Ray Rothrock

“What’s the Big Deal?” – Rothrock, in Issues.org

In Energy on December 20, 2015 at 1:09 pm

All, I know it’s been a while since I posted.  Fear not, I’ve been busy working on several energy fronts in addition to CEOing RedSeal, Inc. here in the Silicon Valley.

Attached is an article about to post to http://www.issues.org, entitled, “What’s the Big Deal?”

Please comment to www.issues.org if you wish.

My most humble thanks to Dan Sarewitz for pushing me to get this done, and suggesting it in the first place.  And to Jay Lloyd for the editing and patience with my responsiveness. And of course many thanks to Charlotte Otto, Dale Prouty, Rich Barth and Michl Binderbauer of Tri Alpha for all the assistance in preparation, but mostly for founding Tri Alpha in the first place.


Rothrock – What’s the Big Idea (Winter 2016 IST)


Pres. Obama — Takes aim at coal pollution

In Energy, Technology on June 2, 2014 at 8:41 am

It is very clear to everyone that coal is a dirty dirty fuel.  It’s a well kept secret, in fact, that it is not.  Scores of people die just mining it.  And every year millions of people die breathing the exhaust plumes from coal burning.  As we have seen in the recent years, China, who is full speed ahead on producing electricity, has doubled their coal burning and as a result polluted their cities beyond what is even tolerable.  Look at photos from the cities there but notably at Dec. 7, 2013 Shanghai for evidence of this.  China’s economy is not going to stop, so the notion of simply saying stop burning coal will not work.

Today President Obama is putting the EPA on the front line to deal with this in the United States.  While I praise this effort, it will surely fall under the weight of legal battles and possible legislative pressure to prevent EPA from doing this.  I’m counting on the President to get this done.

We should reduce coal burning in the world, but let’s start with the US, as quickly as possible.  Whether your own science concurs with the rest of science about climate change or not, the whole notion of breathable air should put you squarely in the court of NO MORE COAL burning.

Good luck, Mr. President.

Next up in your final lap as President — R&D spending.  There is nothing more critical to the long term future of the nation, the nation’s economy, and our standard of living, than the investment in R&D.  Nothing.  And I would start with electricity generation as a top priority.

Transatomic Tackles Spent Nuclear Fuel Waste with Green Energy

In Energy, Technology, Venture Capital on February 7, 2014 at 6:31 am

One of the public’s concerns for the expansion of nuclear energy as a clean, non-CO2 source of power is the accumulation of spent nuclear fuel waste.  This waste is highly radioactive and must be isolated for hundreds of thousands of years from the environment.  Trivially small by volume, nuclear waste from power plants is nonetheless a real concern for everyone.  And rightly so.  Enter new thinking by today’s grad students to tackle such a thorny issue that the U.S. Government has yet to solve.

Transatomic Power, a new company founded by MIT PhDs , Leslie Dewan and Mark Massie, and Russ Wilcox is tackling the spent nuclear fuel issue head on!  Their reactor design, a molten salt liquid fuel design, is able to burn up existing spent nuclear fuel turning it into electricity.  But more importantly, it reduces the ultimate spent fuel radioactivity to a level requiring about 300 years isolation from hundreds of thousands of years isolation and the volume to 1/20 of what it was before it was turned into electricity.   And by the way, there is no proliferation risk introduced in the process, either.  The company is seed financed by me and others.

Recognized by Time, Forbes, MIT Tech Review, and many other national publications, Dr. Dewan and Mr. Massie were featured in a TEDx New England Nov. 1, 2011.  This short 19 minute video is worth watching if you want to witness what new, fresh thinking can do, and want to see what innovation is all about.

The company has produced a white paper describing their technology.  If you’ve been around a while, you’ll recognize that TAP is built on the shoulders of other giants, namely the work done at Oakridge National Laboratory in the 1960s with their graphic moderated molten salt reactors.  By the way, those reactors worked nicely back then.

What are the next steps?  Like all new technologies, this one needs to be tested.  And to do that, the company needs to take their designs to an engineering level that could be built.  And then, in cooperation with the United States Department of Energy (perhaps), the nuclear utility industry, and others, it needs to build a demonstration plant.  This is not a billion dollar project — it is on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars and nicely fits in the national strategy for spent nuclear waste.  By the way, the country has already put aside $30 billion  against the goal of dealing with spent nuclear fuel.  TAP and other ideas make sense to try.