We did a report: "How to Make Nuclear Cheap."
In particular, the thorium reactor shows a lot of promise.
So when the climate scientist, James Hansen,
asked if I wanted to go to China with him and look at the Chinese advanced nuclear program, I jumped at the chance.
We were there with MIT and UC Berkeley engineers.
And I had in my mind that the Chinese would be able to do with nuclear what they did with so many other things
start to crank out small nuclear reactors on assembly lines, ship them up like iPhones or MacBooks and send them around the world.
I would get one at home in Berkeley. But what I found was somewhat different.
The presentations were all very exciting and very promising; they have multiple reactors that they're working on.
The time came for the thorium reactor, and a bunch of us were excited.
They went through the whole presentation, they got to the timeline, and they said,
"We're going to have a thorium molten salt reactor ready for sale to the world by 2040." And I was like, "What?"
I looked at my colleagues and I was like, "Excuse me -- can you guys speed that up a little bit?
Because we're in a little bit of a climate crisis right now. And your cities are really polluted, by the way."
And they responded back, they were like, "I'm not sure what you've heard about our thorium program, but we don't have a third of our budget,
and your department of energy hasn't been particularly forthcoming with all that data you guys have on testing reactors."
And I said, "Well, I've got an idea. You know how you've got 10 years where you're demonstrating that reactor?
Let's just skip that part, and let's just go right to commercializing it. That will save money and time."
And the engineer just looked at me and said, "Let me ask you a question:
Would you buy a car that had never been demonstrated before?"