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That year motivated by political as well as business pressures, President Nixon fired a man by the name of Alvin M. Weinberg from his directing position at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for his continued advocation of a much safer & cleaner nuclear reactor alternative to the dominant Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor (LMFBR) design that was being heavily backed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), by industry and in the active process of being taken to market.
With profits & many jobs on the line for Nixon's constituents in his home state of California, an election right around the corner, pressure from the French who were bringing their reactors to market as well as the enormous government funds that had been poured into the LMFBR option, Weinberg's emphatic criticisms of this design's many shortcomings were unappreciated to say the least and why he was summarily removed from his post and all research performed by his team at ORNL scuttled.
As a result of this fateful decision and the regulatory, economic & technical barriers associated with developing nuclear technologies from that time forward the LMFBR designs became the template upon which all future commercial reactors were built and by consequence what is used across the world to this very day.
So what was Weinberg's alternative? Enter the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR), which as its name implies is fueled by the abundant element thorium versus the much rarer element uranium which present day reactors use as their primary fuel source. LFTRs (spoken aloud as lifters) offer up a host of advantages that when taken in combination seem almost "too good to be true" and leaves most presented the data scratching their heads and asking the question, WHY ON EARTH ARE WE NOT ALREADY DOING THIS???
These next few videos lay out the compelling case for the urgent need to reignite Weinberg's research. With fossil fuels now or very soon peaking, not to mention their inherent environmental & climatological downsides combined with the extraordinary challenges associated with replacing them with clean safe alternatives, to not wind back the clock and fully investigate the potential of LFTRs may turn out to be one of humanity's ultimate shows of hubris, close-mindedness and socioeconomic lock-in.
The Thorium Dream
The Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor – Why Didn't This Happen
This next presentation at Google by former NASA aerospace engineer Kirk Sorensen uncovers the convoluted history behind the Nixon Administration's choice to pursue "Fast Breeder" reactors over their thorium counterparts.
Dr. Kiki's Science Hour – The Nuclear Alternative
... and this excellent in-depth interview with Kirk Sorensen digs even deeper into this amazing topic.
Robert Hargraves – Aim High!
Lastly and by no means least, this presentation by Robert Hargraves at the 3rd Thorium Energy Alliance Conference in Washington D.C. dispels the notion that Thorium Reactors could not compete on price-point with the dirtier forms of energy that predominate today – namely coal.