Friday, February 24, 2012

Is the truth really out there? Sorting the crap from the credible

When we research something, we all have a set of base 'truths' that guide our decision whether a particular paper, blog post, speech, tweet or fact sheet is credible.

These truths are the product of our experiences, education and upbringing, and they have been refined over time to become ingrained in our consciousness.  They become virtually unassailable, and often are changed only by very persuasive argument.  Often the longer the time-span, the harder it is to change.

However, it is important to select your base truths as self-evident.  Try not to base them on someone else's opinion.

Here, I list my base truths about nuclear energy and thorium, and how I use them to pick the credible arguments from the anti-nuclear rants and distortions that flood this space.

Over 500 civilian and military nuclear reactors in service have been quietly doing their job for decades with no major problems.
So don't try and tell me it's unsafe or unproven.  If, on the other hand you accept this and suggest we have better reactor technology available, you'll get no argument from me.

The search for knowledge and understanding is a continually evolving endeavour, and nuclear science is no exception.
I will not accept outdated science when I know there are more recent scientific studies by credible organisations.

Every living creature on earth has been exposed to ionizing radiation.   Some have been exposed to huge doses.
This has provided the opportunity for extensive study of the effect of ionizing radiation across a broad spectrum of people, places and events.  From the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings to Chernobyl to Fukushima to natural exposure, there are numerous documented studies showing how much we have learned.

So don't try to sell me on the 1950's view of ionizing radiation and it's effects.  Don't try to sell the view that any study based on, or justifying, the Linear No Threshold (LNT) rule for radiation dose is anything but an anti-nuclear rant, or over-protective government policy. 

New nuclear power plants are being planned and built at record pace.
There is no doubt that numerous countries are planning and building reactors.  Even the United States has rejoined the active community!

So any article containing the view that 'Nuclear is dead' cannot be anything but anti-nuclear bullshit (or maybe wishful thinking).

Thorium is a different element than uranium and so has a very different fission progression in a reactor.
The progression of fission products in a thorium fuelled reactor is well documented.  Don't try and tell me different.  Basic science tells us that every element in the Periodic Table has different properties.  Any article that expresses the view that it's the same as uranium will not be accepted by me.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Most people are sceptics by default.  We like to see proof.  People who try to discredit or denounce something that holds great promise but does not yet exist usually have a vested interest in it's failure or a fear of it.

After all, throughout history every new significant endeavour has had it's share of derision from fear-mongers and vested interests.

I know thorium hasn't been commercialised yet.  There are no thorium MSRs or LFTRs at the time of writing this, and I too am keen to see this technology proven.  However, any article that tries to tell me before we have demonstrable reactors that thorium MSR or LFTR technology is bad, or too expensive, or dangerous, or powered by 'Kool Aid', or fantasy is summarily dismissed by me as anti-nuclear hysteria, or spin from a nuclear industry with too much at stake in current reactor technology.  There is no other explanation!

So folks, as you read literature touted as 'fact', take a look around you.  Note what is obvious to you and assess the article based on your own set of truths, but make your truths self-evident as I have above.

By doing this, I believe you will find a more informed path through the sea of crud out there.