Skunkworks Fusion?

This is 10 months old, and they say 5 years, so call it 4 years now. (Presuming they continued working on it…)

I’m generally prone to seeing this kind of story and calling it hype or uniformed dreaming; but this is the skunkworks we’re talking about here. The folks who do the impossible on a daily basis. The folks who made a Mach 3 to 4 airframe when everyone else was happy to just do supersonic at all.

So is it real? Is it likely? If anyone can pull it off, these folks can.

No, it’s not “cold fusion”, it’s hot fusion; but in a smaller and more affordable / attainable package with a much faster development cycle. If they can pull this off the whole energy world changes. And not only one word about “Global Warming” in the whole thing… Update: They have “impact on climate” stuck in where it was hard to notice.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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77 Responses to Skunkworks Fusion?

  1. Richard Hill says:

    EM as you say, this has been up for a while, and the involvement of LM in fusion is public.
    But there is little comment about it in the alternative energy world.
    I am puzzled about that.
    I guess you are aware of Andrea Rossi’s work. A guy I respect said that AR’s work is “so obviously a scam it might just be real” AR’s latest is quite encouraging. Pictures and discussion of reactors operating at 1000-2000 degress.(C or F?).

  2. philjourdan says:

    Time will tell. But it is real time that we will see if they are getting there or not very soon.

  3. BobN says:

    I think making Fusion work will come from a start-up environment and not one of the big Tokamac type projects. The group doing Focus Fusion to me look like they may have a shot at making a working system. Here is a link to what these guys are doing.

    A private funded group will move faster and must have some meat to get funded, these guys seem to meet those needs.

    I believe LENR (Cold Fusion) is real and will be the long term winner. Its interesting that Rossi has been linked to ties with China and the government (DOE) has put up some money for research after claiming it does not work and is junk science. The problem is they can create the effect, but no one can explain why it works. Without the why its hard to get patents and properly engineer a solution. It will still be some number of years before this reaches critical mass.

  4. omanuel says:

    Before mankind tries again to develop nuclear energy, the following question from Chapter 2 of my autobiography (p. 35) needs to be openly debated and resolved:

    Why did textbooks replace Nobel Laureate Francis W. Aston’s rigorously valid “nuclear packing fraction” with von Weizsacker’s convincing but deceptive “nuclear binding energy” after the Second World War?

    Nobody knows if nuclear accidents were caused by the decision to train the engineers and technicians that designed and operated nuclear reactors after WWII with textbooks that taught Weizsacker’s misleading concept of nuclear stability.

  5. Kit Blanke says:

    Some interesting reading on the subject.
    Farnsworth and Bussards work on the subject

  6. Wayne Job says:

    Physics was hijacked long before 1945, last century was wasted by consensus crap, it is not only you that is waiting for sanity to return to science.

  7. omanuel says:

    I agree, Wayne. But the fear that has been generated of radioactivity may help persuade the National Academy of Sciences to address this issue:

    Should future generations of nuclear engineers and technicians be taught Aston’s rigorously valid “nuclear packing fraction” or Weizsacker’s seriously flawed “nuclear binding energy?”

    The expense of changing all of the textbooks of chemistry and physics might persuade publishers of textbooks to be more careful in the future about publishing government propaganda as settled science.

  8. omanuel says:

    If mankind is to use nuclear energy safely, the concept of “mass is stored energy” (E = mc^2) needs to be presented to all levels of students in a manner that is easily grasped and understood as part of their “second nature.”

    Replacing Weizsacker’s flawed “nuclear binding energy” figures in current textbook with one, two or three of Figures 1a, 1b and 1c from Chapter 2 of my autobiography – would be an easy way to communicate that E = mc^2.

  9. Bloke down the pub says:

    And not one word about “Global Warming” in the whole thing…

    Except at 12.43min

  10. Zeke says:

    @Bloke down at the pub –

    They also state that “sustainability” is their goal. This is a loaded term and suggests there is a class of experts who can decide whether new technology is “sustainable” or not.

    But many of us reject entirely the Precautionary Principle. The political and scientific elite do not have the right or power to find a nitpicky health concern and reject cheap and abundant energy, or new technologies.

  11. Zeke says:

    The Precautionary Principle is already a farce and an abysmal failure. For example, the EU has outlawed cinnnamon, and olive oil served in certain dishes, as well as canning jars sold at charities.

  12. Zeke: I find they are limiting cinnamon, not banning it and it appears they backed down on the olive oil in refillable bottles on restaurant tables. I really am surprised they ever allowed the canning jars–can’t let people risk poor canning procedures, even if they are willing to do so. In all honesty, though, I would not buy home-canned foods. I guess I’m not trusting. That said, that’s my choice and not the governments. The EU has always been very much a nanny state.

  13. Zeke says:

    FARAGE ON FRIDAY: Cinnamon challenge and Danish pastries under threat from new EU rules

    “I hope you all had an excellent Christmas and had a good few days off to relax and eat plenty of roast potatoes and chocolate. Might I suggest that if you have room you squeeze in a cinnamon danish before the EU bans them?

    By: Nigel Farage, MEP
    Published: Fri, December 27, 2013

    That’s right – Despite being a traditional Danish food and a delicious snack, the bureaucrats have decided that they are now a danger to human existence. The EU wants to limit how much of a toxic chemical coumarin, found in small amounts in the most commonly used type of cinnamon is heavily restricted in use. This means an effective ban on the consumption of Danish pastries as they are currently made today. It could also see an end to the internet sensation Cinnamon challenge.”

    Look, face it, the EU is deciding, on the flimsiest scientific fig leaf, through top down scientific consensus, that people of a certain class cannot have certain spices.

    Any yahoo can give a rat a tumor.

  14. Okay, an effective ban on current baking practices. Not an outright ban on the substance.

    And yes, anyone can give a rat tumor. I raised mice for my snakes and Cheerios gave them tumors. I think mice are just little tumor mills.

  15. omanuel says:

    I just noticed “And then there’s physics” on Professor Curry’s blogroll.

    Since the owner is anonymous, I can’t tell if he/she actually knows anything about physics. Does here have an informed opinion?

    His/her response to the following posting may yield the answer:

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    @Bloke Down The Pub:

    Ah, they snuck it in via the one word “climate”. I’d not mapped “impact on climate” to “global warming”… I guess I’m not indoctrinated into the propaganda enough to think of Global Warming from “impact on climate”… I’d just heard that as the generic “climate” as in “climate of fear” or “climate of economic growth” and not made the connection to “weather related ‘climate change’ bias”. Oh Well, back to Re-education camp for me ;-)

  17. R. de Haan says:

    I have visited the Skunk Works web site recently and it’s completely infested with climate propaganda, sustainebility objectives and “green projects” like wave power generators etc, etc.
    I couldn’t find any info about the Skunk works project presented in your article here.

    Very tiresome and I fear Skunk Works is no longer the company it has been in the past.

  18. omanuel says:

    I share R. de Haan’s skeptism of this claim.

    We cannot afford more ” pie in the sky!” Stop this damn game and answer the question:

    Why was Aston’s valid “nuclear packing fraction” replaced in textbooks with von Weizsacker’s seriously flawed “nuclear binding energy” after WWII ?

    That seems to be nothing other than trickery to hide Aston’s discovery of “powers beyond the dreams of scientific fiction !”

  19. BobN says:

    I guess I’m not seeing the significance of the Neutron Repulsion. It doesn’t change anything as far as nukes or nuclear plants that I can think of.
    Maybe there is a new type of reactor that can be built that would be much better. If that was the case, invent it and get rich.

  20. omanuel says:


    If there is a new type of reactor that can be built that would be better, invent it and get rich!

    Really? Do you think any individual can do that? Or is this another attempt to divert attention away from government deception? Deceit to save world’s leaders from nuclear annihilation?

    The video explains well why governments promote the AGW lie: They recognize

    _ A finite supply of fossil fuels, and
    _ An ever-expanding demand for energy for the world’s ever-expanding population.

    They created the problem themselves in 1945 when they took these actions to save themselves and the world from nuclear annihilation:

    _ 1. Formed the United Nations on 24 October 1945

    _ 2. Convinced the public that stars consume, rather than generate, hydrogen in 1946

    _ 3. Replaced Aston’s rigorously valid “nuclear packing fraction” in textbooks after WWII with von Weizsacker’s deceptive “nuclear binding energy” to HIDE the source of energy that caused the cores of uranium and plutonium atoms to explode and destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 Aug 1945 and 9 Aug 1945, respectively: NEUTRON REPULSION

    Selfishness is the problem. The solution is not for Oliver to build a new type of reactor and get rich.

  21. A C Osborn says:

    BobN says: 11 January 2014 at 3:29 am

    Do you know if any progress has been made on Focused Fusion in the intervening 6 years?

  22. p.g.sharrow says:

    The key to atomic energy is actually in the dance of hydrogen in and out of its’ neutron phase. Nuclear power as now practice, only uses the neutron to hydrogen event for energy liberation. This results in creation of large amounts of radioactive debris due to the methods used to liberate the neutrons from their stabilizing atomic lattice. Liberated neutrons can not exist for long outside the electrical pressure of the electron shell. They will expand their own shell, at the speed of light, causing a powerful EMF or Gama ray event. Under the right conditions of “packing” hydrogen can be encouraged to collapse its’ shell and become neutron. This packing density can be controlled to cause a dance of hydrogen to neutron and back that results in net energy production as well as a reduction in radioactive debris. The Gama ray radiation created is of much lower energies and requires greatly reduced shielding. This so called Low Energy Nuclear Reaction is actually the way GOD powers the Universe. Hot fission/fusion of one way neutron destruction is “stone age” engineering and requires massive investment to control its’ “safe?” use.
    The Rossi device appears to me to be a crude start to the new way of utilizing neutron energy. It kind of reminds me of the first De Forest Electron Valve or Triode Tube. pg

  23. A C Osborn says:

    BobN says:11 January 2014 at 3:29 am
    I answered my own question, Focus Fusion is being tested here

  24. BobN says:

    There progress has been slow because of funding. They spent a lot of time raising money. They haave pretty good milestone record. If I remember a recent press release they were shooting for a prototype version functional in 2016.

  25. omanuel says:

    @ p.g.sharrow. et al.

    Do you remember the difference between state functions and path functions in thermodynamics?

    1. Aston’s “nuclear packing fraction” ( f ) is a “state function,” like the other state functions used in thermodynamics: Internal Energy, Enthalpy,Entropy, Free Energy. Values of Aston’s “nuclear packing fraction” ( f ) are the average mass (m) per nucleon that REMAINS in an atom with mass number (A) and atomic number (Z).

    f = (m/A) – 1

    2. Weizsacker’s “nuclear binding energy per nucleon” (B.E./A) is a “path function,” like the other path functions used in thermodynamics: Work and Heat. Values of Weizsacker’s “nuclear binding energy per nucleon” (B.E./A) are the average mass LOSS in forming that atom from Z hydrogen atoms and (A – Z) neutrons.

    The mass (m) of an atom is stored energy (E) in Einstein’s equation, E = mc^2. The amount of energy in an atom is independent of the amount of energy LOST if the atom is formed by any particular “path.” That is meaningless information.

    That is why Nobel Laureate Francis W. Aston’s rigorously valid “nuclear packing fraction” (a state function) should not have with von Weizsacker’s convincing but deceptive “nuclear binding energy” (a path function) after the Second World War.

  26. omanuel says:

    That is why Nobel Laureate Francis W. Aston’s rigorously valid “nuclear packing fraction” (a state function) should not have been replaced with von Weizsacker’s convincing but deceptive “nuclear binding energy” (a path function) after the Second World War.

  27. p.g.sharrow says:

    The change of mass/inertia seems to me to be well demonstrated by the loss of mass/inertia during the conversion of neutron to hydrogen. Mass/inertia is a function of energy in motion, internal angular momentum of charge in motion.The binding/repulsive energies argument appears to me to be a derived and not actually measured mass change. The path that creates the results is not material, only the finished product. pg

  28. omanuel says:

    @ p.g.sharrow We agree.

    One of the first topics discussed in thermodynamics is the difference between
    a.) Path functions like Work and Heat, and
    b.) State functions like Internal Energy, Enthalpy, Entropy and Free Energy.

    Nuclear stability is a state function, not a path function.
    Weizsacker’s “nuclear packing energy” is a path function, not a state function.

  29. omanuel says:

    More information on the discrepancy between von Weizsacker’s seriously flawed “nuclear binding energy” and F. W. Aston’s rigorously valid “nuclear packing fraction” is given here:

  30. M Simon says:

    The LocMart fusion reactor is a DT reaction. The same as the Toks use. One little engineering problem. The T is unobtanium. You make it by bombarding a Li blanket with the neutrons from the DT reaction. The overall capture efficiency of the blanket needs to be 90% or better to keep the system running. Not easy. In fact quite difficult.

    I favor the Polywell from an engineering point of view. But the project has gone black. Either because it doesn’t work or because it does. I can’t tell. And I used to be in the second circle of that group. Dr. Bussard even sent me a thank you for helping get the program restarted.

    Think of the video as a way to send the Chinese and Russians on a wild goose chase. Or it might be real. In any case the Polywell – even if it doesn’t generate net energy might be a very good mass neutron source that can be electrically switched on and off. A Pu maker without the need for a fission reactor.

    Rossi? I’m not a believer. FF? They have fundamental materials problems. They do have the occasional kind word for Polywell. Lerner may find a way. But I’m still a Polywell guy (DD fusion) until I get better news.

  31. p.g.sharrow says:

    Focus Fusion and Polywell have nice graphics and beautiful equipment. But, they are both plasma fusion machines. Back in the late 1950s, early 60s, cruder but similar devices were used by pre-doc physics students in their lab classes and fathers’ garages. These were created to prove concepts and get test data for their physics courses. One of the things I learned from this effort was that Plasma Fusion was a waste of effort as it could not yield a positive energy creation. It did create nasty high energy radiation. The very last thing a plasma wanted to do was fuse. You always had to put more energy into the pinch then was created by the resultant event. Hundreds of billions of dollars and the efforts of the worlds best minds have not changed fact in 60 years. Temperature, pressure and density must be at the right triple junction to permit fusion.
    When Fleshmen & Pons announced their results 23 years ago, I went back through my knowledge of hydrogen fusion and realized that under the conditions of packing within a ferrous metal crystal lattice, density might reach fusion levels and not spray the area with high energy debris and radiation. A pre-doc physics major and I had quite a discussion on the science involved. 40 people in the bar stopped drinking and talking for 20 minuets to listen to us. The bartender was not pleased as he was making no money for that period. Our conclusion was that the dance of hydrogen/neutron conversion was the key to the energy production. pg

  32. omanuel says:

    Yes, “the dance of hydrogen/neutron conversion” is the attractive force that binds neutrons to protons (and visa-versa) by exchanging charged pions.

    Exchanging uncharged pions may explain the repulsive force between neutrons or protons.

    Coulomb repulsion augments the repulsive force between protons, as illustrated in Figure 1c by higher values of M/A at Z/A = 1 (red dots) than at Z/A = 0 (blue dots).

    If time permits, I will come illustrate the discrepancy here tomorrow between Aston’s “nuclear packing fraction” and Weizsacker’s “nuclear binding energy” for light atoms (e.g., A = 3).

    Finally, p.g.sharrow , I share your concern that safe fusion reactors are an illusion (after being just around the corner for several decades), although Aston himself noted in the last paragraph of his 1922 Nobel Lecture that hydrogen-fusion might be accidently triggered if the human race ever figured out how to release nuclear “powers beyond the dreams of scientific fiction !”

  33. omanuel says:

    Tritium, the heaviest isotope of hydrogen is produced in the upper atmosphere by cosmic rays and has a half-life of 12 years. The decay of tritium can be used to verify the age of an old wine.

    Lord Francis William Aston was an experimentalist who might have measured the exact mass of tritium (H-3) to be 3.01605 amu and the exact mass of its stable decay product (He-3) to be 3.01603 amu [where the exact mass of the most abundant carbon isotope (C-12) is defined as 12.00000 amu].

    These mass measurements agree with the observed decay of tritium into the lightest isotope of helium, H-3 => He-3.

    However von Weizsacker’s theoretical model of “nuclear binding energy” is greater for radioactive tritium than for stable He-3 because these “nuclear binding energies” are defined as the amount of energy that would be released if
    _ 1. Tritium is made by combining two neutrons with one H-1 atom, and
    _ 2. Helium-3 is made by combining one neutron with two H-1 atoms.

  34. M Simon says:

    Temperature, pressure and density must be at the right triple junction to permit fusion.


    Polywell – if it fails – will be a cheap failure. About $200 million at scale. Yes there will be radiation. A lot. But about 1E3 to 1E6 less than a Tok. That won’t affect shielding much. But it will affect wear out mechanisms of the super conductors and associated eqpt. Energy collection can be electrostatic. Very efficient and low cost compared to a steam plant. I have done back of the envelope engineering calculations on all this. Can they get the physics right is the big question.

    Cold Fusion – so far no reliable replication.

    Rossi – in my opinion is a fraud. As to the rest of the field? The results so far are so small that calorimetry errors may be the cause of positive results.

    Cosmic ray tritium? Can it be collected at a reasonable cost?

    In the mean time there is uranium and thorium as stop gaps. Not to mention fracking and methane hydrates.

  35. Wayne Job says:

    The skunk works is obviously trying to re-invent itself. Lockheed Martin won the contract for the building the joint strike fighter. Probably the last manned fighter with contracts for all three services and many countries around the world, going out to 2040. Thus the skunk works have nothing to do. If a problem can be solved they would be the ones to do it.

    Wasting their true talents I think, given a decent budget these buggers could design and build an aircraft that would take off normally then fly to the moon and back.

  36. omanuel says:

    Tritium (H-3) or helium-3 could be made from:

    A. Three neutrons
    B. Two neutrons + one H-atom
    C. One neutron + two H- atoms
    D. Three H-atoms

    von Weizsacker’s binding energies are flawed because they indicate the energy released when:

    Tritium is made by path B, and
    Helium-3 is made by path C.

  37. crosspatch says:

    I don’t see how the existing political and industrial alliances will allow this to happen. Politicians use energy to control distribution of wealth globally. They artificially increase the cost of energy using “the environment” as the justification in “developed” areas or the areas from which they want capital to flow and have no such “environmental” concerns (or regulations) in the areas in which they want the capital to flow. This would disrupt their entire scheme. It would take away the primary method politicians use to throttle economics globally. They simply are not going to allow cheap abundant power because that would unleash massive uncontrolled economic growth and that is the last thing they want to see.

    The REASON they don’t want to see this is because it would tend to amplify “inequality”. Countries that have large amounts of corruption, iron rule by a despot or cabal, no real property rights, bad legal system, and poor education system will still be left behind. They will not be able to compete with the places that do have a better environment for economic growth by the citizens being able to advance themselves. As a result the disparity between “developed” and “developing” will become greater. They currently use economic force to move capital to the less developed areas simply for the sake of it. They are actually enriching that despotic cabal but they cook the numbers to show more “per capita” GDP when the “capita” aren’t getting any of that capital.

    This would allow cheap, clean, inexpensive energy practically anywhere and in so doing would allow practically unbounded economic growth in the “developed” world while the “developing” world would still be hindered by their lack of freedom, education, and legal system in allowing the citizens to advance themselves. Too many of these places have centrally planned economies which basically mean the dolling out of wealth to the “correct” people and providing enough “stuff” to the little people to keep them from rebelling.

    I don’t think the “progressives” would ever allow such a thing to happen. They will tie this thing up in court forever with “prove it doesn’t hurt people” sorts of lawsuits or maybe just flat out outlaw it.

  38. omanuel says:

    Tyrannical efforts to control access to information reveals desperation in trying to conceal 68 years of deceit.

  39. I found the Charles Chase video pretty lame. Lots of hand waving and “Touchy Feely”. Where were the equations and measurements? Andrea Rossi at least showed plots of energy in and energy out!

    As most of you here have figured out, Andrea Rossi is a scam artist so how should one describe Charles Chase? Desperate? Deranged?

    Philo Farnsworth had a lot more going for him than the above mentioned losers:

  40. Charles Chase wants to put a 100 MW fusion reactor on a truck. Not an impressive goal when you consider the 400+ ships that have nuclear power plants. Those reactors use nuclear fission rather than nuclear fusion yet their reactors can easily be transported on a single truck.

    So why don’t we use this well proven technology to generate cheap power for every dusty hamlet in the third world as Charles Chase so rightly exhorts us to do? The problem is “Proliferation” because these reactors use highly enriched fuels which could be used to build nuclear weapons.

    There are technologies that reduce the problem of proliferation while being compact enough to fit on a single truck. For example Hyperion:

    The photograph that pops up on the left hand side of the above link does not seem relevant to the Hyperion proposal as it is a large (~2.8 GW) BWR similar to the Oconee Station in South Carolina:

    Probably you are not impressed by Hyperion’s miserable output of 25 MWe so you may want at least 100 MWe per truck load of reactor. MSRs have that kind of capability and they can burn today’s “Nuclear Waste” while producing very little Pu239.

  41. M Simon says:


    Philo Farnsworth was the precursor of Polywell.

  42. omanuel says:


    I do not “buy” large sections of the Thorium propaganda.

    Further, I do not trust engineers’ and technicians’ ability to build or operate any equipment to extract and nuclear energy for civilian purposes unless we elimate the seriously flawed “nuclear binding energy” from the textbooks that train them.

  43. omanuel says:

    In summary,

    We will go tothenucleusbecause that is where energy is stored as mass.

    We will first get honest about nuclear forces so engineers and technicians can safely harvest and use that energy to benefit society:

    1. Neutrons attract protons
    2. Protons attract neutrons
    3. Neutrons repel neutrons
    4. Protons repel protons
    5. Coulomb repulsion augments #4
    and makes #4 much greater than #3, especially in heavy elements.

    Nuclear structure and modes of decay reflect these five (1-5) forces.

    In light elements, the core of the nucleus is n-p pairs. Excess neutrons exist on the nuclear surface. Neutron emission is a mode of decay for these.

    Above about 150 amu, the nuclear structure changes because of high Coulomb repulsion. The n-p pairs move to the nuclear surface and the excess neutrons move to the core of the nucleus. Alpha-decay, emission of the He-4 nucleus (2 n-p pairs), is a common mode of decay for these.

    These forces cannot hold together any nucleus above Bi-209 (83 protons and 126 neutrons). All heavier atoms are unstable.

    Neutron-rich cores of even heavier atoms (Th, U, Np, Pu, etc) have high instabilities induced by neutron repulsion in the core. They may spontaneously fission. Or fission can be induced by adding one more neutron.

    I suspect, but do not yet know, that energy from neutron repulsion could be harvested from many atoms above 150 amu by neutron-induced fission.

  44. j ferguson says:

    could you expand on your skepticism of thorium (as a fuel)?

  45. omanuel says:

    Not in detail.

    1. Get honest about nuclear forces

    2. Do not lie about nuclear waste

    3. Rigorously follow the scientific method and honestly report the advantages and disadvantages of Thorium reactors

    4. Show the reactions by which you supposedly “burn nuclear waste.” Show them and I will endorse the process if it is other than empty propaganda.

    5. We do not need another campaign of false propaganda that will delay our use of nuclear energy for another century.

    PS – CORRECTION: We will go to the nucleus because . . .

  46. omanuel says:

    @ j ferguson

    Will Thorium reactors be designed and operated by engineers and technicians that have been given misinformation that obscures neutron repulsion as the “settled science of nuclear physics ?”

    How is that different from giving a child a loaded gun with only false information on its operation?

  47. p.g.sharrow says:

    @omanual; Thank you for pointing out the “Rich” Neutron core of heavy atoms. I was unaware of that. That explains the shape and unstableness of them. The charge strength differences of nucleons I am aware of but thanks for pointing it out. Perhaps if people fully understand atomic structure they would be better able to understand the pros and cons of various possible solutions to energy production from nuclear energy.. Much of the discussion on possibilities are base on ignorance of all the drawbacks to any proposed system. Ferrous metals, Iron,Nickel and Chrome. The constituents of your “Iron Sun” may prove to be the key to safe nuclear energy production as the final outcome “waste” is stable isotopes. pg

  48. omanuel says:

    @ p g Sharrow


    Aston’s “nuclear packing fraction” correctly indicates that the most stable atom – iron-56 (Fe-56) – is also the most abundant atom in the Sun, the Earth, and in ordinary meteorites.

    Von Weizsacker seriously flawed “average nuclear binding per nucleon” incorrectly yields a higher value for another species.

    Deception is the only possible excuse for replacing Aston’s valid knowledge of nuclear stability with von Weizsacker’s invalid model of nuclear stability.

  49. M Simon says:

    Uh. Engineers and technicians do not need a correct theory to make things work. Or to improve designs. The math they use need merely describe what happens. I’m an old (trained in ’65 – ’66) Naval Nuke.

  50. M Simon says:

    Engineering is an empirical science. We like to work far enough from equilibrium that small errors in theory do not matter. It makes designs more robust. Compare early transistors – billions of electrons to the future of transistors – single electrons. We didn’t get there by a jump. We got there by small empirical advances.

  51. omanuel says:

    Your statements disagree with my observations from teaching basic chemistry and thermodynamics to engineering students in 1964-2000.

    Until textbooks are corrected about nuclear forces, nuclear structure and “nuclear binding energy,” we cannot safely use nuclear energy of any kind.

  52. M Simon says:

    The US Navy has been using it safely for 50 years. Plant safety has very little to do with if the understanding of nuclear forces are correct. They have to do with “are the doubling times for a given reactivity increase (rod pull) correct?” and “is the thermodynamic understanding of the plant correct?”. The plants are designed and then those numbers are tested EMPIRICALLY.

  53. M Simon says:

    Of course there are many other issues in the same vein (reactivity increase from a “cold” water slug for instance). But the final numbers come from empirics not theory.

  54. M Simon says:

    And then after the empirics are understood safety margins are added. The margins adjusted based on how well we think we understand the basis of our decisions. In fact that is how aircraft are designed (I worked in aerospace after my Navy stint). And in aircraft – since the design margins are so slim – we compensate with regular inspections.

  55. omanuel says:

    @ M Simon on 21 January 2014 at 2:13 am
    “The US Navy has been using it safely for 50 years.”

    Bull shit, old Navel Nuke!

    No competent engineer would choose a flawed nuclear formula over a valid one. NONE.

    The American public certainly do not want someone like you designing or operating nuclear reactors!

    Japanese and Russian civilians must have even stronger opinions on this matter.

  56. p.g.sharrow says:

    @omanual; M Simon is correct on the point that mathematical formula point to engineering needs BUT must be followed up with testing to compensate for error. The math formula that we need to use always seems to be off a bit in the answers. As you have pointed out many times, the scientific explanations are in error for whatever is the reason and those of us that are the engineers or builders must “Fix” things to make them work.We don’t get to create the science and formula, we just have to make it work! This is why those Japanese Nuke plants had the Electrical equipment in the basement and the spent fuel storage on the roof! DUMB, DUMB. The result of people that don’t actually live in the real world but make the decisions that we have to execute.
    As an old Navy trained Electronics & Electrical man, a point that the instructors made time and again was that the formula we had to learn would give answers that were close, maybe, but then the techs would have to adjust things to make them work to specs.
    Perhaps the fact that we worked on the execution side of the project gives us a different point of view from those that create the “Big Picture” decisions. pg

  57. M Simon says:


    A1W – Idaho, ’65 – ’66.

  58. M Simon says:

    And OM,

    I use incorrect formulas all the time in electronics. Depending on how close an answer I need. When working with 10% components there is no point in answers to .01% – at least most of the time.

  59. omanuel says, 20 January 2014 at 1:01 pm:

    “I do not “buy” large sections of the Thorium propaganda.”

    I did buy the Thorium propaganda but if all they can produce is slick videos I may get “Buyer’s Remorse”. The dog and pony shows have been going on…..and on…..and on.

  60. Here is a little wishful thinking on may part:

    Gates is pushing the TWR and I respect that. Of course I would respect his technical judgement even much more if he was pushing LFTRs. Freeman Dyson (Disturbing the Universe) said that the fun has gone out of designing nuclear reactors.

    Bill Gates could restore the fun. Here is what I would do if I was “Himself”. I would offer to build an innovative nuclear power plant in any country that would provide a suitable site and a fair regulatory process. Most likely the USA, Germany and Japan would fail dismally to clear this hurdle. Then I would hold a design competition for reactors that can be factory built and delivered to site on one 40 foot truck. The bidders would submit proposals and time lines using their own funds. A few million dollars would be awarded to the best proposals to fund full design studies. At the end of the design studies one design would be chosen for construction and operation. Bill Gates is a shrewd negotiator so he could probably get the host country to match whatever he chips in. Thus a billion dollars would go a long way towards developing and building a small reactor that will probably produce <100 MWe.

  61. BobN says:

    The Thorium reactors can’t be done because the NRC will not allow it at this point. The have promised to take up the regulatory issues some time in the next 25-50 years. That kind of time table kills investors. Every US company that wants to do something with LFTR is looking for sites around the world that will allow them.
    Canada is developing a couple LFTR reactors for Brazil, I think they plan to use them for Desalination purposes so they don’t mess up their grid if there is problems.

    China is planning quite a few LFTR reactors, but their development is slow. I believe Bill Gates is involved in getting these going.

    There are many billions invested in the existing Fission reactors. GE and their like have incredible lobby strength. Destroying the fuel rod business will not be easy.

    The Thorium problems in getting built and used are 90% political in my opinion.

  62. The co-patent holder of the LWR Weinberg, had a better reactor for civilian use the Molten Salt Reactor. Then AEC in 1962 report to President Kennedy recommended the MSR and Th-MSR go forward for Civilian nuclear power. Due to the Navy having their power plant and the fact that the MSR wasn’t really helpful for weapons material, funding was killed. Now our DoE has given the tech to China to develop and own the IP.

    I am currently working with a Canadian firm developing MSRs for Shipping, Desalination and Industrial Processes as well as power. DoE, NRC and EPA are not the friends of true clean sustainable energy. We throw out all the Thorium we need in the mining of Rare Earth Elements used for the green energy magnets, green batteries and solar panel elements. China has a huge monopoly of Rare Earth Elements supply chain, we can supply 50% of the World’s supply from our mines, but can’t due to EPA Thorium regulations…we need to develop Thorium MSRs…

  63. omanuel says:

    I apologize to M. Simon for my outburst.

    The public perception of nuclear reactors is DANGEROUS, but the scientists and the slick promoters of government policies are to blame.

    Engineers did their jobs well with the information provided them. The fault lies with scientists who allowed their textbooks to replace Aston’s rigorously valid “nuclear packing fraction” with Weizsacker’s seriously flawed (and more cumbersome) “average nuclear binding energy per nucleon.”

  64. omanuel says:

    Well-intentioned efforts to save mankind from nuclear destruction in 1945 may lead to . . .

    Total annihilation of human life on Earth if the Sun returns to the next cyclic quiet phase . . .

    Before errors in nuclear and solar physics are corrected and reactors built to safely harvest the same basic source of energy here on Earth.

  65. omanuel says:

    Roger, owner of Tallbloke’s Talkshop, just posted a revealing comment on authors of the Planetary Solar Theory in the now defunct, Special Edition of Pattern Recognition in Physics:

    “Although the various proponent authors of the Planetary Solar Theory have different ideas about viable mechanisms we came to the SAME CONCLUSIONS via different phenomenological methods: that an imminent solar slowdown is upon us, and it is likely to be deeper than the Dalton Minimum, possibly stretching until the latter decades of this century.

    If an imminent solar slowdown is upon us, it is imperative to correct known flaws in nuclear and solar physics – ASAP – so that nuclear reactors can be built to safely harvest basically the same form of energy here on Earth in order to sustain human life during the solar slowdown.

  66. BobN says, 21 January 2014 at 8:07 am:
    “The Thorium reactors can’t be done because the NRC will not allow it at this point. ”

    The little I know about nuclear power was learned from professor Edward Bilpuch on the Occoneechee golf course. One of the projects that Ed worked on at TUNL (Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory) was Charlie Bowman’s ADR (Accelerator Driven Reactor) that was designed to consume nuclear waste.

    Ed explained the potential of MSRs (Molten Salt Reators in general and Thorium cycle reactors in particular. I asked Ed why our modest funding request ($20 million) for developing Bowman’s ADR was rejected. His explanation was “You can’t buck City Hall” by which he meant that innovations that did not conform with the vision of the folks controlling reearch spending will not be funded.

    This means that the greybeards in charge of the research dollars have to die before anything can change. Fortunately, the USA is not the only country capable of building advanced nuclear reactors. It is likely that leadership in nuclear reactor design will soon pass to other nations.

  67. BobN says:

    To build anything nuclear you must get a license and approvals for the material. If memory serves me, I believe it takes 5 million to license the rights for a nuclear reactor. This up front fee must be paid periodically to the government, so you have to have big bucks to even apply. Getting approval for Uranium or Thorium in the quantity needed is no easy task and the studies and cost of the rules compliance is another pile of money.
    Some of the national labs and Universities get price breaks, but a business must have deep pockets. To do anything new is tough unless DOE or DOD is pushing it for some reason.
    To play in this game the optimum word is “Connections”.

  68. M Simon says:

    omanuel says:
    21 January 2014 at 12:03 pm

    No problem. I blog. I was also a usenet denizen back in the day. I’m used to “vigorous” argument.

  69. M Simon says:


    From an engineering standpoint you insistence on the need to get the fine details right is misplaced. Can we build viable reactors to close enough tolerances using the current understanding? Yes we can. In the big picture if the design equations come within 1% of reality that is close enough.

    I never use the “real” transistor equations to design circuits. I use “beta” and “alpha” and make allowances for the limit conditions. In general that is how 99.99% of engineering is done. Why? Material variations swamp the errors introduced.

    BTW Nuke school covered both “nuclear packing fraction” and “average nuclear binding energy per nucleon.” I believe (it has been a long time) we used “nuclear packing fraction” for actual design work. Because it gave real numbers for specific cases. “nuclear packing fraction” was just used an an indication of where to look for energetic reactions.

  70. M Simon says:

    Let me correct that: “average nuclear binding energy per nucleon.” was just used an an indication of where to look for energetic reactions.

  71. omanuel says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    An audience of engineers is exactly the right group to evaluate the proposal to resolve the controversy for good and for all by using the mass of the most stable atom IRON-56, Fe-56 to define the atomic mass unit (amu):

    Mass (Fe-56) = 56.000000000 amu

    Then values of Aston’s nuclear packing fraction (M/A – 1) are direct measures of nuclear instability.

  72. p.g.sharrow says:

    If one were to create a new device to harness nuclear energies I would avoid fission reactors, Too dirty. Look to isotopes that are somewhat unstable due to excess neutrons and add hydrogen with EMF stimulation. The ferrous metals have an affinity for hydrogen, are inexpensive and the “waste” will be stable. A good place to start:
    A complete nuclear cycle would create unstable isotopes and then stabilize them. Fission and then stabilization. We know how to create radioactive materials. We need the other half, stabilization, of the cycle. Fission must be done under strongly protected conditions. Stabilization devices could be wide spread power producers. The dance of neutron/hydrogen produces energy in both directions as mass/inertia is consumed. When the dance ends the “waste” is a stable isotope. pg

  73. omanuel says:

    Thanks, p.g.sharrow. Once basic flaws are corrected in nuclear physics, humans will be better able to harvest the “powers beyond the dreams of scientific fiction” that Aston’s spoke about in the last paragraph of his 1922 Nobel Lecture.

    1. Is there any reason, from an engineering point of view, not to use the mass of the most stable atom IRON-56, Fe-56 to define the atomic mass unit (amu)?

    Then any atom with a positive value of Aston’s “nuclear packing fraction,” f = (M/A – 1), would be potential source of energy (E) stored as mass (m), and the maximum amount of energy (E) available would be proportional to the value of Aston’s “nuclear packing fraction” ( f ),

    E = mc^2

    2. I took and recommend that other readers take the survey on AGW at:

    After completing the survey, you will be invited to leave comments. Here are mine and responses from readers:

  74. BobN says:

    I took the survey but it would not save, it said that it was inactive. I guess they didn’t like my answers.

  75. omanuel says:

    Yes, I noticed that after posting the message.

    I assume it is just down temporarily. They seem to be getting lots of responses.

  76. omanuel says:

    Just posted: NOTICE

    From 10am (UK time) for about 40minutes we had a glitch on the server – caused be all things, an attempt to do a backup to ensure no survey data was lost.

    Apologies for those who were attempting to fill in your survey at this point.

    Mike Haseler

  77. BobN: This is the proper link:
    My guess is that the other link occurs as one goes through the survey or at the end of the survey.
    (Often, if a link does not work, if you remove the last part and try again, it will get you where you want to be. Sometimes you have to go two steps back. Most links can be backtracked that way.)

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