Friday, February 26, 2010


We need a bold new ENERGY TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM similar to the APOLLO PROGRAM that will engage the minds of young Americans. A noble vision is needed to engage the imagination of the young to solve our collective power generation problem in a way that the SPACE PROGRAM engaged a previous generation. We need Boys and Girls to enter Physical Science and Engineering as they did after Sputnik and use their youthful energy and intelligence to design clean energy technology that will power the planet and help mankind avoid wars over energy resources. By 2050 the world needs to find a way to generate from 10 to 30 additional Terawatts of electricity (with the high end 30 Terawatt figure which is required to bring the rest of the planet up to the energy utilization level of the United States being much preferred).

What information, and what form of presentation, would engage the imagination of youth and provide them with a sense of MISSION to solve the planet’s energy scarcity problem (approximately 2 billion of the world’s people currently have no regular access to electricity)? Perhaps there is utility in examining influences that shaped the imagination of 1950's born children to persue the challenge of SPACE. As a youngster I found the following Disney special genuinely inspirational.

Disney/Von Braun Man in Space

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dr. Patrick Moore talks Nuclear Energy

Dr. Patrick Moore, co-founder of Green Peace and more recently founder of Green Spirit and Co-Chair of CASEnergy Coalition, discusses the potential role nuclear energy can play right now and in the future. He calls nuclear energy "clean and sustainable" and says it would be ridiculous not to include it in the overall clean energy portfolio.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Would Thorium Powered Ships be better for the Navy?

The Navy is studying using alternative "green" fuels for powering Navy ships and would like to be climate conscientious while it defends the nation's shores. The Navy uses nuclear power for its largest ships but must use fuel oil for its smaller vessels. There is a style of nuclear energy that produces no green house gasses and is well adapted to mobile applications and safe operation under dangerous conditions as might exist in a sea battle.

The Navy could build substantially better nuclear power particularly appropriate for smaller Navy vessels based on alternative Thorium nuclear fuel in Molten Salt Reactors. Molten Salt Reactors have the highest energy density of any style of nuclear reactor (mostly because the molten coolant salt has the highest thermal transfer efficiency of any reactor coolant) and can safely change power levels and quickly respond to real time demands for varying power levels. Molten salt reactors tend to be physically smaller for a given power output and are not subject to core meltdowns or high pressure coolant accidents. When used in appropriate alternative reactors designed to burn it Thorium produces one hundredth the amount of nuclear waste [1].

In an effort to appear sensitive to the larger themes of the Obama Administration the Navy (and other services) appear to be making efforts to qualify their military systems to burn bio-fuels. I personally feel that down-grading range and performance of military systems to reduce carbon or import of foreign oil is perverse. It is better to chose technology that allows you to improve the performance of your military systems to levels that exceed anything your enemies can achieve.

The Navy would be better off with nuclear ships and would be a more effective integrated fighting force with both large and small ships able to operate at full speed for unlimited distances. A navy where only the largest ships are nuclear powered runs the risk of having to reduce speed and restrict range just to avoid outrunning smaller fossil fuel powered support vessels.

The power density and power to weight characteristics of Molten Salt Reactors is without peer among current Gen-4 nuclear designs (shielding must be provided for all reactors and shielding requirements can tend to swamp some of the advantages Molten Salt Reactors over other reactor concepts). The fact that salt coolant for Molten Salt Reactors operates at low pressure makes MSRs a safer and more suitable choice under battle conditions. If an enemy shell goes through the ship and damages the reactor plumbing or the reactor core of a MSR the fuel salt just drips into a flat collection tray pre-placed under the reactor and via this passively safe mechanism fission stops and the reactor stops operating. This beats core meltdown scenarios that other reactor concepts suffer when there is damage to coolant pumping in the primary coolant area. Physically small high power to weight reactors are important to get excellent high levels of performance out of small ships - MSRs can be successfully built in sizes as small as 2 MW and this permits use in even quite small Navy ships. MSRs do not require heavy forged steel reactor containment vessels to be safe – this is responsible for many performance advantages and high power to weight ratio when applied in naval applications in smaller ships.

Why not make plans for a future in which all Navy ships, not just the very largest, perform at high levels and exhibit extraordinary range and capability to stay on station as ordered without requirement for refueling?
Why compromise naval performance to be politically trendy when a better technology choice would eliminate production of GHG and preserve unmatched world class naval performance and safety?

[1] Le Brun, C., "Impact of the MSBR concept technology on long lived radio toxicity and proliferation resistance"

Saturday, January 30, 2010


The Obama Administration has created a website called CitizenTube which is a web based feedback forum for the Obama Administration.
The President says he will respond to submitted questions in a live YouTube interview at the White House on Monday, February 1st, at 1:45 p.m EST. I have submitted the following question requesting the President to


The TEXT of my question is:
"There is a synthetic element called Uranium-233 that is valuable for curing cancer and for starting Thorium reactors in an extremely low nuclear waste generating mode. ORNL has been instructed by Congress to destroy all U-233. Can you help save it?
Robert Steinhaus, Castro Valley - Jobs & the Economy“

The President says he will answer the questions that receive the most votes in his Monday, February 1st interview so I am asking that you consider dropping by the Obama CitizenTube Website

LINK Obama CitizenTube Feedback Website

then use the website SEARCH feature to search on "U-233" and vote up the  question by clicking on the upward thumb pointing hand.

The deadline for voting is Sunday at 8 p.m. EST.

Please vote for this question or submit your own “Save America’s U-233” question.

Perhaps we can get the attention of the President and staff on this important issue and save the natural best material needed for the startup charge for the first LFTR (although it is quite possible to start LFTRs on a wide range of fuels at somewhat higher cost and with greater complexity - particularly in the supporting reactor chemical plant).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

On the way to Yottawatts - the 30 Terawatt Challenge

Why try to hide it. I am a nuclear energy advocate and I believe that improved forms of fission nuclear energy should be used to supply the world’s need for cheap and affordable clean power.

A context for Thorium - video presentation by Dr. Richard Smalley of Rice University regarding our "Energy Challenge".

Making good decisions generally requires getting the big picture right. If you start with an accurate "big picture" you have a hope of choosing effective supporting implementing strategies.

I think Dr. Smalley's presentation does a great job of presenting the big picture of the Terawatt challenge we face over the next couple of decades. If you haven't seen it you might find it interesting.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sanitation in Haiti Disaster - Buckets of Beneficence

Sanitation can be a great killer in the aftermath of earthquakes.

Most relief organizations focus on other areas (delivery food, water, medical supplies, etc). Preparations are now being made for large tent housing facilities to accommodate the many homeless after the Haiti disaster. Experience from other tent city disaster scenarios suggest that unless provided for right from the start, basic sanitation and collection of wastes can cause spread of disease and can lead to many follow on deaths. It would be wise to implement an immediate sanitation program that couples the distribution of food and water with the collection of waste.


Distribute 5-gal plastic buckets to all families in the emergency tent camp.

Request that each family use the buckets to collect wastes and at least once a day visit the local latrine and dump out the bucket while receiving from a hired sanitation monitor a stamp on a food distribution chit good for food and water that day.

Under normal conditions, there should be a coupling, for the purpose of good sanitation practice, of daily dumping of the contents of the waste bucket in the latrine with a subsequent issuance of food and water. Use of the plastic buckets helps prevent waste collecting right next to the tents and then children getting sick from playing too near the wastes.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Air-Drop Food and Water Packets on Haiti!

There are a few subjects that may be even more important than improved nuclear energy and one of those is saving human lives. This Blog post is slightly off our general focus area but a sufficiently good idea to deserve treatment here.

Some really bright guys, Dr. Bill Wattenberg of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Dr. Richard Muller of UC Berkeley, have a great idea for a way to save lives in earthquake devastated Haiti

For years, our military has had a sure-fire method to quickly and safely distribute food to refugees, without creating dangerous mob-scenes. US based C-130 transport planes are less than three hours away from Haiti and could be used to save many lives. Centralized distribution tends to get diverted to only the strong and well armed. We should use a tactic proven to work in previous relief efforts in Bosnia and Kurdistan where we used a technique called a freefall door bundle airdrop which drops individual food and relief supplies from the back of C-130 cargo planes such that the drop spreads individual items over a broad area (football field size or slightly larger). Door Bundle drops are one of the simplest of airdrop methods. In a door bundle airdrop, the cargo plane simply pushes out the bundled but unpalletized individual relief items in the load out the back of the plane at the appropriate time. Most individual food and relief items (bread, granola bars, etc) dropped from a cargo plane quickly reach terminal velocity and land safely without parachutes. Individual bottles of water impact the ground with greater kinetic energy and should either be deployed with individual parachutes or dropped on unpopulated areas like hillsides.

The following video shows a freefall door bundle airdrop delivery of up to 18tons of required food to the people of the Southern Sudan Region.

Video of dispersed style air-drop of relief supplies

Sunday, January 3, 2010

America Needs Disruptive Thorium Nuclear Technology to Re-take the American Nuclear Industry

Americans should care that so much of America's Nuclear Industry is now owned by foreign interests. We will need to expand the nation's use of nuclear energy to preserve American quality of life. The fact that so much of the industry is in the hands of foreign interests should be a matter of some concern. We need to support new disruptive US nuclear technology that will allow American manufacturers to retake this critical industry with better, less waste generating, and safer nuclear technology. The nations’ universities and national laboratories are excellent sources of disruptive nuclear technology. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors are technically and economically disruptive nuclear technology that would allow America to retake its nuclear industry and build on America’s first six decades of nuclear leadership. The following summary of Foreign Ownership of US Nuclear Industry is provided by respected industry analyst Rod Adams of Adams Atomic Engines and Atomic Insights. “Westinghouse is about 80% owned by Toshiba - 67% (Japan), Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. - 3% (Japan), Kazatomprom - 10% (Kazakhstan). However, 20% of the company is in the hands of Shaw Group out of Louisiana. GE Nuclear is in a joint venture with Hitachi (GEH), but remains fully owned by a US based company. Combustion Engineering disappeared into Westinghouse. Part of B&W disappeared into Framatome and then into Areva, but the part that has been focused on US Navy nuclear power remains a US owned company. It is that part that is marketing the mPower™ 125 MWe modular reactor. Many smaller nuclear manufacturers also remain in US hands. A couple of start-ups like Hyperion and NuScale have been funded by US venture capital. The NRC certified designs are the ABWR, the AP-1000, the AP-600, and the System 80+. The ABWR certification is still owned by GE, but they sold rights to a major portion of the technology to Toshiba. Toshiba has filed a modified design certification application to incorporate the replacement parts of that technology as part of its NRG South Texas Project, so there will be two certified ABWR designs - one owned by GE, one by Toshiba. Chinese firms are not owners of US manufacturers or NRC certified designs. However, part of the deal for the first four AP-1000s sold in China is a technology transfer agreement that will allow Chinese manufacturers to produce the design under license without further US involvement. I am not sure, but I expect that license will be geographically limited, sort of like the original Westinghouse licenses to France and South Korea.” The intent of this message is not to demonize foreign ownership of the nuclear industry (we should thank French Areva for continuing to develop nuclear technology and for being willing to sell it to us as allies and friends). We should take wise steps to retake the American Nuclear industry by supporting the development of new disruptive American nuclear technology that would re-level the playing field and allow smaller American innovators to compete.
America can no longer build without help the Light Water Reactors they pioneered in the 1950s. The large 600 ton steel forgings required build the reactor pressure vessels needed to insure safety for this class of reactor can now only be built in Japan or Russia. It is probably not possible to regain the capacity to build these heavy steel forgings associated with traditional Light Water Reactors in the USA. It would be better to concentrate American efforts on developing superior technically and economically disruptive new nuclear technology that does not require the heavy and expensive reactor pressure vessel that currently cannot be built in the USA. We should introduce new disruptive American nuclear technology and create new nuclear design and manufacturing jobs in this country instead of in Japan or Russia. The only Japanese manufacture, Japan Steel Ltd, can only build four reactor containment vessels a year and this is a limiting factor for any plans to improve American energy sufficiency through nuclear energy as there is already a serious backlog on reactor containment vessels from Japan Steel.

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors could currently be manufactured in USA and do not require a reactor containment vessel because they do not have a traditional solid reactor core that could suffer a core meltdown. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors are safer because they have liquid cores of molten salt that must be molten to operate. The liquid molten salt expands as it is heated and the atoms of fuel move farther away from each other as the temperature increases. This phenomenon (a strong negative thermal reactivity coefficient) tends to thermally stabilize the reactor temperature and is an important passive safety factor built into Molten Salt reactors that tend to make them safer than many other liquid metal cooled reactor alternatives. A LFTR reactor just cannot suffer a core meltdown in the event of loss of primary coolant because the expansion of the fuel salt will reduce the reactivity and the heat generated by the reactor if it tends to overheat. LFTR Thorium reactors use molten salts as a coolant instead of water. LFTR reactors do not produce high pressure superheated water/steam as most current LWRs do and as a result do not require the heavy and expensive reactor containment vessel which cannot currently be manufactured in commercial power generation sizes in the US. The overwhelming majority of the current NRC certified reactor designs pre-approved for use by US utilities are now owned outright by foreign companies. Profits from sales of the existing NRC certified reactor designs will now go to supporting foreign economies and new nuclear manufacturing jobs will be created primarily in those foreign lands.

The NRC is currently very adept at regulating light-water reactors (the type of reactor currently in use in the U.S.) in a relatively slow growth environment; however, it is not prepared to efficiently regulate a diverse, growing, market-driven industry that could produce reactors both large and small and utilize both Uranium and Thorium Fuel Cycles. This becomes an obstacle to the introduction of new technologies. NRC must be reformed to allow smaller American nuclear innovators to compete with large entrenched foreign interests who currently dominate Light Water Reactor technology within the world-wide nuclear industry.

Our current NRC regulatory approach favors the preservation of the advantage of the foreign owners of the current NRC certified designs and discourages smaller American start-ups from entry into the nuclear industry. American nuclear start-ups are prevented from supplying superior new American nuclear technology because they cannot overcome the hurdle of the initial high million dollar regulatory fees when they submit their designs for NRC review. We need to revise the way we regulate nuclear manufactures and not charge huge million dollar fees to submit new nuclear designs for review as new American designs will be needed to retake this critical industry and the present regulatory system now favors the huge entrenched foreign interests. Small American start-up manufacturers are priced out of participation in the nuclear industry because of the way we fund nuclear regulation at the NRC. We should fund NRC the way we fund other government agencies like the Department of Commerce or Interior. NRC regulators should not have their salaries paid for by the industry they regulate.

With the help of Government and relief from Nuclear Regulatory Commission fee requirements for evaluation of new designs American nuclear innovators could retake the American nuclear industry and provide significantly better nuclear technology to all Americans. Is it in the national interest to give up American technical leadership and leave the American Nuclear Industry in the hands of foreign interests for the remainder of this century?

Respectfully, Robert Steinhaus

Thorium Molten Salt Reactors are good science. Dr. Edward Teller, the founding director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, wrote his final paper a month before his death on the subject of the advantages of Thorium Molten Salt Reactors and the contribution this style of less polluting nuclear energy could provide to achieving energy independence while reducing the need to generate green house gases. This paper can be downloaded from the following URL: