Wanted: Nuclear Energy Speakers

We’re going to host the New York Section meeting of the American Physical Society next spring (joint with the New England Section, which will tax our resources), with the theme of the meeting being applications of nuclear physics. We’ve divided up the job of finding speakers for the meeting, and I’m supposed to be inviting people who can talk about nuclear energy, either fission or fusion.

This is not exactly in my wheelhouse, but I have a couple of ideas. It occurs to me, though, that I have access to a global audience which presumably includes some people who either could give a good talk about nuclear energy issues, or know somebody who could. So,

Who should I invite to talk to an APS section meeting about nuclear energy?

There are, of course, some conditions:

The meeting is scheduled for late April 2010, at Union College in Schenectady. While we have a smallish budget for speaker travel and the like, the ideal speaker would be somebody in the general New England/ Mid-Atlantic area, to keep expenses down. We’re also not going to pony up big speaker’s fees– the APS doesn’t even waive conference fees for invited speakers, let alone give them large checks.

I have a couple of leads on people who do fusion-related research, so it would be nice to have somebody who can talk about fission. It’s not an absolute requirement, but it would be good to have a little balance.

If you are someone who could talk about fusion or fission power, drop me a line at orzelc@steelypips.org. If you know somebody who would be a good speaker on these topics, send me email with their information. If you want to throw out names in the comments, that’s fine, as are pointers to websites, but please don’t post people’s email addresses here.

11 thoughts on “Wanted: Nuclear Energy Speakers

  1. From north of the border, I have a couple of suggestions.

    The McMaster reactor is celebrating 50 years, and its director Christopher Heysel would be a good choice.


    He might also point out someone from AECL who could fill in. Both are in the Greater Toronto area, a few hours drive from the meeting.

    My motive here is the application of nuclear technology to neutron scattering. I hope you have someone from NIST or perhaps Oak Ridge speaking on this topic as well.

    We at the Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering are lobbying the Canadian government for a replacement of the aging NRU reactor in Chalk River, Ontario.

    The first importance of this reactor is that until last May, when it shut down following discovery of a leak, upwards of two-thirds of the north American supply of Mo-99 was made there. There is no US source for Mo-99.

    I use the reactor for neutron scattering, and its the only place in Canada for this. Capacity at nuclear facilities for neutron beam research is growing, but growth in demand for experimental time is still faster.

    As you can tell from this post, we are in heavy publicity mode, just getting out our message – we need more neutrons!

  2. I can recommend three people who all have done talks before and these people have a common interest. They all have an interest in reviving the Molten Salt Reactor which of course is fission. They have slightly different takes on what they are calling the LFTR. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor.
    The three people are David Leblanc from Carlton University in Ottawa Canada, Kirk Sorensen of Alabama from http://EnergyFromThorium.com and http://thoriumenergy.blogspot.com
    and Robert Hargraves of NewHampshire from http://rethinkingnuclearpower.googlepages.com/

  3. One issue that you might want to cover is the idea of making medical isotopes using an accelerator, rather than a reactor. I think the folks at TRIUMF have joined forces with the medical supplier Nordion to build such a system.
    See http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/38860

    That brings us to the wider issue of “Do we need new research reactors if neutrons can be created in spallation sources and isotopes can be created in accelerators”. I don’t understand enough about the merits of the respective technologies to know if this is a meaningful question – but it’s something that I have wondered about.


  4. You might try Charles Forsberg of MIT’s Nuclear Engineering department (or somebody else from that department). I’ve heard Forsberg talk about the economic/engineering side of nuclear energy, and he’s a halfway decent speaker.

  5. @Hamish

    It’s not so clear that isotopes could/should be made in accelerators, even from TRIUMF’s own report on the subject. First, photo-fission efficiency is 200 times lower than reactor fission, and so requires 200 times more uranium. Larger targets = more cooling power. Also, an accelerator can’t make anything but Mo-99, since there isn’t the neutron flux to irradiate anything else, like the Co-60 and I-131 currently made in reactors. Reactors can scale easily, start-up and slow-down to meet demand quickly. Preparing an accelerator to start-up up takes time due to the cryogenic and vacuum systems. Just to meet North American demand 8 to 10 accelerators must be running continuously, equal in construction price to one reactor, which could supply most of the world. And finally, the TRIUMF plan has a low-power prototype built by 2017, the first full scale accelerator in 2024, assuming that the yields are acceptable. This delay is too long.

    As for spallation sources, while the peak neutron flux from them is larger than any reactor, the time-averaged flux is often still below the top reactors, although the SNS is catching up. So speaking generally, for TOF experiments, go to a spallation source. For monochromatic experiments, go to a reactor.

  6. If isn’t really local, but there are people at fermilab who are thinking about a reactor that uses an accelerator to generate the neutrons (protons into a target) to keep the fission reaction running so you can operate with strictly sub-critical masses. It also can be run to burn down the nasty, really hot, isotopes you get from other reactors that greatly reduces the problem of nuclear waste. Rajendran Raja gave a colloquium in them last year. I’m sure he would be able to recommend someone more local thinking about these things.

    Also not local (but I bet could pay his own way) is the CEO of exelon. (http://www.exeloncorp.com/ own the biggest fleet of nukes in the country). I’m sure he or some one from the company has something interesting to say about the reality of commercial nuclear power.

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