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Sun Jun 12, 2016, 09:24 AM

“We must never forget that the scientific and technical accomplishments of today...

...are not the exclusive products of this generation. They are the results of the labors and the thoughts of countless individuals over the centuries. They are the sum and substance of that continuous wave of progress to which each generation has made its contribution. Thus, it is incumbent on us not only to safeguard this precious heritage-one of the highest expressions of man’s unselfish achievement-but to enrich it with our own particular contribution and ensure its transference to our successors.”

A few years back, through a set of unusual circumstances, a friend of mine arranged it so that I could spend a few hours in a late November afternoon in the office of Freeman Dyson at the Institute of Advanced Studies with my two sons and one of my son's friends. It was, as one might expect, an extremely memorable visit, in which he graciously afforded us a few hours. Our conversation drifted over a wide range of subjects, many of which concerned his wide ranging scientific work both practical and theoretical. As I am extremely interested in nuclear power, regarding as the last, best, technical hope for the human race as we fall into the environmental abyss, and Dyson, besides his huge contributions to pure physics, was a pioneer in the development of nuclear reactor technology.

One of his major contributions was the development of hydride fuels - in the 1950's - which have many passive control features owing to their self moderating properties. These fuels have played a huge role in research reactors at educational institutions and in the preparation of radioisotopes for use in medicine and other areas of science. When I asked Dyson about this fuel and his role in it, he was self deprecating, and denied having what he regarded as a "major" role in the development, offering - I paraphrase "I just did a little bit of physics, the hard work was done by Massoud Simnad."

Massoud Simnad, born a citizen of Iran, was a Professor of Engineering at UCSD and also worked at General Atomics in the beautiful complex in La Jolla up on Torrey Pines Blvd. (I once worked in the complex myself, but I was working for a biotech that had rented space, and not in the nuclear field.)

I was poking around this morning in some files I'd collected but not indexed a few years back and I came across a paper of Simnad's written in the early 1980's. In that paper he quotes John J. Hopkins, the founder of General Atomics.

The text of his wonderful introduction to the paper, A BRIEF HISTORY OF POWER REACTOR FUELS (Journal of Nuclear Materials 100 (1981) 93-107), is more completely excerpted here:

The late John J. Hopkins, founder of General Atomic, made a moving reference to the importance of history in his dedication speech in July 1956: “We must never forget that the scientific and technical accomplisments of today are not the exclusive products of this generation. They are the results of the labors and the thoughts of countless individuals over the centuries. They are the sum and substance of that continuous wave of progress to which each generation has made its contribution. Thus, it is incumbent on us not only to safeguard this precious heritage-one of the highest expressions of man’s unselfish achievement-but to enrich it with our own particular contribution and ensure its transference to our successors.” The development of nuclear power reactors and of nuclear fuels is the result of the contributions of pioneers from many countries during the past four decades. The history of power reactor fuels is so vast and the documentation so extensive that a brief history must of necessity touch only on specific highlights...


The section I have bolded, it seems to me as I approach the end of my time on Earth, has been the greatest failure of my awful generation that has done great harm to all future generations because of a focus on trivialities and consumption for its own sake. Among those great failings was to regard Simnad's work, as well as the work of the many intellectual giants who founded and developed nuclear energy, through a prism of fear and ignorance.

The power of fear and ignorance to cause tragedy has been a great theme in human history, now more than ever. This is only one case, if an important one.

Have a nice Sunday.

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Reply “We must never forget that the scientific and technical accomplishments of today... (Original post)
NNadir Jun 2016 OP
hunter Jun 2016 #1
NNadir Jun 2016 #2

Response to NNadir (Original post)

Mon Jun 13, 2016, 04:06 PM

1. Support for a solar-wind-gas powered economy over nuclear power...

... is simply another flavor of climate change denial.

Quitting fossil fuels is like quitting smoking. The only way to quit fossil fuels is to quit fossil fuels.

A fleet of gas fueled power plants and gas fueled transportation systems (fuel cells whatever), supplemented by solar, wind, and other greenwash, is the equivalent of a "light" cigarette.

Light cigarettes are just as deadly as regular cigarettes, or worse if you smoke more of them to get the same nicotine fix.

Germany illustrates this perfectly. They put the entire burden of solar and wind development and the shutdown of nuclear power plants on residential and small business users, but they were unwilling to wean their heavy industry from cheap reliable 24/7 coal.

In the same way Japanese anti-nuclear activism would commit Japan to increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Sweden seems to have learned from the German experience, overturning a 2014 agreement to freeze nuclear development...

http://www.thelocal.se/20160610/sweden-agrees-to-continue-nuclear-power



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Response to hunter (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 13, 2016, 08:02 PM

2. The addiction analogy I use, as opposed to smoking, is alcoholism. People sometimes refer to...

...dangerous natural gas as a "clean fuel" and of course, it is no such thing.

I often compare the "gas is better than coal" argument as being analogous to an alcoholic announcing he's cured because he no longer drinks scotch, but now drinks only wine and beer.

One's liver tissue doesn't care whence the alcohol comes, and the atmosphere doesn't care whence the carbon dioxide comes.

The so called "renewable energy" industry is totally and completely dependent on dangerous natural gas, dangerous natural gas being by far, the fastest growing source of energy in this country, and in fact, the world.

In any case, the so called "renewable energy" industry isn't actually "renewable" since it depends on access to increasingly rare (and toxic) elements.

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