ThorCon Inks MOU to Develop a 50MW Thorium Reactor for Indonesia

  • ThorCon to Develop 50MW Thorium Fueled Reactor in Indonesia Leading to 500MW Units Built in Shipyards.
  • Rosatom Pitches Indonesia for Conventional Light Water Reactors
  • USNC Collaborates with South Korean Industry Leaders to Develop Advanced Nuclear Reactor Power Systems
  • CEZ Signs Framework Deal with Czech Govt for New Nuclear Unit

ThorCon to Develop 50MW Thorium Fueled Reactor
for Indonesia

thorium periodic table symbol

According to ThorCon, the firm and Indonesia’s Defence Ministry have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to study developing a 50 MW thorium molten salt reactor (TMSR) for either power generation or marine vehicle propulsion. In an email to this blog, Robert Hargraves, a spokesman for ThorCon, said several developments are taking place in Indonesia for the company.

  • The ongoing work to develop shipyard-produced thorium/uranium fueled power plants generating electricity cheaper than coal, and  the MOU establishes the basis for providing technical advice for building 50 MW thorium fueled plants. ThorCon is a graphite-moderated thermal spectrum molten salt reactor.
  • In 2019 the Ministry of Energy successfully completed a study of the safety, economics, and grid impact of the 500 MW prototype ThorConIsle (Fact Sheet – PDF file).
  • Phase 1 is to build and test it with step by step commissioning, ending in a licence for future power plants. Phase 2 is shipyard production of multiple 500MW ThorCon plants to provide an additional 3000MW of cheap, reliable electric power.
thorcon timeline
ThorCon Timeline: Image: company website

The MOU was signed by the head of ministry’s Defense Research and Development Agency, Dr Anne Kusmayati, and ThorCon International Chief Representative Bob S. Effendi. According to the ThorCon statement, the project expects to make significant progress by 2025.

The proposed reactor is, however, much smaller than a fully commercial 500 MW nuclear power plant that Thorcon has been designing over the past five years and which is the ultimate design objective.

MOU Details

ThorCon provided the following details of the agreement. According to Mr. Effendi at ThorCon, Indonesia’s Dr Kusmayati said;

“The thorium-based power development research and development in the Defence Research and Development Agency is in line with the policy of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources which mandates the need for concrete steps to prepare nuclear power development projects, bearing in mind dwindling fossil energy sources and the length of time needed to construct a nuclear power plant.”

“The thorium-based power development research program represents the Ministry of Defence’s efforts to be the initiator or lever in mastering 4th generation nuclear technology that utilises thorium, which is available in abundance in Indonesia.”

ThorCon said it would provide technical support to the ministry’s research and development (R&D) body to develop “a small-scale TMSR reactor under 50 megawatts (MW).”

The Jakarta Post ran a more conservative report which quoted Indonesia’s National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan) director Dandang Purwadi. He reportedly told the newspaper that thorium nuclear technology is not yet ready for commercial application.

“We have to wait around 10 years for the technology to mature, then it takes 10 years to build the facility.”

Progress Reported on Design of 500 MW Thorium Fueled Reactor

Thorcon said a fair amount of the design phase for the 500 MW design has been completed, which is documented in 2D drawings and 3D CAD models, and which has been shared with potential suppliers. The firm did not provide additional details on its potential supply chain for a thorium-fueled nuclear reactor.

Conceptual Image of ThorCon 500 MW Design

The World Nuclear Association has a review of the technology related to the thorium fuel cycle and describes historical and current efforts by multiple countries to develop thorium fueled reactors. At this time no other thorium fueled reactors are in commercial revenue service though there are multiple prototype efforts ongoing globally.

Plans for a Prototype

The company said it will build a pre-fission test facility (PTF) at full scale, including the components of the fission island and the thermal power conversion chain. The fuel salt will not contain enriched uranium and will not sustain a chain reaction to generate power.

The components will be brought up to operating temperatures using electric heating. The absence of radioactivity allows intrusive instrumentation, direct observation, and internal access to components.

EPC Role for First of a Kind Unit

The plan is to build a 500 MW power plant at a world-class shipyard. The shipyard will be ThorCon’s EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) contractor. The expensive, massive, precision supercritical steam turbine-generator must be pre-ordered to achieve the one-year shipyard build time. ThorCon’s ship with the thorium reactor will be towed to the Indonesia near-shore site prepared with breakwaters and seawater cooling piping and a connection to the PLN electric power grid.

The firm has outlined plans for testing and commissioning of the first of a kind unit supervised by Indonesia’s Bapeten nuclear safety regulator. Once the first unit is in revenue service, it hopes to book orders for at least six more 500 MW units in global markets. The firm did not name potential customers.

India and China have been adapting CANDU type reactors to use thorium fuel. In 2018 English language media reports indicate that the Chinese Academy of Sciences has announced plans to invest $3 billion (USD) over the next two decades in development of molten salt reactors of various designs. A first order objective is reported to be the  development of a first of a kind 100MW thorium molten salt reactor in 2020 in the city of Wuwei in Gansu province. Commercial development is targeted for the early 2030s.

The program is called the Thorium-Breeding Molten Salt Reactor (TMSR). According to the media reports, the R&D program has two major components and both are tied to fuel types (solid and liquid) for various kinds of molten salt designs.

Indonesia / Officials Studying Russian Plans For New Nuclear,
Says Its Ambassador

(NucNet) Indonesian officials are studying a proposal by Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom to build the Southeast Asian country’s first nuclear power plant, the country’s ambassador to Russia Mohamad Wahid Supriyadi told state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti.

“Rosatom has prepared a detailed proposal for the first nuclear power plant in Indonesia. And we have already sent it… because various ministries in Indonesia will deal with this,” the ambassador said.

According to the ambassador, the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan on the island of Borneo has been proposed as a potential site for the plant.

USNC Collaborates with South Korean Industry Leaders
to Develop Advanced Nuclear Reactor Power Systems

Hyundai Engineering, Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute to Cooperate with USNC on Incorporating Best-in-Breed Technologies into Micro Modular Reactor

U.S.-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) announces the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Hyundai Engineering (HEC) and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI). The five-year agreement outlines goals for development of technologies that enhance the USNC Micro Modular Reactor’s (MMR) ability to produce and deliver carbon-free power, heat, and hydrogen. The value of the agreement in terms of cash, or engineering design and support services in return to equity, was not disclosed.

ulta safe process heat as a product
Potential end uses of heat from the MMR. Image: Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp.

There are two primary areas of exploration outlined in the MOU: Multiple MMR reactors can be linked together to provide between 5 and 10 MW of electricity per unit, up to 150 MW of heat, or a combination of the two.

High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR) plant – development and deployment of HTGR technology for supplying power as well as process-heat production, critical to the operations of industrial processing plants.

Very High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors (VHTR) plant – development and deployment of a VHTR system for production of hydrogen for use in fuel cells.

“We are committed to combining the simple, elegant design of our MMR with state-of-the-art energy-production technologies from around the world,” stated Francesco Venneri, CEO, USNC.

“Working with leaders like Hyundai Engineering and KAERI on advanced nuclear reactor technologies will improve the overall performance and value of our MMR, and accelerate our path to wide-scale deployment.”

USNC plans to incorporate technologies resulting from this collaboration into the MMR Project at the Chalk River Laboratories site in Ontario. The Chalk River MMR is currently in Stage 3 of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ thorough process to select proponents to construct and operate a small modular reactor (SMR) at that location. The firm is also involved in an R&D collaboration with CNL on fuel for the reactors.

According to the website of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, UNSC initiated Phase 1 of the vendor design review process in December 2016.

The USNC MMR Reactor consists of two plants: the nuclear plant that generates heat, and the adjacent power plant that converts heat into electricity or provides process heat for industrial applications.

The USNC system is designed to be uniquely simple, with minimal operations and maintenance requirements, and no on-site fuel storage, handling, or processing. Key to the overall design is USNC’s Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated (FCM) fuel, providing a new approach to reactor safety at the fuel level.

About The Ultra Safe MMR Reactor

Reactor Core – The reactor core consists of hexagonal graphite blocks containing stacks of FCM fuel pellets. The MMR reactor core has a low power density and a high heat capacity resulting in very slow and predictable temperature changes. The MMR reactor is fueled once for its lifetime.

Helium Coolant – Helium gas is the MMR™ reactor’s primary coolant. The helium passes through the nuclear core and is heated by the controlled nuclear fission process. The helium then transports the heat away from the core to the Molten Salt System.

The MMR reactor uses helium as it is an inert gas; a radiologically transparent, single-phase gas with no flashing or boiling possible. Helium does not react chemically with the fuel or reactor core components. It is easy to accurately measure and control the helium pressure in the reactor. The FCM fuel ensures the helium is clean and free of fission products.

Molten Salt Loop – Intermediate Heat Transfer Loop; The MMR plant is simple to operate, and flexible in its outputs. The use of molten salt thermal storage allows for significant flexibility in the supply of both electricity and process heat.

CEZ Signs Framework Deal with Czech Govt for New Nuclear Unit

(Reuters) – The Czech government this wek signed agreements with CEZ for a planned multi-billion dollar expansion of the majority state-owned utility’s Dukovany nuclear power plant.

The agreements cover the general framework of the project and its initial phase, including a competitive tender in which CEZ will seek to have a preferred list of suppliers by 2022 and sign a contract with one by 2024. Construction should start in 2029, when the bulk of costs will start, and the new unit is expected to be operational in 2036.

The Czech government is seeking to expand the use of nuclear energy to reduce its use of lignite coal for power generation.

The state, which holds a 70% stake in CEZ, last week approved plans to give an interest-free loan for the roughly 1,200 megawatt unit. Recently, it approved a model to buy electricity from the new unit at a determined price, with consumers making up the difference if that price is higher than wholesale market prices.

Officials have estimated a cost of approximately $7 billion. Critics, including some CEZ minority shareholders, argue costs could be much higher. CEZ may have to buy out the minority shareholders to stem the threat of lawsuits.

Russia’s Rosatom, China’s China General Nuclear Power, France’s Electricite de France, South Korea’s KHNP, U.S group Westinghouse, and a joint venture between France’s Orano – formerly known as Areva – and Japan’s Mitsubishi are expected to participate in a tender to build the plant.

# # #

The Misguided Exile of Nuclear Power


By Dan Lennon

1. Nuclear Accidents Have Been Overblown:

Due to media hype surrounding three major nuclear accidents, the risk of nuclear power has been greatly overstated and therefore public opinion is against it. As a result, this very valuable tool in our arsenal against climate change is being left on the sidelines. This will be seen someday as a mistake of enormous proportions.

Let’s consider each of the accidents:

A. Chernobyl:

The Chernobyl accident occurred on April 26, 1986 when the fourth reactor suffered a huge power increase, leading to the explosion of the plant. The reactor at Chernobyl was designed and built by the Soviet Union. Two very serious safety omissions were the absence of a steel containment vessel around the reactor core and the absence of a concrete containment dome around the reactor itself. With no containment, any significant failure was bound to be catastrophic. Furthermore, the personnel that operated the reactor were inadequately trained. These are radical departures from standard design and operating procedures in other countries, therefore the Chernobyl accident should be seen as an outlier, not a representative case.

As a result of the accident, 29 disaster relief workers died of acute radiation exposure in the immediate aftermath of the accident. In 2011, The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated the worldwide additional long-term cancer deaths at 45,600, an increase of 68 millionths of one percent. The worst affected were the 25,000 residents in the most contaminated areas. They experienced an increased cancer incidence of 4%, producing an estimated additional 1,000 early deaths over time. The IAEA had predicted 4,000 deaths. After the accident, all people were evacuated from a one thousand square mile exclusion zone. With man gone, wildlife has flourished so much that the area has become a tourist attraction.

B. Three Mile Island:

On March 29, 1979, a reactor at the Three Mile Island Plant in Middleton, Pennsylvania experienced a partial meltdown. Approximately 2 million people who lived around Three Mile Island during the accident received an average radiation dose of about 1 millirem above the area’s usual background dose of 125 to 150 millirem per year. By comparison, a chest X-ray is about 6 millirem. In spite of serious damage to the reactor, the accident had negligible effects on the physical health of individuals or the environment. There were no deaths.

C. Fukushima:

On March 11, 2011, power supply and cooling to three reactors was disabled following an earthquake and tsunami, causing a partial meltdown of all three. Although 154,000 Japanese citizens were evacuated from a 12-mile exclusion zone around the power station as a precaution, radiation exposure beyond the station grounds itself was limited. There was no major public exposure, and no deaths from radiation, however Fukushima prefecture counted 1,368 deaths related to the Fukushima plant accident. The cause was mainly displacement of the sick and elderly while in temporary housing and shelters, degraded living conditions, and separation from support networks.

There are 60 nuclear power plants in the U.S. and 450 worldwide that have been operating for decades without incident. Exaggerated reporting about these accidents has caused the safety concern in the public’s mind about nuclear energy to be greatly magnified. Surprisingly, coal presents a far greater risk of exposure to radioactivity.

2. Fossil Fuels are More Dangerous than Nuclear:

A. Death Rates From Nuclear v Fossil Fuels:

The fear of nuclear power has gone viral, but it is fueled by emotion. Here are the facts:

Coal has 333 times the death rate of nuclear; oil has 249 times the death rate of nuclear, biomass has 63 times the death rate of nuclear, and gas has 38 times the death rate of nuclear.

B. Coal Plants Emit More Radiation than Nuclear Plants:

Because coal contains trace amounts of uranium and thorium, and because a typical coal-fired power plant burns 10,000 tons of coal per day, the waste produced by coal plants is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant, a by-product from burning coal for electricity, carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy. This is because the radioactivity from coal plants is not regulated whereas the radioactivity from nuclear plants is. This is why working at a nuclear power plant is extremely safe.

3. Disposing of Nuclear Waste:

The issue of nuclear waste storage and disposal is complex and fraught with controversy. As in the United States, nearly every nuclear waste disposal program around the world has fallen behind schedule due to scientific uncertainty and public opposition.

In 1987, the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Depository was designated as the site for the disposal of U.S. nuclear waste. But the plan was vigorously opposed by the citizens of Nevada, the State of Nevada, and other non-local groups. As a result, funding for the depository ended in 2011. This was not a technological failure, but a political one. Nuclear waste continues to be stored in spent fuel pools at reactor sites where the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has determined that spent nuclear fuel can safely be stored for at least the next 100 years.

As of 2019, the status of the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain remains uncertain. The site has been abandoned and nothing exists but a boarded up exploratory tunnel; there are no waste disposal tunnels, receiving and handling facilities, and the waste containers and transportation casks have yet to be developed. Moreover, there is no railroad to the site, and the cost to build a railroad through Nevada could exceed $3 billion. Today, the only thing that actually exists at Yucca Mountain is a single 5-mile exploratory tunnel. And there is also ongoing debate over whether the geologic features and proposed engineered barriers at Yucca Mountain will provide sufficient isolation for permanent disposal.

The Yucca Mountain repository would have a capacity of 77,000 tons. In 2003, 46,000 tons of high-level waste was stored around the country. Nuclear power facilities produce an additional 2,000 tons of waste a year. However, spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste would be shipped to Yucca Mountain on an unprecedented scale. According to a recent study completed by the National Academy of Sciences, just one year of waste shipments to Yucca Mountain would exceed all shipments made in the past 30 years. This raises a big question about the safety of transporting this material.

4. Cost of Nuclear v Solar:

If you consider only construction costs, solar is cheaper than nuclear. But nuclear plants operate at 90% capacity and solar plants only operate at most around 25%, so you would need to build four times the capacity of solar power to equal the power of nuclear.

Even with this adjustment, some calculations show that solar is still cheaper. It remains a subject of debate. But the cost of a solar plant does not take into consideration the cost of providing backup energy for solar which is legally mandated in most jurisdictions. The costs are both financial and environmental because this backup is provided by plants that run on fossil fuel. And it doesn’t count the considerable cost involved in building a vast global energy storage capacity that is currently not within the realm of our technology. The same argument applies to wind turbines, except that wind turbines are about twice as efficient as solar farms, so would need to build twice the capacity for them in order to match nuclear.

5. Lead Time to Build/Need for Federal Subsidy:

In 2013, after 30 years with no new construction of nuclear power plants, work began to expand the V.C. Summer nuclear power plant near Jenkinsville, S.C. Two new reactors were to be built at a cost of $9B. Unit 2 was to become operational in 2016 and unit 3 in 2019. By 2017 the operational dates had been pushed back to 2020, the project was only 40% complete, and cost overruns were expected to run the project cost up to $23 billion. The owners decided to abandon the project rather than saddle their customers with additional costs.

In 2013 work began to expand the Vogtle nuclear power plant near Waynesboro, Georgia. Two new reactors were to be built at a cost of $14 billion. They were scheduled to become operational in 2016. By 2018 the operational dates had been pushed back to 2021 for unit 3 and 2022 for unit 4, and cost overruns were expected to run the project cost up to $28B. Despite talk of abandoning the project, work continues.

Here’s why these projects have been plagued with problems:

  • Since these are new designs with passive safety systems and a smaller footprint, they should be less expensive to build, but with new designs there is always a learning curve.
  • Since no nuclear plants have been built in the U.S. in 30 years, there is little experience. For the same reason, everything from manufacturing to supply chains to regulation is ad-hoc.
  • There is no existing manufacturing infrastructure and therefore no economies of scale, so the contractors must bear the high fixed costs of building the infrastructure.
  • Without trained personnel, quality control and construction problems increase.
  • On the regulatory side, the NRC and state authorities err on the side of caution which dramatically slows the building process.

The drawback with evaluating the success of these projects based solely on return on investment and cost to consumers is that it ignores the consequences of continuing to rely on fossil fuels. The cost of continuing to increase GHG emissions will ultimately be much higher than the cost of building these plants.

Moreover, one-third of the United States’ nuclear power fleet – 21 of 60 facilities – could be closed in the next decade before their operating licenses expire. These are mostly smaller, single reactor plants, but they provide more than one-fifth of the country’s 800 TWh (terawatt hours) of electricity from nuclear power. If they are not replaced with new nuclear plants, they will be replaced with coal and natural gas plants which would generate an estimated 275 million tons of additional CO2 annually.

What we don’t seem to be factoring into our decisions about nuclear is the consequences of not replacing fossil fuels as quickly as possible. It should not just be a matter of letting the markets decide. Nuclear is not a substitute for renewables, but it is a clean source of energy that should be included in a portfolio of GHG emission abatement efforts.

The government must step in and pay for the cost overruns on these new plants as part of an aggressive R&D budget. Once the problems normally associated with cutting edge technology and the learning curve associated with its implementation are solved, the costs will be much lower and in the range that are economically competitive.

But the Federal Government is not doing enough. The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is a Federal program mandated by Congress to coordinate Federal research and investments in understanding the forces shaping the global environment and their impacts on society. In 2016 (the latest I could find) it’s budget was $2.6 billion divided among 13 different agencies. By comparison, the 2018 R&D budget for the Department of Defense was $96 billion. We have the money to do this, but our priorities are terribly wrong. Another aircraft carrier or nuclear submarine is not going to be very helpful if we can’t feed ourselves.

6. Baseline Load:

To be efficient, the electric industry must match power supply with power demand. And it must provide electricity reliably. Most electricity is provided by large coal, gas, and nuclear power plants that run constantly at a maximum capacity that is designed to meet the grid’s usual demand (the baseline load). These plants are the most efficient at generating power, but it takes 8 to 10 hours for them to warm up and come on-line, and they can only operate at their peak power and cannot be adjusted to meet peak demands. In industry jargon, they are not “dispatchable” sources. To meet this demand, the industry has power plants that use gas turbines or diesel engines. They can come on-line in 10 or 15 minutes but are not very efficient.

Now consider renewable energy sources. Because their power supply is intermittent and does not match demand, we cannot count on them to supply either a base load or peak demand. This means that, until battery technology can be deployed on a global scale so that renewable energy can be stored for when it is needed, we will continue to need both large baseline power plants and peak supply power plants.

The largest battery backup plant in the world is the facility built by Tesla at the Hornsdale Power Reserve in Florida. It can store a maximum of 129 megawatt-hours of electricity – enough to supply 30,000 houses with electricity for 8 hours. This is tiny compared with the amount of renewable energy that will eventually have to be stored globally. And the plant cost $61 million, so large-scale deployment of the current technology is not feasible.

Raising the share of electricity produced by renewables above 40% creates at least two adverse effects:

  • First, because baseline power produced by large power plants cannot be reduced, more and more solar farms and wind turbines must be unplugged from the system during their most productive hours because more electricity is being produced than is needed. This adversely affects both traditional power suppliers and renewable suppliers.
  • Second, more back-up generating capacity is needed to fill in when wind and solar are not generating power. So there is a natural stopping point at which a marginal increment of wind or solar will become unprofitable. It has been estimated that solar and wind can only economically supply electricity to its maximum rated capacity. For wind power, this typically ranges between 20 and 40 percent, while for solar it runs between 10 and 25 percent. This means that the maximum percentage of electricity that can economically be generated by solar and wind is between 30 and 55 percent of demand.

7. Nuclear Fusion

Work continues on fusion powered plants. The advantages of fusion are high power density, low and manageable waste production, and no possibility of uncontrolled energy release. But fusion requires heating hydrogen to over 100,000,000o C at which temperature electrons are stripped from nuclei and the hydrogen becomes a plasma. This is no mean feat. And controlling the plasma is also very difficult. The behavior of plasma is chaotic. It is too hot to touch the walls of the tokamak (the containment vessel), and so it must be suspended in air by magnetic fields. Stellarators are devices that control the magnets that control the plasma by twisting its flow in specific ways. A recent new stellarator design using a fixed magnet offers a simpler approach than previous designs, and this may accelerate progress in controlling the plasma.

The largest fusion experiment in the world is ITER (the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) being built by an international consortium in Provence in the south of France at a cost of $2 billion. But despite its price tag, ITER is just a proof-of-concept plant and will not provide energy for public use. And it isn’t scheduled for full power operation until 2035. Optimistically, if we get some breaks and don’t run into any insurmountable obstacles, we could see the first fusion plant online between 2050 or 2060. In the meantime, we need non-polluting baseline power now, and only fission can provide that.

Nuclear is not the sole solution, but it could be the most important element of the EDF’S portfolio of Fourth Wave Environmental Innovation to bridge us to the day when we get all our power from fusion reactors.

8. Conclusion:

We must immediately begin replacing fossil fuels with clean energy at a scale that can provide both secure baseline power and reliable peak demand power. It makes sense that we choose the only source of clean energy that can do this – nuclear.

Previously published on


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Destination Moon: A 70th Anniversary Appreciation

Al Jackson is back this morning with an essay examining another old friend, the 1950 film Destination Moon. Talk about fond memories! I first encountered the movie at a birthday party for a bunch of unruly 4th graders, finding the birthday boy absorbed in watching the spaceship Luna enroute to the Moon in an upstairs room while the party went on below. I stayed right there until his mother came up to scold him and bring us both back down to eat cake, dying to know what happened. Since then I’ve enjoyed the film numerous times, especially appreciating the Woody Woodpecker teaching sequence and the ingenious solution to the crew’s problems getting everyone back home. A veteran of the Apollo days and a science fiction fan with encyclopedic knowledge of the field, Dr. Jackson gives us a look at how the film was made and illuminates Robert Heinlein’s connections to the project. Time to pull out my DVD for another look.

by Albert A Jackson

I was two weeks away from age 7 in October 1947 when Chuck Yeager flew the Bell X-1 at Mach 1 over Rogers Dry Lake in California. That really seized my mind; I read what I could about rockets and jets. I built a StromBecker wooden model of the X-1. I finally got a spaceflight book in early 1951, when I was 10: Rockets, Jets, Guided Missiles and Space Ships, by Jack Coggins and Fletcher Pratt. Quite a treasure! I did not see a copy of Bonestell and Ley’s 1949 book Conquest of Space, which would have been a bit overwhelming when I was 10, until about 20 years later.

I remember seeing an article in LIFE magazine, (April 24th 1950), for a movie called Destination Moon [1]. Later there were ads for the film that really caught my eye. There was a movie about a rocket going to the Moon with people in spacesuits. There were even radio ads that I heard. Alas, I was 10 in the fall of 1950, and my family was 2 years away from taking me and brother and sister to downtown theaters. Destination Moon may have come to a neighborhood theater in the spring of 1951 but I did not see the film until the fall of that year at a kiddie matinee. The wait was worth it, for it was a moment of transport.


Destination Moon, or something like it, probably would have been made in the late 40s or early 50s; it pretty much owes its origin to Frau im Mond, the 1929 Fritz Lang film about a trip to the Moon. Willy Ley, who had worked as an uncredited technical adviser on that Fritz Lang film, came to know Lang well. (The technical adviser on Frau im Mond was Hermann Oberth, who Ley knew. Even though Oberth studied in Munich he was from a small town and hated Weimar Berlin. Ley had to shepherd him around and act as a liaison for Lang.) Lang moved to Los Angeles after the Nazis came to power. After the end of World War II, Robert Heinlein moved back to Los Angeles. During this time Willy Ley, who Heinlein knew, would come to LA to visit Lang.

With the end of World War II, Heinlein began to develop a close interest in rockets and atomic power. He made it a personal campaign at the end of 1945 and beginning of 1946 to get the Navy interested in rockets [2, 3]. The advent of the large rocket, the V2, was on Lang’s mind too; he talked to Ley about making another movie about a spaceship to the Moon. Ley put Lang in touch with Heinlein. Lang invited the Heinleins for dinner often in 1946 and 1947. During those years. Lang and Heinlein talked about a lot of things, Heinlein was reluctant to start writing young adult novels, but Lang convinced Heinlein it would be an excellent way to connect with an audience that had an appetite for space flight. So Heinlein wrote Rocket Ship Galileo, which turned out to be a commercial success. Finally, in March of 1948 [2, 3], Lang had Heinlein huddle with him over making a film. At first Heinlein suggested Rocket Ship Galileo, but he and Lang decided they needed a more adult narrative. During this time, Lang spent a lot of time trying to convince a studio to finance a film about a trip to the Moon. None would have it. Heinlein had earlier taken on a Hollywood agent, Lou Schor, because of the need to handle possible radio adaptations of his works. When Heinlein suggested that he and Lang use his Hollywood agent, Lang had a problem with this. This led, by mid-1948, to Heinlein and Lang parting ways, though they remained friends [2, 3].

Screenplay and George Pal

Heinlein now had a ‘Hollywood bug’, likely because he had just come out of a rough financial period. Lou Schor put him in touch with screen writer Alford (Rip) Van Ronkel [2, 3]. After a week of talking, Van Ronkel suggested Heinlein write a treatment of the story. Heinlein did this, and within a few weeks handed van Ronkel a 97 page story narrative called ‘Operation: Moon’ on July 21 1948 [3]. Heinlein may have had an extensive outline in hand from his work with Fritz Lang. Using his novel Rocket Ship Galileo, Heinlein took only the narrative about an atomic powered rocket, a trip to the Moon and a crew of four, now adults (the Nazis on the Moon in the novel were removed). Some of Heinlein’s “The Man Who Sold the Moon” also diffused into the treatment. Within a few weeks, van Ronkel wrote the first draft of the screenplay for the film. Shortly thereafter, Schor arranged for Van Ronkel to be at a cocktail party where he introduced him to George Pal; there he told Pal about the screenplay. At this time Pal wanted to move from his animated “Puppetoons” into full-up film features. Also, Pal’s home studio had lost its financing. Pal was intrigued and had Heinlein and Van Ronkel come to his office for a pitch meeting [2, 3]. They struck a deal; Pal took the project to Paramount, but that studio said no [4].

Heinlein and his wife Virginia moved to Colorado Springs in the fall of 1948. Pal was striking out when it came to finding a studio when the former head of RKO, Peter Rathvon, formed his own production company, Eagle-Lion, and showed interest. He made a deal with Pal for two films, although he considered Destination Moon too speculative, so arranged things so that if it had losses, Pal would make a ‘Christmas Film’ called “The Great Rupert” to cover Destination Moon’s shortfall at the box office. It turned out the other way around! [2, 3]

It took until May of 1949 for Pal to swing this deal. In April 1949 Heinlein finally got paid for the screen story and the rights to Rocket Ship Galileo (even though very little of the novel was to be used). Heinlein also contracted to be the technical adviser (1) for the movie. He insisted that Chesley Bonestell be hired to work on the film [3]. Heinlein and Virginia moved, temporarily, back to LA. There, he worked with the production design crew and director Irving Pichel. He found Pichel to be bright, understanding and in agreement about the story. This was good because Rathvon convinced Pal to take on another screen writer, James O’Hanlon, who rewrote the script even to the point of making it a musical, or at least inserting a musical number! (2) Thankfully almost all of O’Hanlon’s revisions were torn up by Pichel. Shooting was delayed from summer of 1949 to November so that The Great Rupert could be completed, which Pichel also directed. Principal photography on Destination Moon began on the 14th of November, 1949, and ran until roughly the 16th of December.

Image: Robert Heinlein with director Irving Pichel

Heinlein and Bonestell worked out many designs for the film. The space ship, called Luna, was initially submitted by Bonestell, and was the Lunar ship (2) in Conquest of Space by Ley and Bonestell [6], except that Bonestell (maybe consulting with Heinlein) did away with the aft V2-like fins and modified the wings. (2) Art director Ernst Fegté changed the design, keeping the central ogive and moving the wings back, the wings and a strut became part of the ‘landing gear’.

Luna is a beautiful ship and is functional enough. Bonestell made a model of the landing site, the crater Harpalus, and then a 14 foot matte lunar surface painting for the set. Pal’s production crew spent 2 months building the on-set ‘surface’. Heinlein and Bonestell were appalled when they saw it! It looked like a dried lake bed, impossible on the Moon. Pal and cinematographer Lionel Lindon decided that on a relatively small set they needed to increase the depth of field , so the added ‘cracks’. Heinlein went along with this, but Bonestell was never happy with it. Luna’s cockpit had to be designed four times in a back and forth between Heinlein and Bonestell and production design. Amazingly the cockpit was a rotating set [10], quite a feat for 1949, on a budget, (roughly 18 years before Kubrick used one, in a spaceflight movie, Kubrick and Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey).

Image: At left is the ship from Conquest of Space; at right is Bonestell’s design for Destination Moon.

The Movie

The movie starts in a block house with stock footage of a V2 launch. This is the only time we see a control room, one that looks pretty good, if simplified. Heinlein was in one when he went to a V2 launch at White Sands, New Mexico in 1946 [3]. There is a ‘motor’ failure, which is a bit kludgy since Dr. Charles Cargraves ‘engine’ is supposed to be a nuclear reactor. There is talk about sabotage but it’s all kind of vague. A technician, Joe Sweeney, is about to run outside but Cargraves (3) stops him.

General Thayer later visits Jim Barnes, owner of an aircraft company, and tells him he suspects the rocket was sabotaged. Thayer wants Barnes to help Cargraves. He also speculates that the next rocket Cargraves builds will have an improved engine powered by atomic energy and could travel to the Moon. Jim is skeptical, but Thayer convinces him that the combined resources of American industry could put a rocket on the Moon within a year.

We have now been introduced to the crew that goes to the Moon: John Archer as Jim Barnes, Warner Anderson as Dr. Charles Cargraves, Tom Powers as General Thayer and Dick Wesson as Joe Sweeney. Pal, as some references say, looked for a cast of actors who were unknown but is not clear why it was B-list wooden Indians (4)! It is not Z- level movie acting but certainly near low B level. Dick Wesson is the comic-relief, an old Hollywood cliché, and it seems Heinlein went along with this. Wesson’s character plays the part of an ‘everyman’ to whom some of the scientific facts can be explained.

At a formal gathering, Jim tries to interest a consortium of industrial leaders in the project, and he shows them a Woody Woodpecker cartoon that explains how space travel could become a scientific reality. Besides teaching some basic physics, the cartoon has mission detail never mentioned elsewhere in the film, namely that when Luna returns to Earth there is some areo-breaking and a landing by parachute [1], with fins down but no full retro rocket landing.

Image: Woody Woodpecker explains rocket flight, and recovery methods on Earth.

General Thayer tells the group it is vital to global security that America be the first country to reach the Moon, warning that a foreign power could use the Moon as a missile base and thus gain control of the earth. Shades of the cold war! The industrialists fall all over themselves to finance the project. No mention is made of just which foreign power he is talking about.

When Luna is finished, Cargraves receives word that the government has denied his request to test it at the construction site, citing concerns about radioactive fallout. (Actually as I will note later, and though Heinlein would not have known it, this would have been an extremely dangerous launch.) Growing public opposition to the project leads Jim to suspect they have been targeted by a subversive propaganda campaign, and he decides to launch the rocket without waiting for permission. The crew is Cargraves, Barnes, Thayer and replacement radio man Sweeney. There is a stressful launch. High-g tests were being done by the Aeronautical Systems Center in 1948. I don’t know if there were photographs of the effects — it was not hard to extrapolate that a 5 g launch would distort the face — but this was a bit overdone in the film, and I’m not sure why Heinlein decided on 5 gs. It is notable that there are no ground control scenes, though indirectly we see what looks like a control center. We see the initial liftoff but not even a portion of the ascent. That could have been due to budget constraints. Almost all the ascent is depicted inside the ‘cockpit’.

Image: Cockpit during ascent. Couches and control panels to the right in the rotating cockpit set.

Once they are in transit to the Moon, the men don magnetic boots, which allow them to walk around in the zero g environment. Zero g had been accounted for in Frau im Mond (though in that film it never appears on screen). Destination Moon seems to be the first ‘full up’ portrayal of freefall. Those magnetic boots were a bit clunky but served their purpose.

Image: Zero g in Destination Moon.

There is a failure of the radar antenna, forcing the crew to put on spacesuits and go outside the ship to repair it. The suits are derived from pressure suits Heinlein had seen at the labs at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard where he worked in WWII. Science fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp, also there, had been involved with this. The suits have a remarkable resemblance to some from 1943 (2a). I also think this is a better airlock in a film about space flight because the one in Frau im Mond is kind of confusing. This airlock is nicely functional.

Cargraves, of all people, loses magnetic contact with the ship and goes adrift in space (it would have been hard to train for this zero-g extravehicular activity on the ground!). He has to be rescued. The outside point of view shots are very nicely done, with some good stop-motion work with miniatures, one of Pal’s specialties. Heinlein noted that the star background was the best they could do in 1949 [10], but it looks good enough.

The ship eventually approaches the Moon, and having to account for rough terrain, they do some translating (shades of Apollo 11!) before finally touching down, though they have used more propellant than expected. This sequence starts with a beautiful outside shot of Luna rotating to a tail-down attitude with the lunar surface below. Attitude control seems to be by ‘gyro’ alone, as it seems no one thought of attitude jets. An auto-pilot is mentioned several times and seems to be in command many times. I am pretty sure all these technicalities are due to Heinlein (2a).

Cargraves and Barnes emerge from the ship to climb down a long row of retractable ladder rungs; there is some good stop-motion work here. The duo claim the Moon in the name of the United States. “By the grace of God and in the name of the United States of America… I take possession of this planet on behalf of, and for the benefit of…all mankind.” The technicalities of just how one would enforce that claim are left hanging in the vacuum.

Image: On the Lunar surface with the ‘cracks’ Bonestell hated. The full sized bottom of Luna.

The crew members conduct scientific tests, with General Thayer discovering there may be deposits of uranium on the Moon. There is some 1/6th-g action in a traverse. I am not sure but this may have been the only low-g demonstration on the Moon in a movie until recent times. Some of this was done with suited midgets on wires using forced perspective on a small lunar landscape set.

Barnes communicates by radio with Dr. Hastings at ‘mission control’ back home (we never see ‘mission control’, or Hastings, the astrodynamics guy back on Earth). Hastings confirms that their difficulties during landing used up too much of their reaction mass. Not clear why it was Barnes talking with Hastings, since Cargraves would have had more technical knowledge.

The earlier extravehicular activity (EVA), during transit, was just a minor mishap; now have a real problem to solve. Hastings instructs them to lighten the ship, and the men strip off nearly 3,000 pounds by removing metal fixtures and discarding all non-essential equipment. When Hastings tells them they must eliminate another 110 pounds, Thayer, Cargraves and Branes each volunteer to stay behind. They are about to draw lots when Sweeney sneaks out of the ship. He urges the others to leave, but Jim devises a way for them to discard the radio and the last spacesuit, thus reaching their weight goal. The ship takes off successfully, and the four men joyfully begin their journey back to Earth. Those high-g couches must have smarted without their cushions! Unlike the Earth launch more of the ascent is shown, and it is not so ‘sparky’, with better exhaust effect. One supposes they got back without having to do an EVA! Earth recovery required only a very small reaction mass (5). (The shooting script, maybe added by O’Hanlon, had scenes of domestic life with Cargraves and his wife at home. These may have been shot and then cut for the final movie).

Image: Lunar descent and ascent in the film.

Luna and Technology

It is quite striking that the spaceship in Destination Moon is single stage to the Moon and back. Heinlein had used this in his ‘kind of Tom Swiftian’ novel Rocket Ship Galileo, and it was one of the few technologies he brought over to Destination Moon from that novel. If one listens carefully when General Thayer is talking to Barnes, he mentions two numbers: an exhaust velocity of 30,000 ft/sec and a thrust of 3,000,000 pounds [1]. Exhaust velocity of 30,000 ft. per second is 9144 meters per second. Heinlein would have known that to do a single stage to the Moon, the delta V budget is 15 to 16 km/sec. Playing with the rocket equation, if one picks a mass ratio of 5 and calculates the exhaust speed, one gets about 9000 m/sec. It also implies an Isp of about 1000. No ordinary chemical fuel has a specific impulse like that. A number of guys at Los Alamos had realized that Isp was attainable with atomic energy. The first mention of an atomic rocket motor, before 1945, may have been Stan Ulam. Many technical reports came in 1945-1948 [14, 15, 16, and 17].

Heinlein knew Robert Cornog, who was at Los Alamos and would have known the skinny on nuclear rocket propulsion. Cornog had probably seen reports by Theodore von Karman and Hsue-Shen Tsien (1945) [17]), as well as Robert Serber (1946) [14], and Cornog wrote a report of his own (1945) [15]. Shepherd and Cleaver were the first to describe nuclear rockets in the open literature in 1948 [16]. Heinlein knew Cornog well and helped him keep a clearance after the war. The same calculation by Willy Ley (early 1949 [6]) is, in a roundabout way, in Conquest of Space.

The reactor in Destination Moon is never described, but it is not the rather funky Thorium one in Rocket Ship Galileo. The word ‘reactor’ is never used; it is usually ‘pile’, and the reactor seems to be a solid core. The reaction mass in the Destination Moon propulsion system is water, which would be very easy and safe to handle. The problem is that one can’t get an Isp of 1000 using water with a solid core nuclear engine. One can — I doubt Heinlein knew this — do it with a liquid core nuclear reactor (5), attaining an Isp of 1000 seconds.

Piecing together clues from the dialog in the screenplay, Heinlein’s novelette and his article in Astounding [10], some people have figured out the size and mass of Luna (5). The ship is 150 ft tall, with a ‘wet’ mass of about 250 metric tons and a dry mass of about 50 metric tons. Luna is a very good extrapolation fix-up from Rocket Ship Galileo, and not a sort of ‘hobby’ ship as in the novel. It is more planned, and put together by a SpaceX-like company without government money.

One element in the film where the government was right — Heinlein would not have known this — is that a liquid core nuclear rocket (5) has a radioactive plume coming off the reactor system which would be a cloud of death. The system would have been extremely hazardous if used in the atmosphere. The order sent to the launch site, which Barnes ignores, was thus correct. Liquid core atomic rocket engines were not proposed until 1953.

Guidance, navigation and control goes under the heading ‘automatic pilot’ in the movie, since we don’t really know, as far as I can tell, what date the flight is made (it looks like 1950). Heinlein makes the extrapolation that the electronics for doing this exists in the story. Note that Werner von Braun worked up The Mars Project in 1948 with the same kind of vacuum tube GNC systems, with no details given.

There is the use of ‘gyro’ attitude control, common to other writers about space flight at the time. Reaction jet attitude control was known in the engineering community but didn’t seem to get into science fiction. Gyro control was a favorite of von Braun also.

When it came to spacesuits (2a), Heinlein had experience with the issue during WWII at the Aeronautical Materials Lab at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where he was a supervisor. L Sprague de Camp was recruited by Heinlein and was studying high altitude pressure suits. The spacesuits in Destination Moon were based on these [24]. I can only recall one movie before Destination Moon, Frau im Mond, that had spacesuits, and they were not really needed there.

Image: Pressure suits in the film on the left; on the right, a design being tested in Philadelphia in 1945.


Destination Moon is the product mainly of Robert Heinlein (6), facilitated by producer George Pal and film director Irving Pichel. Heinlein, when talking about a possible film with Friz Lang, started a reformulation of Rocket Ship Galileo into a more mature narrative. The Nazis (6) are jettisoned, and his ‘treatment’ seems reflected in the novelette he wrote of the same name [13]. After things did not work out with Lang, he wrote a treatment of his conversations with Lang and incorporated some of ‘The Man who Sold the Moon” within it. The ‘screenplay’ is online. It is all dialog, with no scene headings, action or transitions, which is odd, but probably this is just one of several script forms for the movie.

It is not clear what Pal wanted in the screenplay, but he was committed to a sort of docudrama. That’s what made the film an almost Popular Mechanics movie, so to speak. Pichel seemed to go out of his way to give Pal what he wanted. There was outside interference — the owner and CEO at Eagle-Lion, Peter Rathvon, imposed screenwriter James O’Hanlon, who inserted goofy stuff like musical numbers! (7). Pichel threw away all of O’Hanlon’s ‘script-doctoring’; there seems no record of what Pal thought of this, but he sure did not discipline Pichel. (Nor do we know what Rathvon thought of the final film which he was so nervous about).

Heinlein and Ginny returned to LA for film production in June of 1949 and remained until February of 1950. It is not clear if Heinlein advised on any of the post-production work, which was not completed until April 1, 1950. The finished film, if one could see a pristine version, looks great in Technicolor. The budget of almost $600,000 was not generous but sufficient, with hard work, to produce good special effects and production design. Heinlein was paid for the option of Rocket Ship Galileo and paid a portion for the screenplay; also, he was hired as technical consultant. I could not find what he got paid but it was enough for him and Ginny to get a start on a house in Colorado Springs [3].

Heinlein and Ginny returned to Colorado Springs in February, 1950. Patterson states the advertising and promotion of the film had a budget of $1.2 million, which is twice as much as production cost [3]. (I also found a promotion budget of $500,000 for the film [19].) Heinlein did publicity work in LA before he left, even a TV interview show with Pal and Bonestell [20]. Magazine and radio ads were everywhere and created a buzz for the movie [2, 3].

The film premiered in New York on June 27th, 1950. It seems that John W. Campbell was there, but it is not clear if Willy Ley or any of the New York Futurians attended. Bosley Crowther’s review in the New York Times was favorable, finding the film a visual treat; he was not much taken with the narrative drama. Other film reviews of the time were favorable, seemingly because of its novelty. Destination Moon made $5 million on its first run, which is almost a 3-multiplier (or a 5-multiplier if the advertising budget was 500,000), very good by modern standards.

Alas, much of profit was eaten up by coverage of the losses from The Great Rupert. The film would have made more but Eagle-Lion ran into distribution problems due to distribution control by the major studios [19]. Eagle-Lion entered into litigation for several years. Neither Peter Rathvon nor James O’Hanlon’s reaction to the film seems to be on record anywhere. Patterson’s biography does not make clear when Heinlein saw the film. He had to wait two years to get royalties for the first run, a little over $4000, and four more years before he got a small final payment [3].

Destination Moon is a bit of a quirk in film history. The public interest in science and technology was impacted by World War II, the atomic bomb, ballistic missiles, supersonic flight, radar, and the Cold War. Hollywood in 1948 was still in a mode that considered spaceflight crazy Buck Roger’s stuff. It took an independent studio and maverick producer and a science fiction grand master to get the film made.

In a way, Destination Moon was a sort of culmination of John W Campbell’s ambition to move away from pulp SF to something more sophisticated. The film is about as far away from Brass Bras and Bug Eyed Monsters as one can get. Destination Moon’s success did not usher in a great era of space flight movies. Its competitor in 1950, Rocket Ship X-M, was actually a more interesting story although with silly engineering physics and a pulp-fiction Mars story. Pal followed with a film based on the second rate SF novel When Worlds Collide, and we got the totally goofy, pulpish Flight to Mars in 1951.

There were some weak efforts after 1951. Heinlein had a possible TV series called The World Beyond, but the pilot was released as a poorly financed movie called Project Moon Base. Pal’s 1955 Conquest of Space was the last serious space flight movie of the 1950’s. Alas, even though technically pretty good, James O’Hanlon seemed to get his revenge with a sappy story for the film. Then followed a torrent of schlock SF, awful films most of which were not even up to bad pulp standards! (8)

Destination Moon is a unique film. It took 18 years before there was a film with the same factual rigor, and probably more — that was 2001: A Space Odyssey. Destination Moon was influential; I know it impacted my life. When I was 11, I had no idea who Robert Heinlein (9) was. A year later I was reading his young adult novels. Almost simultaneously, in 1952, the Colliers series on spaceflight came out, then the Disney TV series. I could not imagine, at the time, that I was headed toward participating in Apollo and the first lunar landing. Looking back I am still a bit amazed.


1. At one point Heinlein suggested a backup technical adviser, Jack Parsons. That was odd; Parsons only real knowledge was rocket propellants. At that time, there were three guys from CalTech who Parsons knew and they were young and significant experts in spaceflight: Frank Malina, Martin Summerfeld and Hsue-Shen Tsien. Apparently Heinlein met Tsien but not Malina or Sommerfeld. They were all in LA at the time. Malina was an SF fan and expert in the new field of spaceflight, but apparently Heinlein never met him.

Chesley Bonestell did some technical advising on the film.

It is not clear if Pal agreed with Rathvon’s interference. Pal had wanted a documentary-style film and he had it in hand. Adding O’Hanlon meant some money when to him.

Heinlein wrote Willy Ley asking technical questions. Ley was not happy about this. He wrote back an angry letter asking to be paid for consulting. At the time Ley was strapped for money; I also wonder if he was a bit upset that he had been a facilitator of the whole course of events, since Conquest of Space seemed to be an input to the movie too. Heinlein tried to smooth things over but Ley remained unhappy [5]. In the 1954 edition of Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel, Ley has a footnote about Destination Moon, saying he liked the film and praising its technical information [7].

Heinlein also consulted astrophysicist Fred Zwicky at CalTech and Robert S Richardson, an astronomer at Palomar Observatory and an SF author. Richardson did some detailed astrodynamics for Heinlein for Destination Moon.

2. Luna shows up in at least one or two more films, but Bonestell’s modified Conquest of Space ship is copied an uncountable number of times in movies [8, 9]. It shows up next in the 1951 Flight to Mars, and in modified versions on Tom Corbett Space Cadet and other TV shows.

2a. The spacesuits were suggested by Heinlein [3]. Like Luna, they were copied in other movies and TV shows many times. Color coding on uniforms and other similar clothes was not new, but the film used it to good advantage and it enhanced the Technicolor. It’s interesting that years later Kubrick used the same suit colors in 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the commander in red and the 2nd in command in yellow, with blue suits for the other crew and green for the suit in the emergency entrance [8].

Werner von Braun had, in 1948, vacuum tube guidance, navigation and control technology in the mission design for his Mars Project.

3. Cargraves is the only character carried over from Rocket Ship Galileo. The name seems to be a play on the name of Sir William Congreve, a 19th century military solid rocket pioneer.

4. Pal was looking to keep the budget down. It is not clear why he picked these actors or if Pichel could have gotten better performances. Pichel as veteran actor could have doubled as a character himself. Across town, Lippert Pictures made a film to piggyback on Destination Moon’s publicity campaign, Rocket Ship X-M, (where M is Moon). The screenplay by Dalton Trumbo is full of scientific howlers but the story is not as awful as the 1953 Cat Women of the Moon (or other Z movies of the 50s). On a budget of $94,000, Lippert hired good actors like John Emery and Noah Beery, Jr., as well as Lloyd Bridges and Hugh O’Brian. These guys sure would have been an improvement in Destination Moon even with the same dialog.

Heinlein found out about Rocket Ship X-M through a letter from L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard claimed to be working on that film, though as far as can be determined, he had nothing to do with it [2,3]. How Pal’s film became known to Lippert is not known, although Heinlein had informed Forest J Ackerman about Destination Moon’s greenlighting in May of 1949. Destination Moon seems to have become known to fans in the LA area in early 1949. It is odd that Lippert even put up $94,000 when all the majors were nervous about a movie Moon-trip story.

5. Winchell Chung at the web site Atomic Rockets has the best summary, with some massaged numbers to make the dynamics of Luna work better. I think he is the first to notice that using water as the reaction mass requires a liquid core nuclear reactor [18].

6. Heinlein in his prose was an accomplished storyteller and good at writing dialog. The novelette Destination Moon has better dialog, though not polished. The basic story feels guided by Heinlein’s hand but in a very strict narrative. He wanted a no-nonsense story line and that is what results.

In the novelette Destination Moon, ‘domes’ are found, supposedly Russian. I doubt this was in any version of the screenplay. Nazis on the Moon became a pop-idea that would not die. This is what the film Iron Sky (2012) was about.

7. Pal must have had a weak spot for this; in the 1955 film Conquest of Space, O’Hanlon inserted a televised musical number by Rosemary Clooney to the space station.

8. Ley finally got some money from Pal by selling him the rights to Conquest of Space, which had no film story in it [4]. Conquest of Space seems to have had no technical adviser, although director Byron Haskin is quoted as saying he talked to Werner von Braun a lot [21]. However, there is a picture of Pal, Bonestell, Ley and director Haskins around a large table with Ley expounding on technical issues.

The movie Conquest of Space, aside from the narrative, is an odd mix of von Braun, Ley and Bonestell’s popularization of space flight by way of the Collier’s series, von Braun’s The Mars Project and the book The Exploration of Mars. An April 1954 issue of Collier’s (the last issue of the spaceflight series) had a full realization of the 1948 von Braun Mars Project. Ley and Bonestell were pressuring von Braun to make a book of this. However, von Braun wanted to redesign the expedition, taking the Mars fleet down from 10 ships to 2. The movie Conquest of Space took it down to 1. Most of the rest of the design was from the Collier’s series: The space station, the spacesuits, the orbital ferries and the Mars ship. Somehow some retrorockets got added to the Mars ship; I doubt that was von Braun’s design.
I could not find a single reference that related what Wernher von Braun thought of Destination Moon.

Except for Destination Moon and Conquest of Space, I don’t think a single spaceflight movie in the 1950s had a technical adviser.

9. Reading several essays about Destination Moon it is strange how Heinlein’s involvement is either not mentioned or touched upon only briefly. The Moon flight film would have never been made if it had not been for Ley’s introduction to Lang, after Heinlein broke with Lang, and if Heinlein had not persisted with the story and screenplay in 1948.

10. Arthur C. Clarke had mentioned atomic propulsion in 1945 [22] and had written a novel, Prelude to Space in 1947 [23], which used a nuclear powered two stage vehicle.


1. Destination Moon, screen play by Rip Van Ronkel, Robert Heinlein and James O’Hanlon, from a novel by Mr. Heinlein; directed by Irving Pichel; produced by George Pal and released by Eagle-Lion. (Premiere: June 29 1950).

2. Patterson, William H., Jr. 2010. Robert A. Heinlein in Dialogue With His Century: 1907–1948 Learning Curve. An Authorized Biography, Volume I.

3. Patterson, William H., Jr. 2014. Robert A. Heinlein in Dialogue With His Century: 1948–1988 The Man Who Learned Better. An Authorized Biography, Volume II.

4. Gail Morgan Hickman, The Films of George Pal, A. S. Barnes and Co., Inc., 1977.

5. Jared S. Buss, Willy Ley: Prophet of the Space Age. University Press of Florida, 2017.

6. Willy Ley and Chesley Bonestell, The Conquest of Space. New York: Viking, 1949.

7. Willy Ley, Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel, Viking Press, 1954.

8. Jack Hagerty and Jon C. Rogers, Spaceship Handbook, ARA Press, October 1, 2001.

9. Ron Miller, The Dream Machines, Krieger Pub Co, July 1, 1993.

10. Robert Heinlein, Shooting Destination Moon, Astounding Science Fiction, July 1950.

11. Robert A. Heinlein, Rocket Ship Galileo, Scribner’s, May 1, 1947.

12. Alford Van Ronkel, Screenplay for Destination Moon,

13. Robert A. Heinlein, “Destination Moon,” Short Stores Magazine, September 1950.

14. Robert Serber, “The Use of Atomic Power for Rockets,” Project Rand, RAD-2, July 5 1946.

15. R. Cornog, “Rocket Computations,” NEPA-508, August 3, 1946.

16. L. R. Shepherd and A.V. Cleaver; “The Atomic Rocket 1 and 2,” Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, volume 7, no. 5 and 6, 1948.

17. H. S. Tsien; “Rockets and Other Thermal Jets Using Nuclear Energy,” Chapter 11 of The Science and Engineering of Nuclear Power, volume II, edited by Clark Goodman, Addison Wesley Press, Cambridge, MA., 1949.

18. Winchell Chung, Luna from Destination Moon,

19. Bradley Schauer, “The Greatest Exploitation Special Ever: Destination Moon and Postwar Independent Distribution,” Film History An International Journal 27(1):1-28, 2014.


21. Thomas Kent Miller, Mars in the Movies: A History, McFarland, 2016.

22. Arthur C. Clarke, “Extraterrestrial Relays,” Wireless World October, 1945.

23. Arthur C. Clarke, Prelude to Space, World Editions, 1951.

24. Dennis Jenkins, ‘Dressing for altitude: U.S. aviation pressure suits – Wiley Post to space shuttle,” NASA SP; 2011-595, 2012.


Thorium 232 primer

2019 video gives a good primer .

“THORIUM 232 – From History to Reactor

This is a visual summary of all the information about thorium.
Thorium is a weak radioactive element with atomic number 90 and a half-life of 14.05 billion years. About the age of the universe. Although it is one of the rarest metals on earth, its availability is much higher and stable than that of Uranium. 99.98% of this element is encountered as thorium 232 while uranium is mostly found in as Uranium 238 which is a poor contributor for the production of energy.

Uranium reserves are estimated to be about 5.5 million tones but only 0.72% of that is U235 necessary for the reaction. In comparison, thorium reserves are estimated to be 6.3 million tones with a 99.98% usability.

Where Do We Stand On Uranium In The Post-Pandemic Energy World?

The Uranium Committee  of the Energy Minerals Division of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists just released their draft 2020 Annual Report last week and the prices and supplies of U look pretty good.

The Uranium Committee monitors the global uranium industry activities, rare earth metals, and the production of electricity from nuclear power, because these drive uranium exploration and development in the United States and overseas. [Full Disclosure – I am a member of the Committee’s Advisory Group]

Modern technological societies require a lot of rare metals, such as lithium, cobalt, vanadium and neodymium, and uranium if you have nuclear power. In fact, there are 35 minerals that are critical to our society. Unfortunately, we don’t produce many of them in the United States, but are dependent on other countries like China for our supply.

This has been a recognized problem for years, but has become especially worrisome after this this pandemic has shown the flimsiness of our supply chains.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) re-introduced her American Mineral Security Act specifically to strengthen those efforts. The bill, which was somewhat bipartisan, attempts to rebuild the domestic mineral supply chain through geological surveying, forecasting, workforce training, research and development, recycling, and a more efficient permitting process.

But uranium seems to be doing pretty well. The United States has more nuclear power plants than anyone else, and is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, accounting for more than 30% of worldwide nuclear generation of electricity.

Our 96 reactors produce 20% of our own nation’s electricity, and requires about 25,000 tons of U each year to do so. In contrast, 624,000,000 tons of natural gas is used to generate 34% of our electricity, and 750,000,000 tons of coal for 30%. 1,000,000,000 tons of petroleum (7,200,000,000 barrels) fuels our transportation sector, the energy equivalent of 1,500,000,000 tons of coal.

But do we have enough U in North America to fuel our own nuclear future until that happens?

Fortunately for us and our northern neighbor and closest ally, the highest-grade U deposits in the world are found in the Athabasca Basin of Saskatchewan in Canada, often referred to as the “Saudi Arabia of Uranium”. And new deposits in this basin keep being discovered.

But a new U.S. uranium district has been identified in the eastern Seward Peninsula of Alaska on the eastern margins of McCarthy Basin. Thorium and rare-earth elements have been discovered in the surrounding igneous rocks, making it key to loosening China’s grip on our technological future.

Even Virginia has a huge untapped U deposit. Uranium supplies have not been a major issue since Canada and Australia have great sources and are close allies.

Uranium is leached from the original ore, either from crushed ore rock at an above-ground facility or directly underground by in situ leaching, to form U3O8 yellowcake (see figure above).

According to the United States Energy Information Administration, the USA produced a total of 170,000 lbs of U3O8 (65.4 tU) of uranium concentrate from all domestic sources in 2019, 89% less than on 2018, which itself was 33% less than in 2017. 2018 production was primarily from six facilities: five in-situ leach plants in Nebraska and Wyoming (Crow Butte Operation, Lost Creek Project, Ross CPP, North Butte, and Smith Ranch-Highland Operation) and one underground mine.

At the beginning of 2020, two conventional uranium mills – Shootaring Canyon Uranium Mill in Utah and Sweetwater Uranium Project in Wyoming – were on standby, and the White Mesa Mill in Utah was no longer producing uranium.

There’s lots and lots of U in the world, and more keeps being discovered. U resources increased about 25% over the last decade, which has kept prices low. We get most of our U from other countries, a diversity that serves us well in most thongs. But the sudden sight of our supply chains vulnerabilities in this pandemic has made some think that we should secure uranium from domestic sources.

We are also working hard to make extraction of U from seawater the real future of the U supply beyond this century, although it is a decade or two away from becoming economic. At that point, U supplies would last for billions of years, in effect, making nuclear completely renewable.

Uranium has outperformed major commodities this year, even as the energy sector has suffered from the coronavirus pandemic. MarketsInsider shows that a significant rise in uranium prices has been underway since the pandemic began, up to $34 from $24 per pound of U3O8, a price that had been pretty stable for over a year.

The uranium industry was excited last year about the Administration’s support of Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 that would protect the U.S. uranium mining industry. A White House task force is recommending that the federal government buy more uranium from domestic producers, mainly as a way to revive the U.S. uranium mining industry and in part as a way to address security concerns, although according to Sharon Squassoni at George Washington University those concerns are not warranted.

DOE might even create a new national uranium stockpile.

With these higher prices, many international companies are resuming extraction operations. Numerous discoveries of high-grade uranium deposits have been made in Canada and new low-grade deposits are under development in Argentina and Peru. The main Australian uranium mines in South Australia have resumed operations and mines in Western Australia are preparing to resume operations An undeveloped, new uranium “roll front” district has been identified in the eastern Seward Peninsula of Alaska with thorium and rare-earth elements.

Research funding by university and industry remains low in the United States, but state geological surveys (e.g., Wyoming and New Mexico) and the U.S. Geological Survey are moving forward with robust research on uranium and rare earths.

There is general agreement that substantial uranium (and thorium) will be available to fuel the United States as the world’s largest fleet of nuclear power. Although a few more reactors are scheduled for retirement on economic grounds and low-priced natural gas, the other reactors are operating even more efficiently, producing more power than before.

In addition, two new reactors are being completed in Georgia. Following a 30-year period during which no new reactors were built in the United States, it is expected that these two Vogtle units will come online soon after 2020.

Since mid-2007, there have been 16 license applications to build 24 new nuclear reactors, most of which are of the new small modular reactor (SMR) design.

So it seems that we have more uranium (U) than we need for hundreds of years of nuclear power as a big chunk of our energy generation. Which is critical, since we need to double nuclear power to address climate change and replace coal, even as we ramp up renewables.

Together with the fact that the nuclear industry has dealt with the pandemic better than most sectors, both uranium supply and nuclear power should not be much affected in the post-pandemic world.

Nuclear waste will last a lot longer than climate change

Preface.   One of the most tragic aspects of peak oil is that it is very unlikely once energy descent begins that oil will be expended to clean up our nuclear mess.  Or before descent either.  Anyone who survives peak fossil fuels and after that, rising sea levels and extreme weather from climate change, will still be faced with nuclear waste as a deadly pollutant and potential weapon. 

According to Archer (2008): “… there are components of nuclear material that have a long lifetime, such as the isotopes plutonium 239 (24,000 year half-life), thorium 230 (80,000 years), and iodine 129 (15.7 million years). Ideally, these substances must be stored and isolated from reaching ground water until they decay, but the lifetimes are so immense that it is hard to believe or to prove that this can be done”.

Below are summaries of two articles on nuclear waste.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Collapse Chronicles, Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report


Ro, C. 2019. The Staggering Timescales Of Nuclear Waste Disposal. Forbes.

This most potent form of nuclear waste needs to be safely stored for up to a million years. Yet existing and planned nuclear waste sites operate on much shorter timeframes: often 10,000 or 100,000 years. These are still such unimaginably vast lengths of time that regulatory authorities decide on them, in part, based on how long ice ages are expected to last.

Strategies remain worryingly short-term, on a nuclear timescale. Chernobyl’s destroyed reactor no. 4, for instance, was encased in July 2019 in a massive steel “sarcophagus” that will only last 100 years. Not only will containers like this one fall short of the timescales needed for sufficient storage, but no country has allotted enough funds to cover nuclear waste disposal. In France and the US, according to the recently published World Nuclear Waste Report, the funding allocation only covers a third of the estimated costs. And the cost estimates that do exist rarely extend beyond several decades.

Essentially, we’re hoping that things will work out once future generations develop better technologies and find more funds to manage nuclear waste. It’s one of the most striking examples of the dangers of short-term thinking.

Fred Pearce. 7 March 2012. Resilient reactors: Nuclear built to last centuries. New Scientist.

All nuclear plants have to be shut down within a few decades because they become too radioactive, making them so brittle they’re likely to crumble.

Decommissioning can take longer than the time that the plant was operational.  This is why only 17 reactors have been decommissioned, and well over a hundred are waiting to be decommissioned (110 commercial plants, 46 prototypes, 250 research reactors), yet meanwhile we keep building more of them.

Building longer lasting new types of nuclear power plants

Fast-breeders were among the first research reactors. But they have never been used for commercial power generation. There’s just one problem. Burke says the new reactors aren’t being designed with greater longevity in mind, and the intense reactions in a fast-breeder could reduce its lifetime to just a couple of decades. A critical issue is finding materials that can better withstand the stresses created by the chain reactions inside a nuclear reactor.Uranium atoms are bombarded with neutrons that they absorb. The splitting uranium atoms create energy and more neutrons to split yet more atoms, a process that eventually erodes the steel reactor vessel and plumbing.

The breakdown that leads to a reactor’s decline happens on the microscopic level when the steel alloys of the reactor vessels undergo small changes in their crystalline structures. These metals are made up of grains, single crystals in which atoms are lined up, tightly packed, in a precise order. The boundaries between the grains, where the atoms are slightly less densely packed, are the weak links in this structure. Years of neutron bombardment jar the atoms in the crystals until some lose their place, creating gaps in the structure, mostly at the grain boundaries. The steel alloys – which contain nickel, chromium and other metals – then undergo something called segregation, in which these other metals and impurities migrate to fill the gaps. These migrations accumulate until, eventually, they cause the metal to lose shape, swell, harden and become brittle. Gases can accumulate in the cracks, causing corrosion.

A reactor that does not need to be shut down after a few decades will do a lot to limit the world’s stockpile of nuclear waste. But eventually, even these will need to be decommissioned, a process that generates vast volumes of what the industry calls “intermediate-level” waste.

Despite its innocuous name, intermediate-level waste is highly radioactive and will one day have to be packaged and buried in rocks hundreds of meters underground, while its radioactivity decays over thousands of years. It is irradiated by the same mechanism that erodes the machinery in a nuclear power plant, namely neutron bombardment.

Toxic legacy

Nuclear waste is highly radioactive and remains lethal for thousands of years and is without doubt nuclear energy’s biggest nightmare. Efforts to “green” nuclear energy have focused almost exclusively on finding ways to get rid of it. The most practical option is disposal in repositories deep underground. Yet, seven decades into the nuclear age, not one country has built a final resting place for its most toxic nuclear junk. So along with the legacy waste of cold-war-era bomb making, it will accumulate in storage above ground – unless the new reactors can turn some of that waste back into fuel.

Without a comprehensive clean-up plan, the wider world is unlikely to embrace any dreams of a nuclear renaissance.


Archer, D., et al. 2008. The millennial atmospheric lifetime of anthropogenic CO2. Climactic Change 90: 283-297.

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Energy in Context and Correcting a Critic

Nextbigfuture has tracked and analyzed nuclear blend, nuclear fission and other energy.

Nextbigfuture has dozens of posts comparing all energy sources based on safety utilizing the deaths per terawatt hour metric.

In 2008, Nextbigfuture had its first death per terawatt-hours for all energy sources.

Nextbigfuture has actually composed hundreds of posts about air contamination and the problems with coal, oil and natural gas. Air contamination is bad and indoor and outdoor air contamination causes 7 million deaths per year. Hardship is even worse and triggers about 18 million deaths per year. Hence getting low-cost energy from burnable dirt (coal) to lift a country out of hardship is in fact a internet gain. This particularly true if the energy can be cleaned up as quickly as possible.

The USA and UK had really unclean air from 1880 -1970 and then cleaned up their air. China has extremely filthy air from 1970 -2020 however must have relatively tidy air by 2030.

Cheap, Clean Energy Would Be Great

The World invests about $6 trillion a year buying energy and building energy. If we cleaned up the fossil fuels we would save 7 million lives per year. Nevertheless, fossil fuels are 80% of international energy use. If we can make energy half as pricey, then the world may spend $3 trillion per year instead of $6 trillion.

In 2013, Nextbigfuture kept in mind that the world should not have debates which treat money for energy research study as limited. The World invests about $100 billion per year on energy research.

Energy research and advancement (angels and endeavor capitalists) in the U.S.A. is about $10 billion per year. Worldwide it is about $50-100 billion (government and industry). For a $6 trillion per year market with an average of 2% for research, there need to be $300 billion being invested on energy research study.

The top countries in research (Japan, Israel) by percent of GDP spend 3.5 -4.2% on research study. Get energy right and the world can double the whole economy. Rather of targeting double the world energy and world economy in 2040, we might target triple or quadruple. With energy that is four times less expensive then we have a lot of energy for clean water and other methods to modification the world for the much better. We would have the energy and cash for area.

Energy is money. The energy efficiency of an economy is slow changing relationship between GDP per unit of energy utilized.

Natural gas became low expense and plentiful due to the fact that of fracking and horizontal drilling. This shows that technology can shift energy markets and the cost of energy within a few years.

We can target transforming nuclear fission energy with factory mass-produced deep burn (burn 99+% of the uranium, plutonium or thorium) with a expense of 1 cent or less per kWh. Deeper burn breeder reactors that are about three times more effective with Uranium have actually been produced.

China will quickly be mass producing deep pool nuclear fission reactors that will be walkaway safe and have costs of about 1.65 cents per kwh of thermal heat. Routine nuclear reactors for electrical power can get down to $2500 per kilowatt in China for the Hualong 1 reactors. China is down to 2.5 to 3 cents per kwh for existing nuclear fission when the interest rate for funding is 3%.

Cheap energy is great for mankind. Affordable nuclear fission with less nuclear waste is achievable. There are less technical questions than for reaching a industrial nuclear fusion breakthrough. Utilizing a baseball analogy, we should continue to go for energy tasks that get songs and doubles. Nevertheless, going for house runs with development 99% deep burn nuclear fission and for commercial nuclear combination should still be done.

Fairly predictable energy and transport projects with relatively low technical threat:
Converting all new vehicles to electric cars and trucks. Tesla has made 1 million electric cars and trucks and there are about 5 million electric automobiles on the roadways now. Electric cars can be utilized for 1 million miles of driving due to the fact that they have fewer moving parts and simpler upkeep.

Electrifying transportation can happen much faster than replacing all brand-new (100 million per year) and used cars and trucks (1.5+ billion old vehicles and trucks). We can convert the ridesharing automobiles to electric first.

Trucks use far more fuel and generate far more pollution than cars and trucks. The Tesla Semi could enable trucks to be transformed to electrical and get contaminating trucks away from cities where most individuals live.

Electrifying lorries would stop the use of about 15 -20 million barrels per day of oil.

Converting coal plants for heating in Northern China to nuclear district heating reactors might stop the burning of up to 500 million lots of coal each year.

ThorCon is working on mass production of a molten salt nuclear reactor. Molten Salt nuclear reactors were developed and operated in the 1960 s in the U.S.A. at a couple of megawatts of power.

About 15% of the World’s nuclear waste (unburned uranium) is reprocessed every year. China has prepares to scale up reprocessing to close the nuclear fission fuel cycle. This would involve structure many breeder reactors. Breeder reactors have actually been built and run. There are improved variations that have been funded and are in advancement and building and construction.

Mass production of traditional nuclear fission reactors could see 500 -1000 Gigawatts of nuclear power by about 2060 and if breeders and reprocessing centers are built the fuel cycle can be closed. The main location this will occur is in China. If China does not pick a mass nuclear fission route then the nuclear fission market will be far less unless there are energy job advancements.

If we are handling the World’s energy job portfolio, then we need to increase general energy research study to $300-600 billion each year. The molten salt fission reactors and district heating deep pool reactors need to be established. About 5 -10% of general research need to go for different nuclear blend tasks. More technologies ought to be explored since there will be the benefits from reduced air contamination damage (economic, lives and health) and from the financial cost of more pricey energy.

Correcting a Critic About My Nuclear Combination Protection

Daniel Jassby is a research physicist, who worked on nuclear combination experiments for 25 years at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab. Daniel has composed a paper which he has actually published at Vixra called “Voodoo Fusion Energy”.

Daniel points out about 15 of my nuclear blend posts and ignores where I had important posts of nuclear fusion, summaries of combination and contextual analysis. My summaries and criticism happened many years before Daniel’s short article. Daniel himself is a enormous hypocrite. He worked on the goal of nuclear combination experiments for 25 years and did not start calling it out publicly up until 18 years after he retired.

I have noted the insults of this short article before. However, a nuclear combination scientist brought it up in a recent conversation. I wanted to address it once again.

Of the nearly 30,000 short articles that I have written on Nextbigfuture, I have composed about 700 about nuclear fusion and are tagged with blend as a category. There are nearly 2000 articles on energy.

Daniel grumbles in the 15 posts, I did not slam each project as they were being announced.

Daniel got paid for 25 years working on nuclear combination and has been retired given that 1999. Daniel might have actually written about each nuclear blend startup as they announce and slam timelines and propositions as they are made. Nevertheless, he did not. He has actually composed two posts for the Publication of the Atomic Scientist. One knocks the ITER job and another claims that even if nuclear combination energy is commercialized that it will not be that good.

So Daniel picked to get paid for 25 years working towards a goal that he now declares draws.

Nextbigfuture Has Pointed out Delays, Technical Risks and Other Problems for Years Before Daniel’s Voodoo Combination Post

Daniel disregarded the multiple Nextbigfuture combination summaries and analysis posts. He cherry-picked the 3% of the articles on announcements.

I have actually written numerous summaries on the work on nuclear blend.

In 2018, one of the vibrant sub-titles kept in mind the issues and large delays in schedules.
Most of the venture-funded possibilities for advancement nuclear combination have stalled or have sluggish progress

I note in the summaries that schedules slipped and work is proceeding more gradually than claimed. I had a summary of fusion jobs in 2010.

I have pointed out the New Combination Race slides which track triple blend item accomplished by tasks and experiments.

I had an upgrade in 2014, that noted the sluggish rate of progress and schedule slippage.

Daniel claimed I was constantly uncritical. This is incorrect. I likewise provided better summaries and analysis than Daniel has. I would also note that Daniel is a hypocrite for taking 25 years of salary from Princeton Plasma Physics Lab before choosing to be important of the objective and projects. Is Daniel going to give back part of his income to the taxpayers that partially fund Princeton?

For the last lots years, Wang has actually priced quote uncritically forecasts of future
accomplishments with dates supplied by task promoters. Wang treats all jobs
and unjustified claims seriously, however you, dear reader, will simply take note of the dates
promised for business combination reactors.

Another 2014 summary of blend jobs.

In the 2013 Nextbigfuture nuclear blend summary, I kept in mind the slippage with Tri Alpha Energy.

In 2010, I had a summary that talked about the path to commercializing nuclear blend and how we needed to work on enhancing nuclear fission.

In 2010, I kept in mind Eric Drexler’s criticism of the Tokomak and some other nuclear fusion jobs.

Eric : As numerous of you have noted, what I say about “fusion power” is actually about tokamaks, the dominant method to combination today. I’ve been following the advancement of blend power ideas, consisting of the many alternative approaches, for years now. All machines that appearance more-or-less like existing tokamaks (stellarators, for example) would have similar capital-cost problems.

Laser-driven inertial confinement schemes are various but have led to sketches of power plants that once again seem extremely implausible.

Bussard suggested a number of fusion-machine principles, including a scheme for a extremely various kind of tokamak (with a small, disposable core), and, of course, the totally different Polywell approach. There’s not much in print about Polywell, at a technical level, but from what I‘ve read, (1) I’d offer long odds against the proposition that the scheme actually makes physical, technological sense, and (2) I’m glad to see that it’s being examined more carefully.

I said in 2010. I believe ITER is inferior to deep burn fission by itself. I promoted deep burn fission and getting to faster building times and annular nuclear fuel and other enhancement to reach 1 -2 cents per kilowatt hour with very little waste.

Nextbigfuture has written posts about bad declares from ITER and nuclear fusion startups.

ITER and Many Nuclear Blend Start-ups Usage Deceptive Power Terms.

ITER fusion project is even worse than advertised

ITER blend project lies about the dates, budget plan and power levels

The hope and speculation is that after DEMO’s a nation might then continue to make a industrial combination reactor model. However the science and physics might make complex things and another pre-prototype might be needed.

So several pre-prototype tasks out to 2060. State four countries each with their own $100-200 billion job out to 2060.

Then models out to 2070. This is all presuming the innovation is working.

International Tokamak Combination is thousands of lifetime physics and engineering tasks, November 22, 2016

In 2012 European Blend Advancement Arrangement (EFDA) provided a roadmap to fusion power with a strategy proving the reliances of DEMONSTRATION activities on ITER and IFMIF

Conceptual style to be complete in 2020
Engineering design total, and choice to develop, in 2030
Construction from 2031 to 2043
Operation from 2044, Electrical energy generation demonstration 2048

So now with the eight year hold-up in ITER, Nextbigfuture included the time to 2012 DEMONSTRATION first commercial combination reactor strategy
Conceptual style to be complete in 2028
Engineering design total, and decision to build, in 2038
Construction from 2039 to 2051
Operation from 2052, Electrical energy generation demonstration 2056

Nextbigfuture has likewise written about other bad jobs like California high speed rail.

Daniel has actually composed 2 articles for the Publication of the Atomic Researchers (anti-nuclear weapon organization.)

Link to all nextbigfuture fusion articles.

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Synchrotron-based high-resolution photoemission spectroscopy study of ZIRLO cladding with H2O adsorption: Coverage and temperature dependence

Fig. 1 shows the Zr 3d, O 1 s, C 1 s, and Sn 3d HRPES spectra obtained from ZIRLO before the deposition of H2O. Previous study reveals that tin element alone was detected by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), among the minor alloying elements present in ZIRCALOY-4 cladding10. When we performed preliminary experiments using commercial XPS (VG Scientific ESCALAB 220i-XL), the Fe 2p and Nb 3d peaks were not observed in ZIRLO; moreover, the Nb 3d signal was not detected in our HRPES spectrum. Therefore, to enhance the surface sensitivity without considering the detection of the Fe 2p signal, we lowered the photon energy as much as possible, resulting in a photon energy of 710 eV. Furthermore, as the primary analysis in this study involves the Zr 3d spectra, we reduced the photon energy up to 400 eV to obtain the most sensitive Zr 3d HRPES profiles. Fig. 1a displays the Zr 3d spectra acquired at photon energies of 400, 630, and 710 eV, respectively. The Zr 3d profiles obtained at photon energies of 630 and 710 eV were similar; however, that obtained at 400 eV was different. The electron inelastic-mean-free-paths (IMFPs) at photon energies of 400, 630, and 710 eV for Zr 3d, and 710 eV for C 1 s and Sn 3d were calculated to be 7.1, 11.4, and 12.8 Å, and 14.2 and 8.3 Å, respectively, using the NIST electron inelastic-mean-free-path database (Version 1.2) with an algorithm developed by Tanuma, Powell, and Penn23,24. In addition, the IMFP at photon energy of 710 eV for O 1 s was approximately estimated as 7 Å using the universal curve19. In particular, the IMFPs for Zr 3d indicates that the spectrum at a photon energy of 400 eV contains more surface information compared to the others. Therefore, only the Zr 3d spectrum measured at a photon energy of 400 eV will be considered henceforth. The detailed analysis of the Zr 3d spectra with the peak fitting results is presented in Fig. 2.

Figure 1

(a) Zr 3d, (b) O 1 s, (c) C 1 s, and (d) Sn 3d HRPES spectra obtained from ZIRLO before the deposition of H2O, where PE means the photon energy (eV). Black, red, blue open circles in (a) indicate Zr 3d spectra acquired at the photon energies of 400, 630, and 710 eV, respectively, which were normalized using Zr 3d5/2 peak of zirconium metal at 179.3 eV. The dots and the solid lines in (b) represent the experimental values and the peak fitting results, respectively.

Figure 2

Zr 3d HRPES spectra of ZIRLO recorded at the photon energy of 400 eV (a) before the adsorption of H2O, after the dosing of (b) 100 L and (c) 1000 L H2O, and after annealing at (d) 100 °C, (e) 300 °C, and (f) 500 °C subsequent to the deposition of 1000 L H2O. The open circles correspond to the experimental values, and the solid lines are obtained by peak fitting. The experimental data in (a) is the same with the spectrum obtained at the photon energy of 400 eV in Fig. 1a.

Fig. 1b displays the O 1 s HRPES profiles, in which three peaks can be observed: O1 at 530.0 eV, O2 at 531.4 eV, and O3 at 533.0 eV. The O1, O2, and O3 peaks are assigned to the O2-, hydroxyl OH, and the chemisorbed H2O features because the binding energies associated with them appear at 530.0–530.2 eV, 531.4 eV, and 533.4 eV, respectively, in literature25,26,27. The C 1 s HRPES profile is depicted in Fig. 1c, where two distinct peaks can be observed at 281.5 eV and 284.6 eV. We assigned the peak at 281.5 eV to zirconium carbide produced by the reaction between zirconium metal and the adsorbed hydrocarbon; this value is similar to the reported binding energy of 281.6–282.0 eV in previous investigations10,28. In addition, the peak at 284.6 eV was assigned to adventitious carbon composed of various hydrocarbon species based on the previously reported value (284.6 eV)29. As shown in Fig. 1c, the full width at half maximum (FWHM) of adventitious carbon at 284.6 eV is broader compared to that of zirconium carbide at 281.5 eV, which may be due to the existence of various types of hydrocarbons. In the Sn 3d HRPES profile (Fig. 1d), two types of Sn 3d5/2 peaks at 484.1 and 486.0 eV, and 3d3/2 signals at 492.5 and 494.4 eV, respectively, appeared with binding energy separation of 8.4 eV between them. In general, the binding energy of Sn 3d5/2 is used to analyze the Sn 3d HRPES profile. It is known that the binding energies of Sn metal and the SnO2 features in ZIRCALOY-4 cladding occur between 483.9–484.7 eV and 486.0–487.2 eV, respectively10,18. Therefore, we assigned the two Sn 3d5/2 peaks at 484.1 and 486.0 eV to Sn metal and the SnO2 compositions, respectively. Thus, by analyzing the HRPES spectra (Fig. 1) obtained from ZIRLO, we established the presence of O2-, hydroxyl OH, chemisorbed H2O, zirconium carbide, adventitious carbon, Sn metal, and the SnO2 species.

The fact that such features appeared despite our cleaning process suggests that they may be due to the intrinsic oxygen and carbon in ZIRLO, which was also observed in prior XPS studies on ZIRCALOY-4 cladding10,21.

Fig. 2a depicts the Zr 3d HRPES profile, shown in Fig. 1a, with the peak fitting results. Because the binding energy of Zr 3d5/2 is typically utilized to analyze the Zr 3d HRPES profile, we explain the zirconium species using the binding energy of Zr 3d5/2. In Fig. 2a, six peaks can be observed: Zr1 at 179.3 eV, Zr2 at 180.4 eV, Zr3 at 181.3 eV, Zr4 at 182.4 eV, Zr5 at 183.1 eV, and Zr6 at 184.2 eV. We first assigned Zr1 at 179.3 eV and Zr5 at 183.1 eV to the Zr0 (zirconium metal) and Zr4+ (ZrO2) features, respectively, based on their binding energies ranging from 179.1–179.3 eV and 182.9–183.4 eV in literature9,10,18,30. In addition, it is known that the intervals of the binding energies between the Zr+, Zr2+, Zr3+, Zr4+ oxidation states are approximately 1 eV1,31,32. Considering the binding energy of the Zr4+ feature (183.1 eV) in our system, we assigned Zr2 at 180.4 eV, Zr3 at 181.3 eV, and Zr4 at 182.4 eV to the Zr+ (Zr2O), Zr2+ (ZrO), and Zr3+ (Zr2O3) compositions, respectively, which are zirconium suboxides. Moreover, Zr6 at 184.2 eV, of which a small quantity was present, was assigned to zirconium hydroxide (Zr(OH)4) because its reported binding energy (183.6 eV) was similar to our value33,34. Previously, through the analysis of the C 1 s HRPES profile in Fig. 1c, we had established the existence of zirconium carbide in ZIRLO. According to literature, the binding energy of zirconium carbide in the Zr 3d spectrum is 179.2 eV10,28, which is almost the same as that of zirconium metal (179.3 eV). Although the zirconium carbide component should be considered when the Zr 3d HRPES profile is analyzed, we could not confirm whether this peak was due to zirconium metal or zirconium carbide, in agreement with the previous report 10. Hence, we had to unavoidably ascribe the peak at 179.3 eV to zirconium metal.

It has been previously revealed that the order of the surface components in intact ZIRCALOY-4 cladding are as follows: The uppermost hydrocarbon, zirconium hydroxide, zirconium dioxide, zirconium suboxides, and zirconium bulk layers10. In addition, zirconium carbide is expected to exist in the hydrocarbon layer. As a result, based on the analysis of the Zr 3d, O 1 s, C 1 s, and Sn 3d HRPES spectra, along with the prior report, we concluded that the surface species in ZIRLO cladding could be the same as previously reported. Additionally, we propose that Sn metal and SnO2 compositions could exist within the zirconium bulk layer, and that the chemisorbed H2O feature could be present in the uppermost layer.

To confirm the change in the relative proportions of the zirconium features depending on the H2O coverage and annealing temperature, we calculated the ratio of each peak area obtained from the peak fitting results because the ratio of each peak integral in the Zr 3d HRPES spectra corresponds to their relative proportion (Table 1). As the proportion of zirconium hydroxide is negligible, we consider the other populations, herein. As shown in Fig. 2 and Table 1, the relative proportion of zirconium metal is the largest, and gradually decreases in the following order Zr+, Zr2+, Zr3+, and Zr4+, in accordance with their relative trends reported in literature1. After the exposure of ZIRLO to 100 L and 1000 L H2O, the relative proportion of zirconium metal decreased whereas those of the zirconium oxides including the Zr+, Zr2+, Zr3+, and Zr4+ features mostly increased (Fig. 2 and Table 1). This indicates that when H2O is adsorbed on ZIRLO, H2O and zirconium metal in ZIRLO react each other, relatively decreasing and increasing the metal population and the total quantity of zirconium oxides, respectively, in agreement with previous research on H2O adsorbed on pure zirconium and ZIRCALOY-2 samples1. This phenomenon can be explained by the dissociation of H2O into the adsorbed oxygen and molecular hydrogen gas on ZIRLO at room temperature as reported in the prior study of water molecule on Zr(0001)35. We performed annealing experiments on the 1000 L H2O system adsorbed on ZIRLO. As shown in Fig. 2d, the Zr 3d HRPES profile after annealing at 100 °C for 30 min is similar to that before annealing, indicating that any detectable change did not occur due to annealing at this temperature. However, when temperatures of 300 °C and 500 °C were applied for 30 min, the relative percentage of the Zr0, Zr+, and Zr2+ valence states increased, whereas those of the Zr3+ and Zr4+ oxidation states decreased (Fig. 2e,f). According to literature, on annealing at 200 °C or more, the oxidation states of zirconium are converted to lower oxidation states because of the decomposition of the Zr2O3 and ZrO2 compositions, and the depopulation of oxygen in the surface region accompanied by oxygen diffusion into the bulk10,20. Therefore, we concluded that the decomposition of Zr2O3 and ZrO2 and the diffusion of oxygen into the bulk lead to the reduction of the oxidation states of zirconium at 300 °C.

Table 1 Relative proportions of the zirconium species in ZIRLO calculated from each peak integral of the peak fitting results of Zr 3d HRPES spectra in Fig. 2.

Fig. 3 displays the coverage and temperature dependence of the O 1 s and Sn 3d HRPES profiles. As shown in Fig. 3a, after the adsorption of 100 L and 1000 L H2O on ZIRLO, the peak related to chemisorbed H2O notably increases. This increase is attributed to the excess H2O molecules on ZIRLO, which could be the remaining quantity after sufficient reaction with zirconium metal. After annealing at 100 °C for 30 min, the profile of the O 1 s HRPES spectrum remined unchanged, in accordance with the analytical result of the Zr 3d HRPES spectrum at this temperature. When the sample was annealed at 300 °C and 500 °C for 30 min, the enhanced peaks returned to the state before the adsorption of H2O on ZIRLO, indicating that the excess H2O molecules were completely desorbed at 300 °C. In the Sn 3d HRPES profiles (Fig. 3b), the peaks related to the Sn metal and SnO2 compositions gradually disappear due to the deposition of 100 L and 1000 L H2O on ZIRLO. As the adsorption of H2O on ZIRLO increases the surface thickness, these signals may be reduced because the probing depth for ZIRLO itself relatively becomes shallow. After annealing at 100 °C for 30 min, only the peak at 486.0 eV related to the SnO2 configuration remained indistinctly in the Sn 3d HRPES spectrum. Furthermore, after annealing at 300 °C for 30 min, it completely vanished instead of recovery, despite the desorption of H2O molecules at this temperature. Therefore, we infer that SnO2 composition decomposed and that Sn metal migrated into zirconium bulk at 300 °C, sequentially.

Figure 3

(a) O 1 s and (b) Sn 3d HRPES spectra of ZIRLO measured before the deposition of H2O, after the adsorption of 100 L and 1000 L H2O, and after annealing at 100 °C, 300 °C, and 500 °C subsequent to the deposition of 1000 L H2O. O 1 s HRPES spectra in (a) were normalized using O1 peak at 530.0 eV. Sn 3d HRPES spectra obtained after annealing at up to 300 °C are exhibited in. (b) The dashed lines express the positions of the binding energy of each feature.

Stuck inside? Brookings Foreign Policy recommends movies and shows to watch

With an estimated 20% of the global population on lockdown related to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are in search of ways to occupy ourselves online or on our TVs. Here, scholars and staff from across Brookings Foreign Policy recommend feature films, TV shows, and documentaries that can enhance your understanding of the world and of U.S. history — and, of course, that can entertain.

William Burke-White recommends


HBO's ChernobylWhat it’s about: The inside story of the 1986 meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the Soviet Union highlights the dangers of a failed national response to an unexpected catastrophe and the heroism of the individuals who stepped up in time of crisis. The (relatively) accurate period drama brings alive late Soviet politics, showing how a closed, top-down system under-appreciated the magnitude of the disaster and hid it from its own people. As the Chernobyl reactor melts down, the viewer sees the melt-down of the Soviet system itself, leading to the countries’ eventual collapse just a few years later. Yet, in a moment when we need heroes, the mini-series also highlights the incredible ingenuity and bravery of the individuals and groups that responded both during the accident and in the fraught containment and cleanup efforts that followed. The parallels to the challenges and failures of the response to COVID-19 are powerful and informative.

How to watch it: HBO or Amazon Prime

Adrien Chorn recommends

First They Killed My Father (មុនដំបូងខ្មែរក្រហមសម្លាប់ប៉ារបស់ខ្ញុំ)

"First they killed my father"What it’s about: “First They Killed My Father” is an excellent film directed by Angelina Jolie, based on the memoir written by Loung Ung of the same name. The film was released on Netflix in 2017 and depicts the harrowing experience of five-year-old Loung living in Cambodia from the outset of the takeover by the Khmer Rouge on April 17, 1975 through to the period of Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia in December 1978 and then takeover in January 1979. This film is incredibly important for educating audiences (including the children of Cambodian refugees who still today struggle to discuss this recent traumatic period with their families) of the atrocities and genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge, as well the realities of famine, disease, and overwork in the concentration camps. The film’s actors also give great performances, and its cinematography is beautiful and expressive.

How to watch it: Netflix

Eyal Tsir Cohen recommends

Band of Brothers

"Band of Brothers" imageWhat it’s about: This 10-hour miniseries recounts the chronicles of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division in the U.S. Army. The story follows them from D-Day till the end of World War II. This almost-documentary is based on powerful interviews with survivors of Easy Company, as well as soldiers’ journals and letters. In this series, we intimately share the experiences of ordinary young men who accomplished extraordinary things under unthinkable duress and gruesome fear. The series outlines beautifully extremely admirable, yet complex, characters such as Lieutenant Richard Winters and Captain Ronald Speirs. Their actions, decisions, and the values they lived by offer exceptional food for thought and a lesson in humility. It was the worst of times, with flashes of humanity at its best. Something to think about in today’s unprecedented times.

How to watch it: Amazon Prime

Samuel Denney recommends

Babylon Berlin

"Babylon Berlin"What it’s about: “Babylon Berlin” is one of the most enjoyable, interesting, and most importantly accessible representations of interwar Germany I’ve seen in quite a long time. Combining a discussion of the legacy of World War I, a noir detective story, increasingly fractured politics, and a vivid depiction of Weimar-era Berlin’s unique and hedonistic cultural milieu, Babylon Berlin has something to offer for both Germany-nerds (read: me, who once wrote a thesis on Weimar-era literature) and casual viewers drawn to an under-explored time period. And for those who have visited Berlin, the fact that the show is filmed largely in the city adds another draw as you watch the show’s cast traverse its streets and neighborhoods.

How to watch it: Netflix

James Haynes recommends

The Farewell

"The Farewell"What it’s about: “The Farewell” depicts a family gathering, ostensibly for a wedding in China, but actually for a final reunion before the death of the grandmother and family matriarch (who isn’t told the truth about her health situation or the reason for the gathering). The story is based on director Lulu Wang’s own experience, initially shared in a radio story on This American Life. Nominated for two Golden Globes, The Farewell” made President Obama’s 2019 list of favorite films. Among the film’s highlights include Zhao Shu-zhen’s portrayal of the grandmother, the visual depictions of hospitals, banquet halls, and apartments in a mid-tier Chinese city, and the too-brief scene where Chinese family members who emigrated to the U.S. and those who stayed on the mainland argue about the future of the U.S. and China. For those looking for an accessible film on U.S.-China issues (that isn’t very political), The Farewell” deserves a watch.

How to watch it: Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu for rent or purchase (subtitled)

Scarlett Ho recommends

The Man Who Cracked the Nazi Code

"The Man Who Cracked the Nazi Code"What it’s about: “The Man Who Cracked the Nazi Code” is a documentary by Denis van Waerebeke. It tells the story of Alan Turing, a brilliant British mathematician, who contributed to the Allied success in World War II by ciphering Nazi Germany’s “Enigma” encryption machine. Amidst today’s global panic and fight against COVID-19, this remarkable story provides grounds for much-needed optimism and inspiration. This short documentary combines themes of humanity and chaos with scientific reason and logic. It also demonstrates how solidarity and the coming together of human minds can overcome a united threat that transcends borders. Lastly, viewers can also get a deeper understanding of the genesis of modern-day computing and artificial intelligence, whose discovery can be traced back to Turing, the father of modern computing.

How to watch it: Amazon Prime

Robert Kagan recommends

Casablanca/To Have and Have Not Bogey Double Feature

"To Have and Have Not" and "Casablanca" movie postersWhat it’s about: “Casablanca” is not a love story. No one is in love. It is a geopolitical romance about America’s relationship with Europe and the evolving American foreign policy character. Every person in the movie represents a country — except Ingrid Bergman, who plays Europe to Bogart’s America. Watch it with that in mind. “To Have and Have Not” is a much, much better movie but with the same general message. I know, you’ve seen them. Watch again! These films will make your day. Documentaries will not.

How to watch it: Amazon Prime

Emilie Kimball recommends

The Spy

"The Spy"What it’s about: “The Spy” chronicles the true story of Eli Cohen, a Mossad (Israel’s intelligence agency) operative who infiltrated Syria’s political and military community. Eli is played by Sacha Baron Cohen — a welcome reversal away from the comedy the actor is largely known for. The series delivers a satisfying espionage tale along with some history, as you watch Cohen establish a relationship with Colonel Amin al-Hafez, who eventually goes on to become Syria’s president. Viewers also see Eli Cohen touring the Syrian regime’s military infrastructure at the Golan Heights which Israel would go on to capture during the Six-Day War in 1967.

How to watch it: Netflix

Caroline Klaff recommends


"Miracle" posterWhat it’s about: My favorite movie, “Miracle,” chronicles the real-life story of the 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team. It’s a film that you may be familiar with, but should watch again (and again, and again…). “Miracle” taps into the American Cold War mentality and the politicization of international sports competitions by layering engaging interpersonal stories, hometown rivalries, and arguably the greatest locker room speech of all time, against a backdrop of domestic social and economic malaise and geopolitical antagonism. From a foreign policy perspective, the movie puts the importance of the “miracle on ice” into context. By rooting the film amid U.S.-Soviet tensions, splicing in segments of President Jimmy Carter’s “crisis of confidence” speech and footage of the Iran hostage crisis, and highlighting the uncertainty of Olympic boycotts, “Miracle” underscores why the American victory was such a boost to the nation then, just as this feel-good movie can be a boost to us now.

How to watch it: Netflix

Jesse I. Kornbluth recommends

The Motorcycle Diaries

"Motorcycle Diaries"What it’s about: On a motorcycle journey up the spine of the Andes and through the heart of the Amazon, a young middle-class medical student from Rosario, Argentina, Ernesto Guevara, is exposed to the immeasurable inequality on his home continent. Throughout the journey with his friend and “co-pilot,” Alberto Granado, the pair come face to face with the exploitation of the continent’s indigenous and marginalized peoples and its natural resources at the hands of corrupt political systems and foreign capitalist endeavors. It is over this road trip that Ernesto begins to develop the identity that will lead him to become the Marxist revolutionary, “Che” Guevara. “The Motorcycle Diaries” is a visually and emotionally captivating coming-of-age film and a thought-provoking view into the politics of inequality in South America. Ideal for a quarantine, it is a film of magnificent views — of breathtaking landscapes and the vibrant and diverse mestizo cultures of South America.

How to watch it: Rent on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Apple iTunes

Filippos Letsas recommends


"Quantico"What it’s about: The drama thriller TV series “Quantico” exposes the lives of young FBI recruits training at the Quantico base in Virginia when one of them becomes a prime suspect in a terrorist attack on Grand Central Terminal. The story shifts between the present day (the quest to find the suspect) and the past (the training at the academy, during which recruits’ complex personal stories and tangled relationships are revealed). Some viewers are captivated by the fast-paced, intricate, and suspenseful plot; critics claim that the story line is out of touch with reality. No matter which camp you might fall into, the show’s character-driven narrative will put on full display the strikingly diverse set of motives driving young people to work in law enforcement, to conduct sensitive national security investigations, and to become public servants. It may even kick up enough adrenaline for you to pursue a career as a FBI agent.

How to watch it: Netflix

Michael O’Hanlon recommends

The Interview

"The Interview"What it’s about: This movie actually produced a diplomatic crisis. At the time of its completion, back in 2014, North Korea carried out massive cyberattacks against SONY, which distributed the film, and threatened any movie theaters that might show it. The movie mocked the young North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un about three years into his rule, and also pilloried the North Korean state, including for the horrible treatment of its own people. As mediocre as it may have been artistically, it clearly struck a nerve in Pyongyang. And I sort of liked it, I have to admit, for the comedic value and for how it (not completely inaccurately) portrayed North Korean life. I may be alone in the Brookings Foreign Policy program in recommending this movie, however!

How to watch it: Netflix

Ted Reinert recommends


"Atlantics" posterWhat it’s about: Young African men tired of stark inequality at home braving a sea crossing in hopes of making a better living in Europe form the backdrop for Mati Diop’s Senegal-set feature directorial debut. But the film stays on the coast with the young women left behind — and some supernatural developments. “Atlantics” is a fascinating piece of storytelling, and I look forward to Diop’s next film. In the meantime, her earlier shorts are being featured on the Criterion Channel (easily the best streaming service for cinephiles, so please subscribe if you don’t already).

How to watch it: Netflix

Bruce Riedel recommends

Charlie Wilson’s War

What it’s about: The 2007 movie about America’s secret war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan gets the most important part of the war right: the central and crucial role of Pakistan, and especially its dictator, Zia ul Huq. It was really Zia’s war. The CIA provided aid to Zia, he decided who got it, and he favored the most extreme Islamists. Much of the rest of the movie is either fiction (Israel did not help the war effort) or exaggerated (Congressman Wilson was far less important than President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in determining American strategy). It’s a great movie which gets the most important history right and played an important role after 9/11 in helping Americans understand Afghanistan, now its longest war.

How to watch it: Rent or purchase on Amazon

Frank Rose recommends

The World at War

"The World at War"What it’s about: “The World at War,” produced by Jeremy Issacs, remains the definitive documentary of World War II. Filmed in the early 1970s, the program features interviews with key political and military leaders from the war (on both the Axis and Allied sides) as well as ordinary people. I have viewed the series numerous times over the past 30 years, and have always learned some new and interesting fact each time I have watched it.

How to watch it: YouTube

Israa Saber recommends


"Capernum" posterWhat it’s about: Focusing on 12-year-old Zain who’s suing his parents for giving him life, “Capernaum” uses flashbacks to provide an intimate glimpse into life for Lebanon’s most vulnerable. Though the film focuses on the difficulties children face, especially those born in poverty, and the rights society owes them, the film also highlights the refugee and migrant struggle in Lebanon. Lebanon hosts the most refugees per capita in the world, a result of the Syrian civil war, and has struggled economically, socially, and politically under the strains of this influx. “Capernaum” also sheds light on other social issues such as human trafficking, child marriage, misogyny, and official indifference, depicting how entangled they all are. The film is at times difficult to watch but its occasional dark humor and Zain’s streetwise antics help blunt the emotional toll it takes on the viewer. I’d highly recommend you give this film your time and undivided attention.

How to watch it: Amazon Prime

Suzanne Schaefer recommends

The Expanse

"The Expanse"What it’s about: “The Expanse” is a science fiction drama that is set hundreds of years into the future when humanity has colonized space and where political tensions are high between Earth (ruled by the United Nations), the Martian Congressional Republic on Mars, and the Outer Planets Alliance (the OPA). In the midst of this galactic feud over power and resources, the viewer is taken aboard the Rocinante, whose crew — brought together by circumstance — pulls at the thread of an unprecedented and dark discovery. “The Expanse” is both a detective thriller and political spectacle that explores the themes of diplomacy, governance, technology, exploration, the human condition, and even involves a brewing pandemic. Sure to satisfy any connoisseur of foreign affairs, it is a complex drama that expertly entertains while making you ponder the world as you know it and the distant future of foreign policy.

How to watch it: Amazon Prime

Rachel Slattery recommends

Atomic Blonde

"Atomic Blonde"What it’s about: If you’ve read Constanze Stelzenmüller’s excellent essay, “German lessons,” you’ll know how pivotal the fall of the Berlin Wall was for how Germany views its place in the world. Well, “Atomic Blonde” is a different kind of Berlin Wall story. Based on a comic book, the movie follows MI-6 operative Lorraine Broughton (played by Charlize Theron) as she navigates a divided Berlin in search of a mole in the intelligence community before the wall falls. Featuring head-bopping iconic 80s tunes and kick-ass fight scenes, this spy thriller will have you ready to fight the KGB too.

How to watch it: Hulu, or you can rent from Amazon or Vudu

Amanda Sloat recommends


"Occupied" posterWhat it’s about: “Occupied” is a Norwegian show, with three seasons currently available. Set in the near future, Middle East turmoil and U.S. withdrawal from NATO triggers an energy crisis. The Green Party takes power, led by an idealistic prime minister who cuts off fossil fuel production in the hopes of developing thorium-based nuclear power as an alternative. A desperate European Union acquiesces to a Russian-led invasion and soft occupation of Norway. As viewers are sitting at home during the coronavirus pandemic, “Occupied” provides interesting food for thought about future scenarios that could confront the trans-Atlantic relationship.

How to watch it: Netflix

Tom Stefanick recommends

The Best Years of Our Lives

"The Best Years of our Lives"What it’s about: I collaborated on this pick with my friend Murray Biggs, a semi-retired associate professor of English and theater at Yale who has lectured on “The Cinema of War” there and at West Point. Released in 1946, “The Best Years of Our Lives” remains an American classic. Winner of numerous Oscars and other awards, with black-and-white cinematography by the innovative Gregg Toland, and running at nearly three hours, the film depicts in painful detail the social difficulties of returning veterans seeking to resume a normal place in mainstream American life. Not quite a documentary, the movie nevertheless brings home the everyday experience of those trying to adjust to civilian routine after years of acutely disruptive military service abroad. It includes a brief scene in which someone asserts that the United States made a mistake in going to war. He is promptly knocked out.

How to watch it: Netflix

Constanze Stelzenmüller recommends

The Loved One

"The Loved One" posterWhat it’s about: On the principle of confronting one’s worst fears head-on in grim times, I emphatically recommend the undeservedly obscure “The Loved One,” an absolutely-nothing-is-sacred 1965 black-and-white satire of the American funeral industry based on books by Evelyn Waugh and Jessica Mitford, with a screenplay by Terry Southern and Christopher Isherwood. If that’s not enough to make you drop everything, consider the stars: Robert Morse, Jonathan Winters, John Gielgud, Robert Morley, Roddy McDowall, James Coburn, Rod Steiger, Milton Berle, Tab Hunter, and — wait for it — Liberace as a funeral director at the “Whispering Glades” cemetery and mortuary. But Anjanette Comer playing an embalmer named “Aimée Thanatogenos” alone is worth the price of admission. What are you waiting for?

How to watch it: Apple iTunes

Update on Copenhagen Atomics Molten Salt Fission From CTO

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