Advanced nuclear reactor development is so vibrant, interesting and important that it has attracted a filmmaking team.
The filmmakers, led by David Schumacher and Derek Wiesenhahn, are telling a story about some of the projects that aim to produce new ways to use fission to power society. The projects have been created by dedicated, interesting young people teamed with deeply experienced, equally fascinating, somewhat “less young” people. The mixed teams are seeking to make fission-heated machines that help people lead better lives and make the world a cleaner place with a reasonably stable climate.
The documentary team is supported by a group of funders including Ross Koningstein, Rachel Pritzker, Ray Rothrock, Yodon Thonden, Steve Kirsch and the Berk Foundation, that have invested significant resources in the early stages of the project.
Their film project The New Fire is nearing completion. Its creators are aiming to have it ready for debut at a major film festival during the first half of 2017.
One of the current funders has encouraged the development team to ask the crowd that should be interested in the film to prove their interest by helping fund the final stages of development. The funder offered a challenge grant, a match of up to $20,000 for at least $20,000 raised in a crowdfunding campaign at Kickstarter.
Atomic Insights readers frequently mention the need for spreading the good news about nuclear energy. You have repeatedly told me that we need to find better ways to excite the public about the potential that our chosen technology field has for improving the human condition.
Here is another chance to help in a concrete way.
As you may or may not know, Kickstarter has a “go – no go”, limited duration, crowdfunding model. If the campaign meets its fundraising goal, the project will receive whatever funds are pledged, even if they vastly exceed the original target.
If the fundraising period ends with pledges that are short of the target, pledges are not collected and the project receives no funding. The New Fire campaign begins today, November 28 and will end on December 22.
Why “The New Fire”?
Some Atomic Insights readers with long memories might recall that you’ve heard the phrase “Fission is the new fire” here in the distant past. I gave a talk with that title at Google Headquarters in April, 2007, nearly ten years ago. David Schumacher told me how he had thought of the same phrase in the shower one day and decided it would be the appropriate title for his documentary project.
I told him that “Great minds think alike.” He reminded me that wasn’t the full aphorism, it’s actually “Great minds think alike, and fools seldom differ.”
No matter where the phrase originated, Schumacher and I share a passion for sharing stories about new nuclear system development.
Society could really use a new fire, an improved way to produce the controllable, scalable power that we use to provide food, shelter, climate control, mobility, medical treatment and entertainment. Our old fire, hydrocarbon/carbohydrate combustion, still works fine and will last a long time, but it inevitably produces waste products on a scale massive enough to alter atmospheric and oceanic chemistry. Even the benign, natural, nearly inert byproducts of hydrocarbon combustion can be a problem when produced in quantities that overcome the natural processes that convert them to use and prevent continuous annual increases.
Fortunately, scientists like Fermi, Curie, Szilard, Hahn, Meitner Bohr and Rutherford discovered atomic fission, a heat source that could not only supplement and perhaps replace most uses of fire, but could do it with a comparatively tiny amount of input raw material producing a comparatively tiny volume of waste.
The recognized need for a new fire has inspired an energetic and idealistic population of highly intelligent young engineers to dedicate themselves to creating new machines that can use fission heat to directly and dramatically reduce the use of the old fire and the production of its inevitable by-products. They are motivated by finding a solution for climate change, creating a new world of empowered people, creating new opportunities for high powered living and perhaps by earning substantial returns on their intellectual and sweat equity.
The move towards advanced nuclear power system development has gained traction during the past decade even as the established fission users, large central station power plants, have been struggling with stagnant markets caused by economic recession, overproduction of natural gas and an enormous overreaction — stoked by purposeful antinuclear propaganda — to the substantial facility damage of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station after it was hit with a massive tsunami wave.
As documented by a study done by Third Way, advanced nuclear quietly became “a thing” interesting enough to attract the attention of serious investors. As of mid 2015, the study found that there were perhaps 50 companies in North America funded by $1.3 billion in venture capital busily working to create powerful systems.
Schumacher, an award-winning television producer and documentary filmmaker, decided that advanced nuclear power system development was worthy of its own documentary.
Basically, I’d like to start a new public conversation about nuclear, this time looking at it through the climate lens. In addition to existing clean energy sources, I believe we need to develop new energy technologies, and I’m particularly intrigued by the promise of advanced nuclear and the people working to develop and commercialize it.
The following quote from the project’s Kickstarter page is worth sharing as often as possible.
Why is this film important?
Since An Inconvenient Truth, many documentaries have shown us the causes and effects of climate change. But focusing only on overwhelming environmental issues can feel paralyzing. THE NEW FIRE looks at the problems but its focus is on solutions, especially advanced ‘Generation IV’ nuclear reactors and the role they play in fighting climate change.
THE NEW FIRE is a story of hope and optimism, of hard work and heroism. It’s an affirmation of what youth and audacity can achieve in the face of impossible odds. Above all, it’s a story that needs to be told now, before it’s too late.