RSS

The Bulletin

Scandal: Judges airbrush popular nuclear design out of German green tech competition

Posting in Design

The disappeared. Nico Bernt (l), Daniel Weibach and their liquid reactor were finalists in the GreenTec competition but vanished from the picture when the judges changed the rules after the fact.

--

When a German clean technology group opened the voting for this year's annual GreenTec Awards, it probably didn't expect the public to send a nuclear reactor into the final round. This is Germany after all, the country that has gone ardently anti-nuclear in the wake of Fukushima and that loves its solar and wind energy and other renewables.

Oops.

Organizers tallied the online votes and discovered that a novel liquid reactor called the Dual-Fluid Reactor (DFR) had made it through to compete against two other finalists at a gala ceremony this Aug. 30 in Berlin, blogger Rainer Klute reported.

The good greenies at GreenTec then did the honorable thing. According to the people behind the DFR and to Klute, they airbrushed the reactor out of contention by implementing a de facto rule change. Under the switch, public voting - which in the original set of rules was to have elected one of the three finalists - no longer counted. Instead, only members of the GreenTec jury could choose all nominees.

Klute has started a campaign to reinstate the DFR. He wrote:

"People who had campaigned for the award and for the DFR were heavily shocked. Not only they found the decision as such completely incomprehensible, but also the procedure to make it. Changing rules in the course of the game is something that is usually considered less than fair. Most of us (but obviously not all) learned this early in our childhood. No wonder the award’s makers were criticized violently in blogs and social media, especially on their own Facebook page."

A lot of the ensuing commentary - including a GreenTec explanation on Facebook -  has been in German, which unfortunately I don't read (although I do understand the new German word shitstorm, which is what surrounds the controversial GreenTec move).

I've emailed GreenTec twice this week asking for its side of the story. I have yet to hear back from the group, which counts Germany's energy minister Peter Altmaier as its patron.

GreenTec says on its website that it honors "ecological and economic consciousness and commitment." In bumping off the DFR, it's missing a trick.

The DFR, from Berlin's Institute for Solid-State Nuclear Physics, is a type of reactor known as a molten salt reactor that, as I've often noted (see links below), offers many operational, safety and waste advantages over conventional solid fuel reactors. The DFR could run on uranium or on thorium fuel, and is also capable of burning plutonium left by conventional reactors - a useful alternative to treating the plutonium as dangerous waste. It would be effective as a CO2-free heat source in industrial processes such as hydrogen production, as explained by the Institute's Daniel Weibach and Nico Bernt in the video below.

GreenTec, like other nuclearphobes in the environmental movement,  should get over its squeamishness and realize that nuclear - especially new and innovative nuclear like the DFR - is its friend, not its foe.

For more on the DFR, click on this video:

Video from the Institute for Solid-State Nuclear Physics, via YouTube. Top photo is a screen grab from the video.

A sampler of alternative nuclear technologies (those in boldface describe molten salt ideas similar to Germany's DFR). For a longer list, click on the archive link underneath:

— By on July 3, 2013, 9:27 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure