it will infect almost any mammal species. It also has a trick of secreting a waxy coating, which makes it very resistant to normal immune system antibodies; the only thing that does stop it is an inflammatory response but only animal species that have co-evolved with it do this response. Cows do it, humans do it, badgers do NOT do it. So, once TB gets into the badger population it spreads like crazy and turns badgers into mobile TB factories. Vaccines do not work on badgers; they get TB just as easily as before, but live a little bit longer due to being a bit more resistant; vaccinating badgers is an expensive way to annoy brocks and possibly make the problem worse (heavily infected badgers die relatively quickly, less infected but still infectious ones get to do a Typhoid Mary impression for much longer).

                So now we have a perfect storm: daft politicians listening to clueless lusers and dithering gormlessly whilst a bad situation gets worse.

                There's a direct parallel here with the situation with UK electrical generation capacity; we're in a mess because our politicians are a bunch of weak-willed vapid arses without any moral fibre, sense of urgency or ability to do their jobs. The bovine TB crisis will be solved only when most of the badger setts of southern England get a short, toxic visit from some nice DEFRA chappies and their portable carbon monoxide generator; the power crisis will similarly be solved only when someone tells the EU to go do one, and invests in lots of small LFTR molten thorium salt reactors.

                And the one key thing to remember is this: DO NOT LISTEN TO THE GREAT UNCLUED! We don't do it with complex technical stuff, we don't do it with engineering, computers or anything except public policy that the public are equally clueless about.

                1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
                  Meh

                  Re: TB and how not to control it

                  <long bovine TB post>

                  I think the previous poster was talking about human TB, which IIRC is on the rise in the UK as antibiotic strains are passing their resistance through plasmids.

                  But since you're interested perhaps DEFRA could look at using a more sensitive tests and finding out just how many of those "TB Free" cattle it allowed to move were actually infected after all.

                  Or perhaps it's time the UK started looking at why they spend a stupid amount of money killing and disposing of these cattle. How serious is the TB to humans, not other cattle.

                  Or (and this really is quite insane. Apparently only 1 farmer has done it) how about breeding TB resistance into cattle the way they breed for meat or milk production.

                  Now perhaps we could return to the subject at hand.

                2. Antonymous Coward
                  IT Angle

                  Re: TB and how not to control it

                  Erm... completely agree with the (rather brief) point about the politicos and energy policy... but not so sure about the badger rampage.

                  Straight off the top - why not just BCG cattle for example? We know where they all are, after all. Surely removing bovine TB from the bovines, or at least greatly reducing transmission & virulence, is a better solution than paying for death squads to scour the countryside on a mission to eradicate the wildlife. There must be better ways!

                  Just curious... not meaning to solicit a comprehensive derailment. The curious tangent would suggest that you have an altogether greater interest in the topic than I.

                  Dr (of what) Dan Holdsworth (from where), if you don't mind me asking?

          3. William Wilgus

            Re: Money != Progress

            Operative word: CAN. --- as opposed to WILL.

          4. Antonymous Coward
            WTF?

            Re: Money != Progress

            Strange that our self professed but anonymous "scientist" selected those two projects. The science of the Maude project was conducted by a Britain under intense financial strain enduring a state of all out war. The other example, the V2 rocket programme was conducted by a Germany facing similar inconveniences.

            Perhaps our anonymous "scientist" doesn't know the difference between science and large engineering projects.

            1. Tom 13

              Re: our anonymous "scientist" doesn't know the difference

              More like he/she doesn't care. His screeds read like they were lifted right off the web page for the Union of Concerned Scientists. I wonder if they pay astroturfers?

          5. Wzrd1

            Re: Money != Progress

            "As a scientist I wholeheartedly disagree with you. Throwing money/resources and the best brains at tricky problems most certainly can produce stunning results. Just look at the Manhattan Project and the Apollo space programme as examples in support of this argument."

            I suspect you're too close to see how your argument failed.

            Both were extensions or purely military programs. The NASA programs were part of ICBM research, which is why governments worry when certain, erm, problematic nations become capable of putting a satellite in orbit. If you can do that, you're a short step from an ICBM.

            Apollo was purely a Cold War challenge between the US and USSR. Once the point was firmly driven home, the Apollo program was cancelled.

            In short, if research isn't about blowing shit up or otherwise killing people, it doesn't get priority funding.

            Which is why Smallpox was cured, as the USSR had weaponized it, but dialysis hasn't advanced much in decades and still only approximates 12% of human kidney function and that poorly.

            Why we have drones that can travel around the world, loitering about in one place for a while, then returning back to the US, but we still don't have a cure for HIV infection.

            Why we can monitor all e-mail communications in the nation of one's choice, but can't stop a humble trojan horse or worm, but can trash centrifuges with said humble worm.

            Why we still rely on boiling water to generate electrical or most other power, yet can EMP a power grid into oblivion.

            I can go on all day with examples of destruction being a priority over beneficial technologies, I'm retired military and observed at great length.

            1. itzman
              Thumb Down

              Re: Money != Progress

              Its a lot easier to trundle a drone round the world than cure HIV.

              But dont let that stop you ranting.

          6. itzman
            Unhappy

            Re: Money != Progress

            SOME types of problem can be solved by money throwing. Others cannot.

            When you have a problem like 'we have 13 alternative approaches, all of which have worked in the lab, now we need to work out which one is the most cost-effective/safest etc," are amenable to throwing money.

            Problems like 'we have 13 approaches none of which really have worked satisfactorally at all' sometimes throwing money at them wont get you to the14th solution, which does in fact work.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Money != Progress

        Agreed. When you look at the fusion reactor designs you are looking at stoves that use flamethrowers for pilot lights.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Forget fusion?

      "Why don't Bill Gates, Warren Buffett et al. each chuck a couple of billion of their personal wealth into the pot and just get the job done?"

      Because it's not just cash sitting in a piggy bank. Most likely it is already invested in other businesses, or loaned to them. Even if the owners hold it as "cash at bank", the bank is using that as part of its deposits to lend to other businesses or to invest.

      It is a common fallacy that the world if full of idle money; In reality you always have to make a choice between how it is being used, and if you don't make that choice then the institution that holds the money for you will make the choice on your behalf.

      Given that there's plenty of things you can get a return on now, would you invest in fusion when it still looks to be thirty years minimum away from producing energy?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Forget fusion?

        "It is a common fallacy that the world if full of idle money; In reality you always have to make a choice between how it is being used, and if you don't make that choice then the institution that holds the money for you will make the choice on your behalf.

        Given that there's plenty of things you can get a return on now, would you invest in fusion when it still looks to be thirty years minimum away from producing energy?"

        We're talking about people here who are so rich they couldn't physically spend their accumulated fortune within their grandkids' lifetimes let alone their own! What really is the point of amassing all that wealth? Why not leave a real legacy that could benefit the rest of human kind for the foreseeable future?

        In fact, it's a question that the rest of society will be forced to confront at some stage, because wealth continues to concentrate to the point where the elite's personal assets, squirrelled away out of sight of the taxman, are in fact becoming a drain on the global economy.

        Read and learn:

        http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/22/us-offshore-wealth-idUSBRE86L03U20120722

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: Forget fusion?

          A common fallacy.

          That's not "squirreled away". It's in factories, plant and investment schemes providing jobs and generating wealth.

          Of course, quite a bit of it will be on the Wall Street Casino too, unfortunately.

          But once the taxman gets hold of it, it will be destroyed forevermore...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Forget fusion?

            "A common fallacy.

            That's not "squirreled away". It's in factories, plant and investment schemes providing jobs and generating wealth."

            Did you bother to read the article I linked to? I guess not, Here's a quote from it.

            "The study estimating the extent of global private financial wealth held in offshore accounts - excluding non-financial assets such as real estate, gold, yachts and racehorses - puts the sum at between $21 and $32 trillion.

            The report also highlights the impact on the balance sheets of 139 developing countries of money held in tax havens by private elites, putting wealth beyond the reach of local tax authorities.

            The research estimates that since the 1970s, the richest citizens of these 139 countries had amassed $7.3 to $9.3 trillion of "unrecorded offshore wealth" by 2010.

            Private wealth held offshore represents "a huge black hole in the world economy," Henry said in a statement."

            The 32 trillion discussed is purely PERSONAL wealth, sitting IDLE in offshore tax havens and doing NOTHING of any benefit to anybody, except insuring the elites remain the elite for generations to come. Economists agree this situation is damaging, but I guess you in your ignorance know better, right?

    3. Wzrd1

      Re: Forget fusion?

      "Why don't Bill Gates, Warren Buffett et al. each chuck a couple of billion of their personal wealth into the pot and just get the job done?"

      Do you mean like they've repeatedly done in other projects?

      You're awfully keen on spending other people's money!

      You obviously are a contractor.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fusion

    "I have a soft spot in my heart for fusion, having run the ITER program and things like that, but it's something I can't count on for my grandchildren"

    : (((

  6. GrumpyOldBloke

    No comments on the blue screen of death?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
  7. Jim84

    Why isn't this being done in the UK?

    It seems George Osbourne wants to spend money on expensive offshore windmills instead. Even with the R&D costs these molten salt or travelling wave reactors would probably work out to be way cheaper. And a working prototype was already built and tested in the middle of last century. Energy policy in the UK boggles the mind.

    1. Not That Andrew
      FAIL

      Re: Why isn't this being done in the UK?

      The government's latest plan (which they aren't mentioning in public yet for obvious reasons) is to have backup diesel generators for essential utilities like hospitals and the rest of us will have to suffer blackouts for the 10 to 20 years it will take to take to build the new nuclear power plants. Wind was never going to be enough and they aren't building enough gas plants fast enough to replace the coal plants when they go offline. It's sheer insanity, but George Osborne is not solely to blame for this, the power companies, civil servants and government have known this was coming for 15 years at least, and resolutely refused to do anything.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Unhappy

        Re: Why isn't this being done in the UK?

        "The government's latest plan (which they aren't mentioning in public yet for obvious reasons)"

        Oh, they are, but it is under euphemisms like "demand side response", and "capacity mechanisms". This involves using back up plant to hopefully peak lop, but also "load shifting" where they hope that big eneregy users like refridgerated or air conditioning warehouses can be persuaded to turn the chillers off when it suits DECC. And they've also got a beady eye on the future opportunity to turn your fridge off at home using smart meters, home hubs and networked appliances. All available in various publications on the DECC web site, which is full of complex and expensive solutions to otherwise easily fixed problems.

        "and they aren't building enough gas plants fast enough to replace the coal plants when they go offline"

        No. I think there's only one CCGT under substantive construction in the UK, although there's about five consented and ready to move towards formal planning. In part we don't need to replace all of the LCPD closures, because our reserve margin was too high (due to previously centralised planning that built power stations to keep miners employed, or extra oil stations for when theminers were on strike). But when we factor in the full extent of LCPD closures, the retirement of Wylfa, then we do need a bit more decent fossil plant. DECC could and should have resolved that, but the last government were so keen on the War on Climate Change that they weren't willing to wake up and sniff the coffee. Note that all of this DSR and capacity mechanisms will not be properly operational until about 2018, so (with a firm kick up the @rse) we could have built the necessary CCGT by then, and not bother with convoluted, expensive and unreliable attempts to ameliorate peak demand. In many ways DECC's policy will reduce peak demand, but only because their expensive solutions will force our modest remaining industry out of business.

        "the power companies, civil servants and government have known this was coming for 15 years at least, and resolutely refused to do anything"

        Don't blame the power companies. We'll invest if there's some certainty that we'll be allowed to build and operate our plants, but DECC and government will only provide certainty for their bl00dy windmills. And we've warned politicians for the past decade or more of the capacity gap that was emerging as a result of the LCPD closures.

        The ultimate root cause is this obsession of politicians with carbon. The low carbon technologies simply aren't developed enough to work properly in meeting our demand, but regardless they have been incentivised rather than putting money into research. As a result we have £30bn of ineffectual eco-bling despoiling the landscape. You have two choices: If you subscribe to the AGW religion, then you have to accept that government policy is sensible, if expensive and probably unreliable. Or you could accept that climate changes anyway, we might be making a tiny change at the margin, but we'll live with the good and bad consequences, and build some decent proper reliable plant, maybe perhaps funding renewables research (but not production).

        With that £30bn spent on renewables, you might hope we'd be making energy efficiently now. Unfortunately, on DECC data released yesterday, power station conversion losses remains the second largest point use of energy, almost twice the scale of all industrial energy use, more than all forms of domestic energy use, and almost as large total transport energy use. A sensible strategy would capture and use the 46 million tonnes of oil equivalent that disappear up power station cooling towers, but instead all of DECC's daft incentive schemes are for nonsense that can be classed as "renewable" heat. Neither government nor civil servants have a clue, nor a grip on what needs to be done, nor on how to improve things.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          @ledswinger

          "Unfortunately, on DECC data released yesterday, power station conversion losses remains the second largest point use of energy, almost twice the scale of all industrial energy use, more than all forms of domestic energy use, and almost as large total transport energy use"

          And that alone kind of suggests that this is all b***ocks.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @ledswinger

            "And that alone kind of suggests that this is all b***ocks."

            It is. Unfortunately energy policy is driven largely by the EU, who are (in all things) clueless, and obsessively focused on renewables at any cost. German energy policy is in chaos due to the over-build of renewables (and the daft idea of abandoning nuclear). Spanish enegy policy has all but collapsed due to the overbuild of renewables, and Italy has had to have huge policy about turns in the energy sector. And by following the same nonsensical ideas, the UK has a failed energy policy, albeit we're still in the political denial stage - we've already seen the farce over solar PV feed in tariffs, the government's Green Deal programme is a barely believable quagmire of unappealing bureacracy, they propose to spend £14bn in a panickly rolling out of smart meters to save trivial amounts of money on manual meter reading (because the EU told them they had to, and nobody at Westminster had the gumption to tell Brussels to take a hike), and they've got all these wildly complicated ideas about demand side response, capacity mechanisms, and idiotic ideas that splitting vertically integrated companies apart will somehow make a difference. UK energy policy is a bit like your grandad's medication - hundreds of different pills, the majority of which are trying to counter the undesired side effects of the preceding pill, rather than contributing to solving the original problem.

            You'll have seen various press coverage of SSE and nPower suggesting that the lights will go out and costs will go through the roof. OFGEM warned Parliament of the post 2015 capacity gap at least seven years ago. Meanwhile Rome burns and Ed Davey fiddles, as have all his useless predecessors.

            We could and should stop the mass roll out of smart meters; the money spent to date on renewables is more of a problem - if you stop the subsidies for the existing plant then the people who built them in response to government policy and incentives have to write down the value and take a loss, and it then becomes apparent that government promises are totally worthless when taking investment decisions - so why buiild CCGT, nuclear, or anything else? But if you don't stop the subsidies, then intermittent and unpredicatable renewables continue to disrupt the power market, cost money for stuff all output, and make fossil plant uneconomic so requiring more intervention, more complex rules and yet more subsidies, whilst reducing the net thermal efficiency.

            1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Happy

              Re: @ledswinger

              Sorry to rein you in on your little UKIP rant but I think you have a few details wrong.

              "German energy policy is in chaos due to the over-build of renewables (and the daft idea of abandoning nuclear). "

              Abandoning the German nuclear coal boiler was a mistake but IIRC ElReg has run stories describing them ramping up coal fired plant construction so I think they have restored discipline to the German electorate.

              " the government's Green Deal programme is a barely believable quagmire of unappealing bureacracy, "

              I'll agree it's been generous but in amongst the stupidity of windmills generating generating 6% of the year there are also micro hydro schemes and anaerobic digestion which are rather less crackpot. I wish someone would have a serious go with geothermal, especially those abandoned North Sea oil wells, as well.

              " spend £14bn in a panickly rolling out of smart meters to save trivial amounts of money on manual meter reading (because the EU told them they had to, and nobody at Westminster had the gumption to tell Brussels to take a hike), and they've got all "

              This is where you start to go off into SEL territory as the covered what the real story with the EU is here

              But the TL:DR version is

              "As mentioned earlier, there is a final reason for smart metering: Europe. Energy UK says that the country is bound by a European directive to put smart meters in 80 per cent of homes by 2020 – although the government and industry is hoping to get much nearer to 100 per cent. But Henney says that the directive only requires the roll-out if it is economically viable – which he thinks it isn’t, with other countries sitting on their hands: “So far, the Germans have done bugger all.”" Something you don't hear Germans doing very often.

              "We could and should stop the mass roll out of smart meters; "

              It's doubtful that a fair costing would have justified it in the first place by EU rules. It was only included when some Tory Peer got a bung.

              "But if you don't stop the subsidies, then intermittent and unpredicatable renewables continue to disrupt the power market, cost money for stuff all output, and make fossil plant uneconomic so requiring more intervention, more complex rules and yet more subsidies, whilst reducing the net thermal efficiency."

              Because rules are set in stone and will last a 1000 years, right?

              Wrong. The energy "market" is a very regulated environment and the UK government sets most of the rules. How about some obvious rule changes? Lets start by recognizing some of these jokers are just carbon credit farmers and not producing serious amounts of energy (gas or electricity).

              So future systems carbon credits proportional to uptime and/or backup capacity needed, and no credits below say 20% minimum uptime ("You claim you're a generator. Shouldn't you be concerned about a system that does not generate more than 1/5 of the time?").

              How about a weighting for systems that scales with population so the more (probable) demand the more output it's likely to produce. Yes I am thinking biogas. I think actual life expectancy should also count but that would probably penalize nuclear too much while hydro and wind systems can run for centuries

              Note one of the Achilles heels of the UK grid is its lack of storage, so what about storage tariffs (or rather negative tariffs). I'd suggest something for the big boys (x MWHrs --> £Y) and something for the domestic market. Your house stays off the grid for a day is worth how ever much your house would consume from your suppliers dirtiest generator. This works 2 ways. If the dirtiest is also the most expensive the company is "nudged" into going for cheaper systems as its handing its customers money. If it's not that's a cost they can live with but they have to keep buying credits to use it.. Personally I want to see more flywheel storage systems. Under vacuum they have few failure modes and can last for decades, but anything that works works for me.

              It seems as if the British play by the existing UK rules they lose.

              But rules change.

        2. itzman
          Mushroom

          Re: Why isn't this being done in the UK?

          Precisely so. The Guvmints 'carbon plan' comes up with 2050 scenarios that address the problem of actually needing power (up to 75GW of nuclear) with the problem of having to make it 'renewable' (up to 105GW of windmills).

          No one has pointed out that nuclear power is zero carbon, and therefore spending on windmills is unnecessary if you build enough nuclear already to cover the case when the wind isn't blowing (much).

          Its as double-think as Germany's headline renewable 'energiewiende' which is actually resulting in loads of new coal plant to keep the lights on, that isn't so widely trumpeted.

          Renewable energy is a cosmetic political solution to a non-existent problem, and a real solution to the problem of how to make a lot of cash without actually producing anything anyone needs or wants. Answer is of course to get the government to make it compulsory.

          At least Bill Gates is tossing money onto a worthwhile pot for a change.

    2. William Wilgus

      Re: Why isn't this being done in the UK?

      A Working prototype of what? No traveling wave reactor has ever been built. Few Molten Salt Reactors have been built and they've had problems---they're difficult to build.

  8. Jim O'Reilly
    Pint

    No Radiation?

    Since Fukushima, we've discovered that the number of deaths expected is ZERO.

    Nuclear fusion is getting a lot safer, and these new designs look much better still.

    We can expect the thorium cycle version of the molten salt reactor to work just as well, and we have fuel for thousands of years. No more wind power systems. Let's do this right!

    1. Daniel B.
      Facepalm

      Re: No Radiation?

      Indeed. I actually hated how the media started going "oooh the humanity! Another Chernobyl" and the fire becoming self-sustaining with the anti-nuke crowd fueling the flames and saying "but OF COURSE they say there are no aftereffects! Government CONZPIRAZY!!!11oneone".

      Unfortunately, Fukushima does seem to have scared a new generation, especially one that is more prone to listening pseudoscience and internet urban legends than real science. Just see Greenpeace trying to block ITER, because they can't see the difference between fusion and fission. Or the difference between the unsafe RBMK reactor and what has been proposed for new stuff.

      1. William Wilgus

        Re: No Radiation?

        Fukushima isn't over yet. It remains to be seen what the consequences are. Chernobyl isn't over yet and reportedly won't be for another 10,000 years. I also understand the sarcophagus is crumbling and they need to build a more permanent structure to contain it. The Three Mile Island plant has not been de-commissioned; they don't know how to do it. That's three very serious accidents that aren't over yet. There have been lots of other accidents and incidents.

        All things have the potential to cause problems, it's just that the potential harm of nuclear power is beyond compare. What happens if the spent fuel in the 5th story storage pool at Fukushima cathes on fire? It wouldn't be pretty.

        Do I have perfect answers to solve energy problems? No. At the moment, neither does anyone else.

        1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: No Radiation?

          With Chernobyl they've just built the world's largest mobile concrete structure to roll over the top of the existing sarcophagus. The lesson from it is pretty simple - don't conduct reactor experiments in the middle of a shift change and stand up to your bosses if they're asking you to do non-standard things with the equivalent of a nuclear bomb.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No Radiation?

          "it's just that the potential harm of nuclear power is beyond compare. "

          Compared to what? Maximum number of deaths due to nuclear accidents, weapons testing and weapons use is about 5m tops, using the most extreme figures I can find. That's nothing compared to the harm from pandemics, famine, poor sanitation, poor air quality, warfare, state oppression, cigarettes, road accidents, drugs & alcohol, and suicide. As a broad brush, you can attribute an indicative figure of about one million deaths a year to each of those causes, year in year out.

          Nuclear seems quite safe to me, even on the figures from the scaremongers. A pity it is so expensive that it isn't economic.

        3. Tom 13

          Re: Three Mile Island plant has not been de-commissioned

          I was in high school when TMI had its problems and lived nearby in US terms (less than 60 miles away).

          As I recall the problem isn't so much that they don't have a plan to clean it up, as it is that every time they advance a plan the greenies come out to scare the PHBs who have to approve the plan. With the predictable result that the engineers don't get approval for political reasons instead of actual issues with the plan. It's a relatively easy thing to do. My aunt actually scared my mother to the point she was almost ready to put my brother and I in the car and drive away. Fortunately I had the good sense to look at her and ask "Which way will the wind be blowing in 30 minutes?" She looked at me quizzically so I continued, "Well don't you need to know that to know which way to drive to get away from the cloud if it does?" She thought about that for a moment and then considered the possibility of getting stuck in a traffic jam with all the other Chicken Littles and we stayed put. To this day she still comments on my common sense as a result of that exchange.

        4. dwieske

          Re: No Radiation?

          I guess you're one of those illegical beings that value "potential for problems" more importantly than the several hundreds of thousands of fatalities from other power sources EACH YEAR. stop the fearmongering pls

        5. Daniel B.
          Boffin

          Re: No Radiation?

          Fukushima isn't over yet. It remains to be seen what the consequences are.

          Had the consequences been anything close to Chernobyl, we'd already know by now. By hell we knew what happened in Chernobyl mere months after it happened. This is the kind of fearmongering I'm referring to.

          Chernobyl isn't over yet and reportedly won't be for another 10,000 years.

          We all know that. The sarcophagus issue is an obvious one, given that it was hastily built to quickly contain the whole thing before it fucked up even more stuff than it already had. Had those RBMK reactors had a secondary containment shield, it probably wouldn't have been needed. Though the real lesson there was what gazthejourno said: just don't go around doing boneheaded tests during shift changes, if you cancel a previous test, return the reactors to their original settings, and please please don't build a reactor with a design that allows runaway reactions during a SCRAM.

          The Three Mile Island plant has not been de-commissioned; they don't know how to do it.

          That has more to do with Green Cheese scaremongering than actually knowing what to do. TMI was in fact pretty well contained, with no radioactive material getting out of the containment areas. In fact, this accident was far worse and had far worse risks than TMI... and again, it was a product of boneheaded designs. (Who in their right mind would build a frickin' open air fission reactor?!?!)

        6. itzman

          Re: No Radiation?

          sigh. Nothing is 'over' if you want to describe it in absolute terms.

          However the exponential decay of radioactive materials suggests that if Chernobyl was gong to be a huge issue, it would have done so by now.

          Essentially and officially the death toll from Chernobyl radiation stands at less than a hundred people and that from Fukushima zero.

          The authorities have done the reasonable thing. Built a wall round it put a roof on it and left it. Its the cheapest way. Eventually it might be a valuable source of uranium. But no one is rushing.

          Background radiation in Pripyat is by and large no worse than Dartmoor. It could be re-inhabited with a minimal clean up to address hot spots.

          The big news about Chernobyl and Fuku is that the predicted megadeaths simply never happened, and never will.

          Examine this film from the 60s. Shudder at how they used to handle nuclear materials, then go and look to see how many cancers were reported in personnel working in the UK nuclear industry,. None above normal statistical averages.

          http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/films/1951to1964/filmpage_atomic.htm

          The conclusions are clear: moderate exposure chronic slightly elevated background radiations has no measurable impact on health. But the equivalent dose taken as a high peak and short duration does.

          1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

            Re: No Radiation?

            "Nothing is 'over' if you want to describe it in absolute terms."

            "The only truly safe reactor (in terms of public health) is one that needs no emergency plan."

            In absolute terms, nothing is 'safe'. I'm unable to think of even one useful process (mathematics and mental abstractions excluded), which is so absolutely safe that it does not need an emergency plan.

            Knitting? Nope. Not even that. Couple of ways to get hurt. Emergency plans may be very simple, and unwritten, but they have to exist.

            So, using absolute terms, and thinking in absolutes, is an universal problem. An absolute guarantee of veering into an absolute nonsense. Not to mention spoiling a good conversation every now and then.

    2. Dagg
      FAIL

      Re: No Radiation?

      >Nuclear fusion is getting a lot safer, and these new designs look much better still.

      Functional nuclear fusion is ANYTHING but safe! Hydrogen bomb anyone! I think you are thinking about Nuclear fission! There are no useful(more energy out than in for more than a few seconds) fusion reactors yet.

      1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: No Radiation?

        There are no useful (more energy out than in for more than a few seconds) fusion reactors yet.

        We have a free fusion reactor. It is called "the sun." It is scheduled for decommission in a few billion years.

        1. itzman
          Unhappy

          Re: No Radiation?

          We have a free fusion reactor. It is called "the sun." It is scheduled for decommission in a few billion years.

          Sadly it will have gone supersized and fried us long before that.

      2. itzman
        Mushroom

        Re: No Radiation?

        Golly. I can take air, mix it with fuel and make a fuel air bomb!

        Air IS UNSAFE! WE MUST BAN IT.

        Do you really expect the sophisticated readershhip at El Reg to not understand that in order to create an H bomb, you first take an A bomb and wrap it in a mantle of fusionable elements and HOPE that for a microsecond you will convert about 1% of it to nuclear fusion energy?

        And this has nothing whatsoever to do with electrical power generation from fusion energy, where the goal is to keep the thing burning continuously?

        Really, if fusion energy is so dangerous why are we pissing around with renewables? they are all nuclear fusion technology, unless you erroneously thought that great light bulb in the sky was in fact manufactured by Osram and powered by cow fart?

        We live on a planet constricted out of nuclear waste and powered by nuclear fusion. If you don't like that, tough. I suggest you commit suicide

    3. streaky Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: No Radiation?

      Missing the most important point - no water cooling/moderation = no explosion risk.

      I've been banging the molten salt reactor drum for at least 10 years now, good to finally see some money going into it at last.

      1. itzman

        Re: No Radiation?

        If there is no cooling fluid the thing will eventually melt and no power can be extracted.

    4. William Wilgus

      Re: No Radiation?

      Molten salt can burn and it can explode. The Fast Breeder Molten Salt Reactor at Monju, Japan had a fire due to a leak of molten salt. It only produced electricity for one hour and has only run 250 days in the two decades since it's first test run.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monju_Nuclear_Power_Plant

      Like all things, MSRs have disadvantages:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten_salt_reactor#Disadvantages

      1. streaky Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: No Radiation?

        "Molten salt can burn and it can explode"

        Well it can't cause a massive hydrogen explosion that's powerful enough to blow the lid off the reactor and piss radiation all the way across an entire continent.

        I didn't mean to imply it's safer than cooking boiled potatoes on your induction cooker, but relatively speaking it removes the worst-case scenario. Minimum standard is that water isn't the way.

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: No Radiation?

          Sure it can. Sodium + water = lots of hydrogen, as any fule kno. Then there are fluorides. Then (gasp) graphite as moderator.

          Of course there are better and worse ways to do it, but flipping the bloody safe/unsafe bit doesn't get you far, unless you manage to generate power from the said bit-flipping itself.

    5. Paul Shirley

      Re: No Radiation?

      Jim O'Reilly:"Since Fukushima, we've discovered that the number of deaths expected is ZERO."

      Disingenuous at best.

      Mass evacuation may well have dropped the directly attributable deaths to zero. It may even be true few or no deaths would have occurred without it (unlikely given the lack of success in cleanup efforts). Evacuation itself is stressful and has health consequences, this evacuation was larger and longer than the hurricane can be blamed for, it's ongoing.

      Research after Chernobyl established that the fear or suspicion of contamination is enough to significantly reduce life expectancy. The only truly safe reactor (in terms of public health) is one that needs no emergency plan.

      It's laughable to equate 'no direct deaths' with 'no deaths'.

      1. dwieske

        Re: No Radiation?

        actually the senseless evacuation has made more victims that the radiation, your can' count deaths/sickness caused by poorly reacting to an accident to please immoral fearmongerers as "deaths due to nuclear power"

        Greenpeace and other scum are causing the real damage when it comes to nuclear power, not the tech itself

      2. Turtle

        @Paul Shirley

        "It's laughable to equate 'no direct deaths' with 'no deaths'."

        Well if nuclear power is too risky for you, be a coal miner.

  9. Christian Berger Silver badge

    The main problem is physical security

    It doesn't matter how large your nuclear power plant is, you always need about the same number of security guards and about the same amount of walls and security gates to keep crooks away.

    Storing large amounts of radioactive and possibly poisonous materials requires good safety precautions. You don't want them to get into the hands of a burglar. Even if making an atomic bomb is impossible, sprinkling it into the water supply will make a nifty terrorists attack with lots of juicy press coverage and fear. It doesn't matter if the water is still save, but just the headline "Drinking Water Radioactive" will have the desired effect.

    So just because it's claimed that the nuclear processes are save, a claim quite often made, doesn't mean that the whole system is somehow much cheaper to operate.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: The main problem is physical security

      "Storing large amounts of radioactive and possibly poisonous materials requires good safety precautions. "

      I don't think you're up to speed on the new nuclear designs.

      Quite a few of them are designed for unmanned operation. They are sealed for life and act solely as a heat source with either onward sale of excess electricity to the grid or storage as needed.

      To get into the reactor you'd need to get the lid off a big, deep hole and get to the bottom.

      You now have to cut the lid off the top and get the fuel out.

      Which is depleted Uranium, not even natural (0.7%) fissionable Uranium. It's basically waste from the enrichment process currently used to make fuel for most reactors.

      Meanwhile you'll be trying to stop dying from the radiation produced by the in-situ breeding of fissionables you've just released and not tripping the assorted remote alarms I'd expect are seeded through the system. IOW you'll need some significant skillz to get into this, without killing yourself very quickly.

      Great action thriller plot but bul***it IRL. There are numerous easier ways to get the materials for a "dirty bomb."

    2. Justicesays
      Facepalm

      Re: The main problem is physical security

      In this case the reactor is essentially a sealed in candle burning from the middle.

      As there is no need to keep additional fuel, or waste products , there isn't going to be much in the way of stealable stuff, unless your thief is someone capable of ripping the top off a sealed reaction vessel and carrying off a huge cylinder of fusing uranium.

      "The perpetrator was big, green and angry. Either the hulk or the strongest eco activist I have ever seen."

      1. itzman

        Re: The main problem is physical security

        unfortunately the political green activists have meant that this is in fact not true.

        Unwilling to see 'hot rods' transported around the place most power stations have water cooling tanks containing years of spent rods with a reasonably nice content of plutonium in them.Likewise political activism and prejudice has prevented proper reprocessing and disposal of high level wastes.

        Putting waste where we (and terrorists) can't get at it, is no longer a preferred solution.

    3. itzman

      Re: The main problem is physical security

      OTOH sprinkling a few grammes of radioactive iodine in the water supply probably wont make it more radioactive than it already is.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation#Food_and_water

  10. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Vroom, Vroom ... Gentlemen, Start urEngines. Let the Great IntelAIgent Games Begin*

    Hmmm? How beautifully weird and wired and most encouraging. Finally Bill makes it to the altar as star groom rather than as always being late to the party and too busy chasing rainbows for their pots of fools' gold?

    Is Bill Gates in Search of the Secrets of NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive IT, .... for be assured, such is in friendly peerless competition with and/or fearless SCADA opposition to the cloning/phishing and phorming of its Drone Programs and AI ProgramMING in a pale imitation of it in Secondary SkunkWorks/Sub-Prime Operator Models/Dummy Operating Systems.

    Further sense of that above package of information/leak of intelligence is shared in, but one should not be scared in, the Danger Room, with a clearly alien comment in there revealing a similar parallel operation/not dissimilar peculiar singularity of mission for a Novel Energetic Advanced Intellectual Property Supply System which promises .....the world will generate a new richness and energy to power the future in a much better beta direction with new fields of endeavour and opportunity to explore and zeroday exploit for wealth to spend and share

    * Try to stop them and see what happens is an active challenge not for the faint and/or dark hearted. So warned is all that you need to be aware that there be consequences aplenty for all ill moves.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    don't let Ballmer ballz it up

    the guy doesn't know how to innovate. He'd have us doing Kinect exercises to power the home while paying Microsoft for the privilege.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: don't let Ballmer ballz it up

      But he does offer the chance of a whole new energy source.

      Powered by "Chicken Dance (TM)" anyone?

  12. William Wilgus

    In case it wasn't clear, no traveling wave reactor has ever been built. It's entirely possible that one will never be built as they're considered by some to be too difficult to build.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveling_wave_reactor#Concept_criticism

    That TerraPower decided to change from burning at the end of the fuel to burning at the middle indicates TerraPower wasn't very savvy about traveling wave reactors, because they've been discussed since the 1950s and the fuel burns from the inside out. TerraPower was formed in 2006.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveling_wave_reactor#Traveling_wave_vs._standing_wave

    I'd hedge your bet, Bill.

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      RE: I'd hedge your bet, Bill.

      I'm pretty sure he does just that, citation TWR isn't the only trick up TerraPower's sleeve

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Happy

      @William Wilgus

      "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveling_wave_reactor#Concept_criticism"

      Good point. The shift from "traveling" to "static" wave introduces control rods and all their associated hardware, which negates much of the simplicity and cost of the concept.

      This is about your 5th post since you've joined and all of them have been quite negative about nuclear power.

      So is there a nuclear option you would be OK with?

      If not what's your plan to deal with rising energy demands across the globe?

  13. dwieske

    A perfectly working, mature design of an MSR can be built TOMORROW: the GE PRISM reactor based on the reactor that ran for decades at Argonne Labs (the IFR design) untill "Friends of the Earth" handed a big pile of cash to Bill Clinton to cancel the program in 1993.

    Yep a perfectly working, extremely safe GEN IV design that can run on waste and can be built tomorrow...

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Boffin

      @dwieske

      "A perfectly working, mature design of an MSR can be built TOMORROW: the GE PRISM reactor based on the reactor that ran for decades at Argonne Labs (the IFR design) untill "Friends of the Earth" handed a big pile of cash to Bill Clinton to cancel the program in 1993."

      I think you're over egging this pudding.

      First the 30 year track record is for the EBR II reactor which PRISM is based on.

      I've no idea about FoE's involvement. One observation was shutting down EBR II let Clinton keep to the letter of the Non Proliferation Treaty without actually giving up any nukes, which probably kept most Republicans happy.

      PRISM is 10x bigger than EBR II. Not impossible but I don't think the plans for PRISM actually exist yet.

      The UK has a longhistory of building new nuke designs which cost and schedule overran by decades

      The UK also has had a few "excursions" when water meets Sodium.

      I'm for any concept that burns transuranics and the PRISM design does look like it's in a good position but I don't think anyone's going to turn up at Sellafield on Monday morning with a crew and start work.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No deaths since Fukushima?

    "Since Fukushima, we've discovered that the number of deaths expected is ZERO", Jim O'Reilly

    "Around 2,000 Fukushima Workers At Risk Of Thyroid Cancer Due To Radiation"

    "Nine more young people have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer since Japan's worst nuclear accident two years ago, link

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: No deaths since Fukushima?

      Yes.

      Also, auto accidents, random cancers, plastics, seafood, crazy endtime cults, melanoma, alcohol, cigs etc. etc. etc.

      And the whole seaside destroyed because of a Tsunami.

      YOU REMEMBER THE TSUNAMI, RIGHT? OR WERE YOU JUST WATCHING ZOMG NUCLEO-SPLODE REPORTING BY BBC INCOMPETENTS? WERE YOU???

    2. itzman
      FAIL

      Re: No deaths since Fukushima?

      and 2000+ more people have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the UK since the Olympic games!

      Your point being?

      http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/types/thyroid/incidence/uk-thyroid-cancer-incidence-statistics

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No deaths since Fukushima?

      174,000 people polled and only 9 have thyroid cancer?

      From http://www.curesearch.org/Thyroid-Cancer-in-Children/ :

      "Only one in 1000-2000 children under age 20 are affected by thyroid cancer in the United States each year."

      Sounds to me like nuclear meltdowns are good for Japanese children!

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