Not a lot of people know that Alvin Weinberg invented and held the patents on Light Water Reactors, of which Fukujima is the Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) version and Three Mile Island is the Pressurised Water Reactor version. Although highly unlikely, core-meltdown and loss-of-coolant accidents, theoretically possible with LWRs, greatly concerned Weinberg.
Weinberg railed against the use of LWRs for civil purposes, because of his awareness of their safety-fallibility. As Director of Research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), conducting experiments and operations of Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs),he argued vehemently for the use of one such MSR, the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR). LFTRs operate at atmospheric pressure and have no pressure 'driver', or any other form of driver (such as highly reactive chemicals, e.g. sodium), to expel radioactive substances into the environment. Weinberg went head-to-head with the political and military paymasters of the nuclear programme, in the criticism of LWRs and the promotion of the safety superiority of LFTRs, and for this, he was asked to leave the nuclear industry. His loss to ORNL, meant that his work had a short-lived legacy, withering on the vine until funds were withdrawn in the early 70s.
Until his dying day, Weinberg though that the Earth's inexhaustible thorium resources would be the future of energy supply for all of humankind.
In his autobiography Weinberg confessed:
“I became obsessed with the idea that humankind’s whole future depended on the breeder. For Society generally to achieve and maintain a standard of living of today’s developed countries depends on the availability of relatively cheap, inexhaustible sources of energy.”
In saying ‘breeder’, he was talking about the transmutation of thorium232 to fissile Uranium233 in a LFTR.
The Enrico Fermi Award is an award honoring scientists of international stature for their lifetime achievement in the development, use, or production of energy. 1980 – Alvin M. Weinberg.
Surely the sagacious views of such an individual should be most seriously considered by energy decision makers.