Flibe Energy in the UK, Part 3: Weinberg Launch

Thursday, September 8th began with a media opportunity at the British Science Festival that was set up by the Weinberg Foundation. I participated on a panel of six speakers, including Baroness Worthington, discussing the results of a recent poll showing that public support for nuclear energy was still quite strong in the UK.

Guardian: UK public confidence in nuclear remains steady

(Note: despite a request for correction, this article erroneously identifies me as “president” of the Weinberg Foundation. I do not serve in any official capacity with the Foundation beyond my enthusiasm and vigorous support.  It also erroneously applies some of the panelist’s earlier ADSR neutron beam comments to LFTR.)

We returned to the Palace of Westminster (Parliament) with the Baroness to jointly brief Charles Hendry MP with members of the Weinberg Foundation and DECC about LFTR technology and its potential to address growing concerns about nuclear waste and the plutonium stockpile of the United Kingdom.

We were then fortunate to have lunch with Baroness Worthington and her friend and former boss, Ian Marchant, CEO of Scottish and Southern Energy.  We enjoyed the first hand stories about the energy challenges of developing nations and the great work that Scottish and Southern and others are doing in this regard.  We also greatly appreciated the thoughtful insight into the energy needs and long-term energy views for the UK and world markets.

The leadership of the Weinberg Foundation began arriving at the Palace to prepare for the launch event that evening in the River Room. In typical form, I was fussing with a slide presentation that I would ultimately not give once I saw the group and the room.

Shortly before the evening launch event, Baroness Worthington and I were both interviewed by Justin Rowlatt, a reporter with the BBC who hosts the “Business Daily” radio segment. Justin was very affable and friendly, but what really entertained me was when he began the radio interview with the Baroness and put his “radio voice” on. It was a very excited voice, and so I determined that when it was my turn to be interviewed I would have to have a very excited and entertaining voice as well, so as not to sound too monotone.

Justin launched into a question sequence with the Baroness that she handled exceptionally well. So much so that I found myself marveling what a “pro” she was at things like this, and she handled his probing questions seemingly without any difficulty. Justin’s piece was aired on the BBC and can be downloaded as a podcast:

BBC Business Daily: The Nuclear Renaissance? (MP3 download)

Finally we came to the highlight of the day and the true reason for our trip to the UK–the “launch” of the Weinberg Foundation in the River Room of the Palace of Westminster. There were nearly 80 enthusiastic attendees, including government officials, media, Members of Parliament, top environmentalists and industry stakeholders. Duncan Clark summed the evening up very well, “I can’t remember the last time I stood in a room full of people concerned about climate change that was so full of optimism.”

Guardian: Thorium advocates launch pressure group

The event was kicked-off with excellent remarks by Baroness Worthington and John Durham, head of the Weinberg Foundation.

Alvin Weinberg’s son Richard delivered a moving personal tribute to the vision of his father.

Professor David Cope, the Director of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, gave a moving and equally personal testament to the vision and lasting influence of Alvin Weinberg, who had served as mentor to Dr. Cope during several graduate study exchanges.

I have long studied the research and life of Alvin Weinberg and was honored to tell about one of his greatest life achievements that was prematurely silenced at a critical cross-roads in our world history.  I can’t help but think that the events of this trip may play a part in bringing top decision makers again to this cross-roads, this time prepared with a more full understanding of the true benefits of each of the options before them.

During the open floor discussion, we were pleased to hear from Mike Mason, the Energy Policy Adviser for the Maldives, who has been following our efforts with LFTR for some time and who extolled the potential benefits of and need for carbon-free power for the 300 individually powered populated islands of the Maldives.  (I was only partly joking when I offered to personally assess and address those energy needs.)  We look forward future discussions about the unique needs of island nations and the convoyed benefits of LFTR technology, including desalination and ammonia production for agriculture, and synthesized diesel substitutes to support existing diesel-based infrastructure.

The energy in the room was palpable, the discussions were vigorous, and many of the attendees continued on with the discussions well past midnight.

We anticipate posting more of the videos taken of the remarks during the launch as they become available, but here are my brief remarks:

We could have returned home after the launch event, content that the trip had been well worth while, but this proved to be just the beginning of our adventures over the coming week. Stay tuned.