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Transatomic Power Receives Seed Funding From Founders Fund Science

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the power-up dept.

The Almighty Buck 143

pmaccabe writes "The company aiming to make a Waste Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor(WAMSR) is now getting $2 million from the venture capital firm Founders Fund. From the article: "The Founders Fund is the firm behind some of the more successful Internet startups out there including Facebook, Yammer and Spotify, but also some science-focused companies such as Climate Corporation, Space-X and satellite startup Planet Labs. The fund, which was created by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and his partners, promotes this manifesto: 'we wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.'”

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Getting permission... (3, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 4 months ago | (#47619455)

Getting the technology is relatively simple. Getting government permission to build it might be a bit harder...

Re:Getting permission... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47619495)

All of which pales in comparison to getting the materials and energy sources. You know, real ones, not dollar store comic-book sci-fi.

Re:Getting permission... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47619693)

"Safe, Clean, Energy Efficient"

So, pretty much guarantees the greenies will be against it.

Re:Getting permission... (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 4 months ago | (#47619861)

Which means that if this is really going to happen, the effort has to take place offshore, perhaps literally. So finally, there will be a real-world use for those daffy country-on-a-ship plans that Silicon Valley people keep making.

Re:Getting permission... (5, Interesting)

Tailhook (98486) | about 4 months ago | (#47620757)

daffy country-on-a-ship plans

Or China.

Greenies don't actually trump everything, everywhere.

WAMSR is a paper reactor. It has all the problems of any molten salt reactor, plus a few new ones thrown in for good measure.

It requires fuel channels made of unobtainium. We can't actually make unobtainium so we use Hastealloy instead which cracks at some rate faster than anticipated plant life, as found in ORNL's MSRE. Neutron flux embitterment is also an issue for fuel channels and the long term effect of this is not perfectly understood. WAMSR actually runs at slightly higher temperatures than MSRE which will not improve the cracking problems due to even greater temperature gradients. Transatomic speculates about using certain exotic ceramics to solve this, and that could pan out; materials science does actually solve problems from time to time, but this one hasn't been solved yet.

The reactor produces relatively large quantities of tritium (~12y half life) requiring active separation and storage of the gas. It's effectively impossible to capture all the tritium (hydrogen is slippery stuff), however enough could be retained to bring it in line with conventional reactors, they claim. This assumes the capture system works, is maintained and doesn't leak. Good luck with that. Amusingly the Transatomic Power Technical White Paper [transatomicpower.com] claims the addition of Lithium-7 can reduce tritium generation, and you can read about it in section 2.6.4, which doesn't actually exist ...... hopefully the ~$2 million funding injection will get that written. Tritium is among the larger spikes being driven through the heart of Entergy's Vermont Yankee right now, in case one wonders how much this might matter.

As with all MSR designs, fuel must be reprocessed on-site concurrent with reactor operation. This is always offered as a nonproliferation benefit of MSRs. Unfortunately handling molten reactor fuel is a difficult mechanical and chemical process that has never actually been fully modeled in an experimental reactor and would probably be a source of the usual drama inherent in chemical processing operations; leaks, fires and whatnot. Personally I believe this to be the biggest risk involved with MSR reactors; any failure mode that leads to uncontained fuel will produce a lethal radiation flux, fires lofting clouds of radionucleotides and other fun stuff. Bear in mind that every single plant and its resident Homer Simpsons will have to operate their own reprocessing facility for the entire life of the plant; it's not a question of if a mistake will happen, but rather; how heinous are the consequences when it happens. Liquids tend to get away [nytimes.com] from people.

Finally, WAMSR uses zirconium hydride as the primary neutron moderator, which is pretty novel and a source of some unknowns. The zirconium hydride exists as rods inside the reactor core which also contains the molten fuel and the primary loop coolant water. If, for whatever reason, the zirconium hydride came into contact with the super-heated water in (the inevitable) presence of oxygen, huge quantities of explosive molecular hydrogen would be produced. This is what blew up the reactor buildings of Fukushima no. 1 and 3. The moderator, fuel and coolant are all in close proximity inside the reactor core, flowing through what appear to be relatively fine tubes. Again, due to the chronic shortage of uncrackable unobtainium, we make vessels and tubing such as these out of various steel alloys which frequently crack and corrode and leak.

So, WAMSR is not without its problems.

Re:Getting permission... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 4 months ago | (#47621497)

It's not a serious attempt to build a new reactor. $2M will pay some salaries for a few years, that's it. They are not going to produce any serious plans, let alone build anything. It's just a paper exercise, probably some kind of R&D tax write-off. The Founders' Fund just sprays money about willy-nilly, hoping that occasionally it will end up with a small stake in the next Facebook.

Re:Getting permission... (1)

Circlotron (764156) | about 4 months ago | (#47621533)

The reactor produces relatively large quantities of tritium (~12y half life) requiring active separation and storage of the gas. It's effectively impossible to capture all the tritium (hydrogen is slippery stuff), however enough could be retained to bring it in line with conventional reactors, they claim. This assumes the capture system works, is maintained and doesn't leak. Good luck with that.

Would it be posible to burn this tritium with atmospheric oxygen? The product of this combustion could then be cooled and condensed back to "heavy water" of some sort? This water would be rather easier to store in tanks and maybe not so dangerous. I don't really know much about this stuff.

Re:Getting permission... (4, Interesting)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 4 months ago | (#47621737)

> Greenies don't actually trump everything, everywhere.

Or anything, ever. It was native rights that killed the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline, for instance, not the legions of greenies.

The nuclear industry loves to point fingers at practically everyone as the cause of their problems, and the softer the target the better. So they point at the eco hippies and chant "its their fault". When that doesn't work, they point at the regulators, then the local governments, the local residents and finally the bankers. That last one is called biting the hand that feeds you.

But the root cause of the problem is and always has been the soaring CAPEX. In spite of herculean efforts, $/W continues to go up, up and away.

http://www.synapse-energy.com/Downloads/SynapsePaper.2008-07.0.Nuclear-Plant-Construction-Costs.A0022.pdf

And if you care to turn to page 5, you'll find that the reason for this has little to do with nuclear anything, and that the cost drivers are out of the industry's control. Copper prices aren't going down if we do or do not build a reactor somewhere. On page 6 we learn that most of the suppliers have left the field, and if a new reactor was to be built in the US, it would rely almost entirely on foreign companies.

It's dead. That noise you hear is the dead cat bounce.

Re:Getting permission... (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#47619929)

Getting the technology is relatively simple. Getting government permission to build it might be a bit harder...

Getting permission for an unconventional commercial reactor is hard. Permission to build a small research reactor is much easier.

Re:Getting permission... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47620023)

Hey, check out Transatomic's chief scientist [wikipedia.org] . Do all nuclear engineers look like this? Is so, I am changing professions! Does anyone know if she's single?

Re: Getting permission... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47620095)

You're an ass

Re: Getting permission... (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 4 months ago | (#47621205)

It's unethical, immoral and, um... distasteful to point out that someone might be nice to look at. Or something.

Re:Getting permission... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47621493)

No - most look like you. Because of people like you.

Re:Getting permission... (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 4 months ago | (#47621761)

> No - most look like you. Because of people like you.

Bam!

But... but nucular is bad! (2, Insightful)

fractoid (1076465) | about 4 months ago | (#47619485)

The problem here is that decades of bad press for nuclear power have resulted in almost insurmountable political opposition even when it's clearly a technically superior solution to a whole bunch of problems.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47619521)

but but but omg chernobyl!!
omg fukushima!

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47619541)

And realities like chernobyl and fukushima aren't helping. So inconvenient.
How about a desalination plant powered by plastic waste strained from seawater --- that's something everyone can get behind.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (5, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47619607)

The thing is, the realities of Chernobyl and Fukushima are the realities of ancient, outdated equipment, bad design and unsound engineering. Oh, and human stupidity in playing with dangerous things.

The fact is, we can build reactors that don't blow up NOW.

But people are so conditioned to nuclear = BOMB! that a bunch of know-nothing, luddite politicians and cronies are never going to let it happen.

All because stupid people are scared and conditioned to outbreed smart people.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47619811)

The thing is, the realities of Chernobyl and Fukushima are the realities of ancient, outdated equipment, bad design and unsound engineering. Oh, and human stupidity in playing with dangerous things.

The fact is, we can build reactors that don't blow up NOW.

Fukushima's failure had less to do with any outdated technology than the "human stupidity" in placing backup generators in the basement rather than atop a hill, and underestimating the severity of potential tsunami. If your generators fail, and you have a prolonged containment loss, no variant of a light water reactor design (the only kind with any sort of significant track record) can save you from a meltdown.

As for the molten salt design, the primary coolant itself is highly radioactive and, being a circulating coolant, is not as well contained as the fuel rods are in a light water reactor. Thus, you have a small radioactive disaster every time you have a leaky pipe. Did I mention that those pipes are a lot harder to make leak-proof than in light water reactors because the molten salt goes up to something like 700 deg C, as opposed to 100-200 deg C for pressurized water or steam? I am very skeptical.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47619873)

However, what happen if molten salt leaks?

It cools and turns into a solid, it does not flow into the water table, it does not release steam, it just sits there.

And the salts used do not dissolve that easy if it happens to be raining where the leak is.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (3, Insightful)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 4 months ago | (#47620149)

Fukushima's failure had less to do with any outdated technology than the "human stupidity" in placing backup generators in the basement rather than atop a hill

Fukushima's failure was due to technology in that it relied on continuous power to provide essential cooling even after the reactor was powered off. Even putting the emergency generators on a hill would not help if, instead of a tsunami, the hillside they were on collapsed due to the earthquake. You would then be arguing that it was 'human stupidity' to put all the generators on a hill instead of in a basement. For me the 'human stupidity' factor was that they did not insist on flying in backup generators as a number one priority after the tsunami. However I would also argue that the technology itself is also flawed since it requires continuous cooling even after the reactor is subcritical.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (4, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47620361)

Actually, had the seawall been built to proper specs, there's every possibility that the onsite generators would NOT have been swamped and Fukushima could have shut down in a controlled manner.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47621583)

Properly designed MSR reactors require zero active safety systems. They are walk away safe.
Only a precision military strike or a comet/asteroid can cause any meaningful radiation release into the atmosphere.
Although I'm no fan of water cooled reactors, it's important to acknowledge that brand new AP1000 reactor requires only minimal energy after shutdown. Just a little water pump to top off a large water tank (can go for 3 days after shutdown until topping the tank becomes critical).
Plus, nuclear power is extremely safe electricity source, with far less deaths/TWh produced than coal/natural gas/petrol/geothermal, and arguably a little safer than solar/wind electricity.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (5, Interesting)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47620341)

No. Fukushima was a study in human stupidity.
Real engineers had warned them the sea walls weren't high enough.
They ignored it.
TEPCO has had a history of stupid decisions like this, and it pretty much ALWAYS comes back to bite them in the ass, Godzilla-style.

As for the molten salt design.

Uhm. You know the molten salt design is essentially a double-hulled containment vessel that's not running under pressure.
In the event of a loss of power to the cooling device (a fan/blower keeping a plug of salt cold and solid, it drains the fuel out of the reactor vessel, in a gravity-fed situation, and into a dump tank, away from the catalyst.

This immediately kills the reaction.

And, if the line to the dump tank is somehow compromised, the fuel merely spills into the outer hull of the reactor vessel.

Also, steel melts around 1300C. If you put in plumbing of sufficiently large gauge, in a dump tank reactor flush, the fuel is already cooling off as it hits the pipe, and doesn't spend long enough in there to heat the plumbing to sufficiently dangerous levels.

So. Exactly how do we have a "radioactive disaster"?

You have two scenarios. Both of which wind up requiring you to pump the fuel back into the reactor vessel after re-plugging it. The messier of the two options requires some cleanup of a reactor vessel interior which was never open to the outside world anyhow.

http://daryanenergyblog.files.... [wordpress.com]

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (3, Informative)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 4 months ago | (#47621541)

In the event of a loss of power to the cooling device (a fan/blower keeping a plug of salt cold and solid, it drains the fuel out of the reactor vessel, in a gravity-fed situation, and into a dump tank, away from the catalyst.

Assuming that the system isn't damaged by something like a magnitude 9 earthquake, or a fire, or poor maintenance etc.

Exactly how do we have a "radioactive disaster"?

Because you spend all your effort securing the reactor and forgot about the on-site reprocessing system that is an absolute necessity for any MSR.

I'm not saying nuclear is "safe". There's no such THING as "safe". But coal isn't safe. Oil isn't safe. Natural gas isn't safe. Wind isn't safe. Wave isn't safe. Solar isn't safe. Hydro isn't safe. All of them come with their own risks and tradeoffs.

The damage done by a wind turbine falling over, or solar panel slipping off a roof tends to be orders of magnitude less serious than a major nuclear accident. That's why wind farms and solar installations can get insurance, and nuclear can't.

The reason we have the shitty nuclear infrastructure we have now is some jackass politicoes (not scientists and engineers) essentially PICKED a winner 50-ish years ago because they had a budding industry, and wanted to protect it.

Lots of different designs were tried in different parts of the world, and most of them sucked so were abandoned. The UK is currently dealing with the legacy of gas reactors, for example. India has been trying to build a commercial MSR for decades, and there are no shortage of western MSR research projects that all encountered severe difficulties.

No private investor wants to throw money at a commercial MSR because the risk of the project failing (not just accidents, the chance that it will never work, or never recoup costs, or some problem will create huge clean-up costs after only 5 years of operation etc.)

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (2)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47621767)

Assuming that the system isn't damaged....

How exactly does an earthquake or a fire or poor maintenance damage...GRAVITY?

If there's a loss of power to the reactor, the salt plug melts, and whoosh, into the dump tanks goes the fuel.

Because you spend all your effort securing the reactor and forgot about the on-site reprocessing system that is an absolute necessity for any MSR.

Most of which happens in-situ, as opposed to reprocessing in solid fuel setups.

As for safety. You're splitting hairs. Sure, if you blow up a reactor and spray fuel all over the place, the environmental impact is ridiculous.
Hence why we should be building a reactor that doesn't (and can't) blow up.

As for your assertions about multiple designs and MSR projects.
The US has already had SUCCESSFUL MSR projects. All that needs to happen now is to hash out the technology to mass-produce and scale up reactors in size and power output.

And your assertion that "no private investor" is sorta put to the lie by the thread starter. Granted, it isn't TONS of money.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

l0n3s0m3phr34k (2613107) | about 4 months ago | (#47621607)

My question is when will the CEO of TEPCO,Naomi Hirose, come out to the site and perform the honorable actions? He must climb to the top of the tallest building left standing and commit seppuku on live TV. Only the old ways can redeem him, his family, and his companies Honor. By allowing corruption to overcome proper paid-for by the public engineering he has caused untold damage to our planet.Whomever the head engineer that signed off on all of this should probably join him too.

And their tritium side-product has a bonus effect, once we understand how to coat the internal piping with graphine nano-layers, which is the production of helium 3. We're already in very short supply of h3, and are even drawing up plans to mine it from the Moon. One MSR could become a breeder reactor for the next level up on our powerplant tech. These kids have much catching up to do; I would look to Russia in securing anything (and anyone; ie scientists) that did their research...in 2007 the same labs started doing nanotech research too. Maybe if they could secure all the plans from the MSBR, pick up from the engineering left off by ORN and start actually working out the hard mechanical engineering side of it should put them in the range of fission power!

In about 20-30 years, they'll have a working reactor.

Declaring victory prematurely (4, Interesting)

sjbe (173966) | about 4 months ago | (#47621611)

So. Exactly how do we have a "radioactive disaster"?

From the problems you don't predict. From unexpected design flaws. From the black swan events. We have little operational experience with reactors of the sort you describe so there undoubtedly are problems we haven't come across yet. There could be problems with containment materials like embrittlement or corrosion. The design may have flaws we aren't aware of yet. Overlooked/neglected maintenance. Parts of the reactor not being built properly. Improper management of the core mixture. Externalities like natural disasters or wars. Management may take shortcuts in pursuit of economic gain. Etc. There are plenty of failure modes out there and not all of them can be addressed with an improved design.

All the advantages you describe sound great on paper but there are lots of designs that are great on paper but not so great in the real world. Until we've actually tried (and we should) its a little premature to declare that it is perfectly safe.

Re:Declaring victory prematurely (1)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47621977)

That's the thing.

We HAVE tried this form of reactor before. It IS proven technology.

What needs to happen now is the R&D to mass produce and up-scale.

Oh yes, and the time and bribes necessary to get the uber-paranoid NRC to agree to anything. Because you say "nuclear" to the NRC right now and they automatically shift into "Nope, Nope, Nope, Nope" mode.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47621545)

All molten salt reactors operate at near atmospheric pressure.
All water cooled reactors operate at least at 70 atmospheres.
Humongous difference. Your argument utterly ignores the differences.
Go study nuclear FACTS before saying anything else about nuclear power.
A leak in an MSR reactor with a catch pan at worse will cause $$$ loss for the nuclear operator, but it presents no risk for the environment or even for the people operating the reactor.
Go learn the meaning of nuclear reactors defense in depth concept and how it makes a Molten Salt Reactor WALK AWAY SAFE.
Three Mile Island resulted in a melt down of the reactor, causing the reactor to be a total loss. Yet zero deaths and zero cancers.
Only the ignorant label it a nuclear disaster. It was a nuclear accident but far, far, far from a disaster.
Zero nuclear deaths + zero changes in cancer patterns due to Fukushima.
Right now it's a bigger cancer risk to live in downtown Tokyo than to live a mile from the reactor.
99.9% of the problems from TMI and Fukushima is caused by radiophobia (fear for fear's sake).

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (2)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 4 months ago | (#47621907)

> All molten salt reactors operate at near atmospheric pressure.

All zero of them.

> All water cooled reactors operate at least at 70 atmospheres

So the "solution" is to replace this with a caustic radioactive chemical system. Because nothing could possibly go wrong with that.

> Only the ignorant label it a nuclear disaster

The industry labels it as a disaster, especially to their bottom line.

But keep up the handwavium and insults, that's well known to convince people you're right.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47619833)

> All because stupid people are scared and conditioned to outbreed smart people.

No, people like you are the problem. Dismissing people with concerns as "stupid" and touting the idiocracy meme as a way to marginalize them is the very same thing that causes them to distrust people like you in the first place.

40 years ago there were people just like you saying how perfectly safe nuclear power is. It is entirely reasonable for normal people to believe in the principle of "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me." Self-righteous technocratic arrogance is a pretty strong predictor for failure. If you want to undo the damage done by your idealogical fore-bearers then the last thing you should be doing is calling people stupid because, in the entire history of mankind, that has never even once been a successful argument.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47620025)

> All because stupid people are scared and conditioned to outbreed smart people.

No, people like you are the problem. Dismissing people with concerns as "stupid" and touting the idiocracy meme as a way to marginalize them is the very same thing that causes them to distrust people like you in the first place.

If you're concerned about something you should try to learn about it. Stupid people look at radiation and nuclear energy as an evil boogeyman because they're too lazy and/or stupid to learn about and understand it.

Tsunamis are fairly common in Japan. Currently no nuclear power plant anywhere in the world appears to have been built to withstand an 8.3 or higher magnitude earthquake.

Japan had a 9.0 earthquake.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#47620085)

Japan had a 9.0 earthquake.

Japan also had a 9.0 earthquake about 300 years ago, and another 300 years before that. They were due for another. It was predictable. When nuclear power plants are not even prepared for routine events, why should we trust them to withstand something unforeseen?

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47620297)

When those rector were designed and built, plate tectonics was a new science.
And it still did pretty good. Considering:
The Earthquake itself did little damage. The tsunami was what caused most, if not all, of the damage. Couple that with the people running it were not handling the waste properly because they didn't want to cut into their profit.

This is why I am pro-nuclear, and solar, but I want the government running the nuclear plants. Government employees, government management. No private industry.
over-site from a separate agency.
Take profits and bonuses out of the equation and use proper maintenance and engineering.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#47620547)

This is why I am pro-nuclear, and solar, but I want the government running the nuclear plants. Government employees, government management. No private industry.

Like Chernobyl?

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47621049)

No no no, chernobyl took proper maintanance and engineering out of the equation.

The problem is, it's bloody hard to not give bonuses for saving money. Somehow the money available for maintenance would have to be unlimited, and bonuses given out only foor good technical quality, never mind the price. Just imagine how difficult it would be to make such system actually happen. Not that I'm against it. I think some thing should just be lef for the engineers. There are engineers that would be perfectly happy with a guaranteed life time employment and would be very proud to keep things running properly and safely. Too bad the money is all moved around by either politicians or the kind of people who love it way too much. It's impossible for these groups to understand not all people want more power and more money all the time. As impossible as to understand some are actually, truly, teamplayers, not just trying to "win the game" themselves.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

l0n3s0m3phr34k (2613107) | about 4 months ago | (#47621621)

I think their Head Engineer was drunk and suicidal, or maybe Putin called him and said "Blow the plant for Mother Russia". They basically blew it up on purpose "accidentally", in a big rush of "testing" without even telling the people working there what was up.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47621647)

People forget Chernobyl happened back in the USSR times. USSR was known to blatantly ignore basic human safety practices routinely.
Chernobyl ignored basic Nuclear safety engineering rules defined 25 years earlier. It taught the western nuclear engineers nothing new about nuclear safety since there were 4 layered factors, three able to have fully avoided the accident (improper reactor design, lack of secondary containment, improper documentation of the reactor design fault, inability to distribute iodine tablets to the affected population quickly).
There are 400 nuclear reactors in commercial operation in the world. If nuclear reactors were even close to being a real risk we would have a major nuclear accident killing lots of people every couple of years. In the last 30 years only Chernobyl managed to kill people by acute radiation or cause a measurable pattern of cancers.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47621619)

Having govt run the reactor doesn't guarantee anything.
Japan has a history of medieval, hierarchy society that leads to safety abuses.
The simple fact is Fukushima killed nobody, there's been zero cancers with radiation related symptoms nor any deviation from normal cancer rates in the area.
Radiation has been at low enough levels it's safer to live a mile from the reactor than living in downtown Tokyo.
However the Japanese govt is unwilling to even change the evacuation rules from mandatory to optional.
The real problem with nuclear is we prefer sensationalism to hard facts.
Nuclear power is either the safest or the top 3 safest energy sources in the world (along with solar and wind).

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47620467)

Question.

Did the nuclear reactor MAKE the nincompoops running TEPCO decide to cut corners and install too short of a sea wall?

And, again, the earthquake was over a hundred miles from Fukushima. It didn't damage any of the reactors, but those that were active were put into shutdown immediately.
The tsunami is what swamped the generators and doomed the facility.

And a 9.0 earthquake is NOT a "routine event". It's one of the most destructive forces on the planet. It's the equivalent of setting off a 480 MEGATON bomb.
The largest nuke mankind has ever set off was 50 megatons. So strap 9 of those bad boys together and that's what you're trying to engineer against.

Ask an actual engineer about the logistics of building for something like that.

Big earthquakes are expected events (3, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | about 4 months ago | (#47621663)

And a 9.0 earthquake is NOT a "routine event".

Maybe not routine but certainly expected. An earthquake of magnitude 8 or greater occurs on average about once a year somewhere in the world. In a location like Japan it is not merely possible, it is almost certain to occur eventually. Over 80% of the largest earthquakes occur somewhere along the Pacific Rim. Anyone who is surprised that a magnitude 9 earthquake struck near Japan is an imbecile.

The largest nuke mankind has ever set off was 50 megatons. So strap 9 of those bad boys together and that's what you're trying to engineer against. Ask an actual engineer about the logistics of building for something like that.

Well I am an actual engineer. Nobody promised it would be easy. Want to build something dangerous? Better plan for some worst case events. If you can't deal with a natural disaster that was as predictable as a big earthquake/tsunami in Japan then perhaps the activity isn't such a good idea.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47620191)

> Stupid people look at radiation and nuclear energy as an evil boogeyman because they're too lazy and/or stupid to learn about and understand it.

Repeating the fallacy does not make it any more true. Normal people look at nuclear energy as dangerous because it has been dangerous and because normal people have little to no control over corner-cutting and other forms of regulatory corruption.

> Tsunamis are fairly common in Japan.

You seem to be arguing against your point. Yes they are common, so common the landscape has physical markers warning not to build in areas known to be vulnerable [nytimes.com] and yet the Fukushima plant was built without taking that information into account. The only stupidity I am seeing here is the credulity of those who over-simplify the risks to the point of ignoring them.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47621577)

Nuclear energy is less dangerous than coal. I fail to see your argument because people don't view coal as bad.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47620269)

Stupid people look at radiation and nuclear energy as an evil boogeyman because they're too lazy and/or stupid to learn about and understand it.

Don't focus on what stupid/ignorant people think. They can be managed. You should listen to the smart/knowledgeable people who understand the risks and have legitimate concerns. You can't cherry-pick pieces of technology and claim it's entirely safe and dismiss any dissenting opinion. It's an industry that starts with a shovel in the ground and ends up in cooling pools and air-cooled casks with nowhere to go (not to mention decommissioning). A lot can go wrong in all that and because of the human element it has and will.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47620511)

Don't focus on what stupid/ignorant people think. They can be managed.

That's just it. They can be. But only to a certain point. Never underestimate the destructive potential of stupid people in large numbers.

As to "claiming it's entirely safe". Sorry, but there's no such thing. Not for ANY power generation technology.
And anyone telling you otherwise is feeding you a line.

This is what sound engineering is for. Minimizing risk.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (3, Interesting)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47620449)

Actually the Fukushima reactor DID survive the earthquake. Mainly because it wasn't under the epicenter.
Had it been sitting on the epicenter there's pretty much NOTHING that could have saved it.
It was nearly 110 miles from the epicenter.

What Fukushima did NOT survive was the TSUNAMI. And, had the sea wall been built as their engineers had suggested, it's entirely possible that the facility COULD have shut down gracefully. But the sea wall had been built shorter, despite evidence from the engineers that it should be built higher. Therefore the tsunami topped the wall and flooded the generators. A day later the battery backups ran out and...POOF.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 4 months ago | (#47621553)

Actually the Fukushima reactor DID survive the earthquake. Mainly because it wasn't under the epicenter.

You still haven't watched this, have you? http://youtu.be/vpA0TOgB9-o [youtu.be]

or this: http://youtu.be/ayW4mC1o8CQ [youtu.be]

The cooling system was damaged by the earthquake. Fire engines were available to pump water in to cool the reactors, but because of the earthquake damage most of the water never reached them. The full meltdowns and explosions could have been averted if not for the earthquake damage.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (5, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47620407)

40 years ago there were people just like you saying how perfectly safe nuclear power is.

No, 40 years ago, people (but not like me) were saying how perfectly safe it is.

Because they were relying on complex rube-goldberg devices that were supposed to anticipate any and every problem that could come up in a solid fuel reactor and deal with it.
We all know how well that works when you throw something it was NOT designed to handle at it.

The reason MSRs are a better technology is that they're actually relying on very SIMPLE engineering principles to generate safety. You remove the fuel from the reactor chamber, via simple gravity feed. The reaction shuts down. Done. Sure, you have to clean up your dump and fill tanks after an event. but you are never in a situation where loss of power leads to a runaway reactor and high pressure steam blowing things up.

I'm not saying nuclear is "safe". There's no such THING as "safe". But coal isn't safe. Oil isn't safe. Natural gas isn't safe. Wind isn't safe. Wave isn't safe. Solar isn't safe. Hydro isn't safe. All of them come with their own risks and tradeoffs.

The reason we have the shitty nuclear infrastructure we have now is some jackass politicoes (not scientists and engineers) essentially PICKED a winner 50-ish years ago because they had a budding industry, and wanted to protect it.

It is entirely reasonable for normal people to believe in the principle of "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me."

If that's all that was happening, that'd be fine.

Self-righteous technocratic arrogance is a pretty strong predictor for failure.

Only to people who don't know what they're talking about. The whole notion that someone's too smart and therefore arrogant and therefore bound for a fall. It's a very popular luddite meme. But that's all it is. A meme.

If you want to undo the damage done by your idealogical fore-bearers then the last thing you should be doing is calling people stupid because, in the entire history of mankind, that has never even once been a successful argument.

Sorry, but political correctness isn't going to help this situation. All it does is hand idiots a bunch of tools to use to shut down useful discussion because, somehow, they twist it around into offense.

I'm not saying you have to LIKE what I'm saying. Nor do you have to AGREE with what I'm saying.

But, if you ACTUALLY think the way forward is with wind, wave, hydro and solar backed by minimal/no non-renewables like coal/oil/NG, as opposed to nuclear, backed by solar, wind, wave and hydro? You're an idiot with no grasp of the actual power requirements for this country going into the next several centuries. An idiot who is hell-bent creating an artificial (and totally unnecessary) scarcity of the most costly possible power.

In the face of something like that, I refuse to "make nice".

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (3, Informative)

Troed (102527) | about 4 months ago | (#47621409)

40 years ago there were people just like you saying how perfectly safe nuclear power is.

... and here we are, 40 years later, and know it to be true. Even the worst failure scenarios possible have not resulted in catastrophe. On the contrary, nuclear has turned out to be the safest energy production method of all.

If we want to be rational and stick to the facts, of course.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47620317)

I'm sorry, but you got this all wrong.

The fact is, we can build reactors that don't blow up NOW.

I am not sure what kind of tech you are thinking about here, but I expect that we cannot. Can we built reactors that are "unlikely" to blow up ? Sure. "Impossible" ? No. If we can, we definitely will not. Because, you know, it is cheaper not to. In fact, let me steal your words from further down :

a bunch of know-nothing, luddite politicians and cronies are never going to let it happen.

Let me spell it out for you. These individuals are the ones who will choose which program to build "safe" reactors will get funded, they will decide the security level and they will be the ones to ask to cut costs when they perceive that money is scarce. And cutting costs is something you do until stuff blows up, this is how you know that you have cut enough. If there are no accidents, you cut more costs. Of course, this happens on a global scale, we don't cut costs on every individual reactor until it blows up, and in the same way we don't create every reactor with the exact same level of security to begin with, but it is the approach humans use.

I also question this statement :

But people are so conditioned to nuclear = BOMB!

Conditioned by supposedly safe reactors blowing up you mean ? Stupid humans observing reality and not accepting the Scientific Truth (TM) instead. I would go as far as to suggest you are the one being conditioned. Conditioned to blindly believe anything being told to you by a guy in a white coat, and ignore anything not in accordance with what this guy says.

Re: But... but nucular is bad! (2)

imcdona (806563) | about 4 months ago | (#47620479)

Nothing is 100%. Something WILL go wrong. As each day passes without incident the probability of something going wrong increases. I'm all for nuclear power, but, the cost of a nuclear disaster has to be considered. Simply saying we can build it safe means nothing. Something WILL go wrong.

Re: But... but nucular is bad! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47620607)

Which is why the thorium plant with plugs that will separate fuel from neutron generation if a temperature is his solves that little issue.
Basically, for this to fail, one of 3 things MUST happen:

1) a 10 earthquake or a new volcano opens up a fissure right under the reactors upon which the reactor tumbles down and then the walls collapse again, crushing the reactor and allowing the uranium rods and thorium fuel to mix. Of course, if you have a 10 earthquake or a new volcano under your feet, you have other issues to be concerned about.

2) multiple nuclear bombs above a certain threshold hits first opening the reactor and then crushing it mixing the fuel and rods together, leading to a meltdown. Of course, with multiple nukes having hit the reactor dead on, you again have other issues to worry about.

3) all laws of physics break down and the fans keep the plugs much lower temps than the fuel/rods so that they run to meltdown.

Other than that, you really do not have too many issues here.

Re: But... but nucular is bad! (2)

fnj (64210) | about 4 months ago | (#47621429)

As each day passes without incident the probability of something going wrong increases.

Actually that is a misunderstanding of probability. The probability of something going wrong is some constant, essentially an unknowable constant but an estimable one. The length of time that actually elapses before an accident has absolutely nothing to do with mysteriously increasing or decreasing the probability.

Tossing a coin is the classical illustration. The probability of heads is 0.5. As long as the coin is not rigged, that probability is absolutely fixed. You can toss it 100 times in a row and (conceivably) get 100 heads in a row, and the probability that the next toss will be heads is still precisely 0.5.

Similarly, the odds of 1,2,3,4,5,6 with a bonus ball of 7 coming up in a lottery is exactly the same as any other sequence. This is true even if it just came up last night. You are just as likely to get a repetition tonight as to get any other sequence.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47620925)

60 years from NOW, when they blow up, people will say that this is due to stupidity, bad design and unsound engineering. But of course they will be able to build them properly THEN.

Science is often so ridiculously arrogant.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about 4 months ago | (#47621243)

I trust the technology. I don't trust the people implementing it.

Haven't solved those problems yet (2)

sjbe (173966) | about 4 months ago | (#47621499)

The thing is, the realities of Chernobyl and Fukushima are the realities of ancient, outdated equipment, bad design and unsound engineering.

Operational nuclear reactors have a service life of 30+ years. Any design you can come up with is likely to be obsolete and the equipment in it outdated possibly even between the time it is designed and built, much less for the full service life. State of the art doesn't remain state of the art for long.

As for bad designs and unsound engineering, those don't magically disappear just because time has marched on. Dealing with that takes a focused effort and even if the engineering is done perfectly, if it isn't built, operated and maintained properly it doesn't matter how well it was engineered. Some of the problems of a bad design only become apparent after the unit is built. Some problems are a failure of management. Other problems occur because most reactors built to date are unique designs with minimal commonality so each has its own unique failure modes and any lessons learned cannot be shared or built upon. Even if we decided to build to a common design there are problems there too because any failure modes will now be common to every installed reactor. We also have the problem that our best nuclear technology is apparently kept secret and used in military vessels rather than for civilian applications. Hard to learn when your best engineers can't talk about what they've learned.

The fact is, we can build reactors that don't blow up NOW.

Explosions have never been the problem with reactors that anyone really worries about. The problem is radioactive material leaking out of containment which can occur in a variety of ways. There is NO reactor design we currently possess that can fully eliminate the possibility of a containment failure. Some designs are clearly better than others but all of them carry very serious operational risks in some form or another.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 4 months ago | (#47621813)

> The thing is, the realities of Chernobyl and Fukushima are the realities of ancient, outdated equipment, bad design and unsound engineering

And here's the other example of hand waving that goes on *every time*. What, there was a nuclear disaster that's going to cost hundreds of billions to clean up? Don't look at that, because *insert lame excuse*.

No one is ever going to trust anyone that doesn't own their mistakes.

> that a bunch of know-nothing, luddite politicians and cronies

And there you have it. Another fine example why nuclear "supporters" are the industry's second biggest problem.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 4 months ago | (#47619641)

how will you extract energy from the plastic waste? burning it will only dump the contents into the atmosphere as particulates which will either be inhaled or rained back into the oceans again.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 4 months ago | (#47619887)

the trick is to magnetize the plastic and make it sodiophilic. then you use opposite polarity magnets to attract the plastic waste as it passes through a grate. The salt in seawater comes with it.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47620427)

Nuclear is bad, but at least it's based on sound science. Any process that starts with "magnetize the plastic" has it's foundations in bovine faeces. The electronic structure of plastics means they cannot be magnetized.

If you add magnetite to the plastic as a filler you can manufacture plastic strips which can be magnetized. But it's not the plastic which is being magnetized.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

fractoid (1076465) | about 4 months ago | (#47619661)

Both of those were pressurised water vessel reactors. Read up on the design and it's literally insane, "hey let's make a nuclear reactor so that if it ever has a leak it is guaranteed to melt down and probably explode." That design was never not going to end badly. Discarding all nuclear power based on those examples is like declaring 4-wheeled vehicles to be permanently infeasible based on the Ford Pinto.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (2)

Uecker (1842596) | about 4 months ago | (#47619925)

Are you confusing pressurized water reactors with boiling water reactors?

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47620299)

It doesn't matter to someone that is blindly defending their position.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (2)

fnj (64210) | about 4 months ago | (#47621465)

Are you confusing pressurized water reactors with boiling water reactors?

It doesn't matter to the argument. PWRs and BWRs have the same design deficiency. Given decay heat and geometry, any design which relies on circulating water to prevent meltdown is fatally weak, because if the circulation fails for more than a short period of time, or if the water leaks out and can't be replenished quickly, you have a meltdown.

HTGRs and LFTRs can be designed to be FUNDAMENTALLY free from such a weakness.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (2)

postbigbang (761081) | about 4 months ago | (#47619797)

After drilling down to the article, this one, should it work (big if) would burn down existing spent fuel rods by squeezing more energy from fission reactions. It would therefore have a huge amount of already-a-problem fuel to decontaminate even further.

It's said to use uranium or thorium as a fuel source. Indeed it could fuel the expense of your desalinizing plant and conceptually a helluva lot more in a package that's much smaller that shuts itself down safely in the event of failures. So, IN THEORY, no Chernobyls etc because no contaminated water to escape.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47620623)

Thorium already works. Ft. St. Vrain in Colorado showed that.
And it would use up all of that 'already-a-problem fuel' that will remain radioactive for 20,000 years, and instead will give you about 5% of the mass that will remain radioactive for less than 200 years, while the 95% is 100% spent.
Thorium is the fuel. Uranium from the previous nuke waste, is a source of neutrons. So, it is not one OR the other, it is both.
In addition, it would use the thorium that we have already dug and is sitting on top of the ground.

Basically, thorium plants will help get rid of our nuclear waste problem that we now have, while not only giving us electricity, but also giving us high temps that can be used CHEAPLY for lithium battery production, oil refineries, smelting of metals (including just pre-heating efficiently), or giving us efficient electricity, with the waste heat being able to desalinate water.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (0)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 4 months ago | (#47619871)

No, the flat-earth lobby has already decided that Desalination Would Be Bad, for some reason.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47619801)

Actually, the problem is power companies don't want nuclear power. It's cheap. It's boring. It's audited. They can't cook the books to manipulate perceptions and get the profits.

But gas? Coal? If some baby cries, they can say "Ooops, that's a major event, guess we need to raise prices again!" and nobody questions them.

Remember Enron? How they caused the California power crisis? Power companies loved that. Money, money, money.

The governor should have mobilized the state militia and seized the criminal enterprises for the terrorism they were causing,.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47619869)

Exactly. The Republicans are morons that think their invisible moron in the sky is real. That is the way of their kind. They're stupid enough to believe that nonsense so they're stupid enough to believe that nuclear power is dangerous.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#47619945)

They should re-position the reactor as a nuclear waste destruction system that just happens to generate power as a waste product. It wouldn't even be entirely untrue.

Net waste gain (2, Informative)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 4 months ago | (#47620205)

They should re-position the reactor as a nuclear waste destruction system

I'm not sure that this is really true. The reactor appears to be able to burn already "spent" fuel rods from other reactors but this is not going to result in less radioactive waste but rather more. The dangerous waste is the fission products, not the remaining unburnt Uranium which is practically stable (half lives in billions of years). In this design they will be extracted from the molten salt and will then need to be stored somewhere resulting in an increase in the net waste stored since each fission generates 2 or more daughter nuclei and one common one is an isotope of Krypton, a noble gas, which will undoubtedly take up a lot more volume that than the original uranium fuel pellet it was made from.

Re:Net waste gain (2, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47620313)

If this is like other designs I've read, it would use that radioactive waste to generate power, the the waste from that would be at BACKGROUND radiation levels in 200-500 years.
Yes, coming out it's 'more redioactive' but it's less material, and radioactive for a much, MUCH shorter period.
at 200-500 years would could keep it buried on site.

Re:Net waste gain (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#47620345)

Currently, the plan is for the spent fuel to be stored underground for thousands of years. After running it through this reactor, the resultant concentrated waste is to be stored not more than 500 years. The great reduction in volume and storage time is a tremendous simplification of the whole problem.

If we replaced all fossil fuel power plants with these reactors, we could run for over 100 years on nothing but the waste we are currently committed to put somewhere. Meanwhile, holding the spent fuel above ground becomes safer because it gets turned from a waste product people wish would just go away to a valuable fuel that is worth guarding carefully.

Re:But... but nucular is bad! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47621547)

We just need to associate coal power with some negative sexual thing. It seems pointing out how many people coal power kills every year doesn't persuade people. I sometimes forget that killing people for corporate money isn't wrong in the USA, but sex is.

A Joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47619497)

$2 million? What a joke; that'll buy what, some office space?

Re:A Joke (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#47619773)

$2 million? What a joke; that'll buy what, some office space?

Hey, don't knock it, that's .0105% of WhatsApp's buyout price! And slightly more money than the 'Yo' app received during its VC round! Seems like a reasonable assessment of priorities to me...

Re:A Joke (3, Funny)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 4 months ago | (#47619899)

$2 million is enough to re-market the electrical grid as a nuclear reactor that can be 'friended' with other generating stations ("Like Facebook, but with thorium!"). That's when the California billions and billions of dollars will flood in.

Re:A Joke (2)

pitchpipe (708843) | about 4 months ago | (#47619955)

$2 million? What a joke; that'll buy what, some office space?

It'll buy some seeds, after all it was *cough* "seed funding."

Re:A Joke (3, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#47619983)

$2 million? What a joke; that'll buy what, some office space?

Yes. This is "seed money". It is just enough to get them started. They are not going to use the $2M to actually build anything. They are going to use it to refine the design while sitting in ... offices. Once they get the design worked out, they will come back for another, bigger, round of funding. That is the way venture capital works.

Re: A Joke (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 4 months ago | (#47621223)

Indeed; it might even be enough to buy three Aeron chairs. :p

Materials Testing... (1)

cirby (2599) | about 4 months ago | (#47620145)

...from other articles.

The biggest issue with molten salt reactors is corrosion, so they need to find just the right materials to build the thing.

Chump change (1)

haruchai (17472) | about 4 months ago | (#47619501)

WTF are they going to do with $2 million? They're going to need a fuckton more cash than that to develop anything that has a hope of success.

Re:Chump change (2)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#47619595)

Bridge money.

Keep on keeping on until it happens.

Maybe just maybe, six more weeks of payroll and expenses is all you need. How many innovations fell six weeks and a single instance of fortuitous happenstance short of making it. The sinking of the Titanic must've seemed like a miracle to the lobsters in the kitchen.

Re:Chump change (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 4 months ago | (#47619897)

The sinking of the Titanic must've seemed like a miracle to the lobsters in the kitchen.

probably not cuz the lobsters were on deck 7a and nobody made to off of the galley deck alive. mostly poor people so no surprise there.

Re:Chump change (2)

aXis100 (690904) | about 4 months ago | (#47619637)

TFA says they will use it to study suitable materials and the corrosion issues around the molten salt hanling.

Flying cars? (1)

Kazoo the Clown (644526) | about 4 months ago | (#47620235)

No, it was Jet Packs. And we got them. The problem was, the real thing wasn't as great as our imaginations of them. In fact, they kinda suck. Pretty much like Giant humanoid robots or mobile suits. The physics of these things just doesn't add up.

About time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47620327)

The fore-runner of this reactor ran at the Idaho National Labs (very successfully) for 3-4 years in the 1960's. Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore Lab tried to get the then US to build an experimental molten-salt reactor. The US government flatly refused: you can't build bombs from these types of reactors.

Re:About time (1)

Calinous (985536) | about 4 months ago | (#47620965)

Also, molten salts reactors are not good on ships and submarines.

Re:About time (1)

fnj (64210) | about 4 months ago | (#47621483)

Because you say so? I really want to know. WHY are they not good?

Re:About time (1)

Calinous (985536) | about 4 months ago | (#47621605)

Sorry, I was thinking of pebble bed reactors, which are big and heavy and so are not fit for shipboard use.
      Liquid salts fueled reactors need "on-site" chemical plant to manage core mixture and remove fission byproducts - not optimal in a warship.

what? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47620333)

'we wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.'”

instead? there wasn't some group that said, "well..we have the tech for flying cars.. but lets go with 140 characters."

To our current understanding of physics and material science, a flying car* is not possible. where as sending text over the internet is possible.

we wanted clean nuclear fuel, what we got was alarmists twerps that have done far more to hurt the environment then nuclear ever did.

*a la 5th Element

Re:what? (2)

Animats (122034) | about 4 months ago | (#47620707)

a flying car* is not possible.

It's quite possible to build a flying car. It won't be cost-effective to build or operate, because it will need bizjet-sized jet engines for VTOL. Elon Musk once remarked that he'd like to build one "just for fun". I wish someone would, just to shut everybody up. Quadrotors work just fine, after all. Scaled Composites could probably have something flying in a year. Probably not much range, but flying.

Just because Moller has been failing at this for 40 years doesn't mean it's impossible. That's a problem with Moller.

Re:what? (1)

Whibla (210729) | about 4 months ago | (#47621407)

we wanted flying cars ... a flying car* is not possible ... *a la 5th Element

Will a hoverbike [msn.com] * suffice?

*Apologies for the link source.

I'm sure we'll see this become a reality in the next couple of years. Honest! :P

Re:what? (2)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 4 months ago | (#47621973)

'we wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.'”

Good.

A more expensive way to get from A to B that uses dramatically more energy, is inherently more dangerous and doesn't really save any time? No, we don't really need that.

A system that allows me to receive information from anywhere on the planet, selectively, sorted and filtered? That sounds like something we actually need.

2 million whole dollars? (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 4 months ago | (#47620381)

my god, they could almost pay to have the first feasibility or environmental impact study planned out.

Haddock's Eyes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47620673)

"I heard him then, for I had just completed my design,
To keep the Menai bridge from rust by boiling it in wine."

We've had flying cars for decades now... (1)

BlueTemplar (992862) | about 4 months ago | (#47620697)

We've had flying cars for decades now...
They are called "helicopters".

Non-existent product discussed in present tense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47621039)

I really dislike companies that have websites that describe their non-existent (potential future) products in the present tense.

Hypocritical (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 4 months ago | (#47621687)

Guys who make their money on dotcom fads now complain that there's no hard science or invention being done? Seems like the air's a little thin up on that high horse.

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