Photo of the Day: Visions of energy

See what the U.S. Energy Secretary sees.

As the new head of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Ernest Moniz has a vision for the energy future. In the photo above, Secretary Moniz has nuclear power in his sights, through a set of deluxe 3D spectacles at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The glasses are rendering the information on the blue and green screen pictured below into three dimensions.

Moniz is looking at a simulation of fuel rod performance at the nearby Watts Bar I nuclear power station, which generates electricity for about 750,000 homes. (Watts Bar also produces tritium for nuclear weapons under a DOE defense-related program, but that's another story).

The display is part of an Oak Ridge facility called CASL - the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors.

CASL models the performance of materials and fuels in conventional reactors, so on this occasion, Moniz wasn't looking into the possibilities of novel reactor types, such as a liquid reactor called the molten salt reactor (MSR), which Oak Ridge developed in the 1960s before abandoning it. A number of scientists around the world are now trying to revive the MSR. Moniz' DOE has expressed interest in novel reactor types, such as so-called "fast reactors" which it is exploring with Russia .

DOE is also getting ready to award a second grant to a company developing a "small modular reactor," following a first round victory for Babcock & Wilcox late last year. And DOE is also collaborating with China on high temperature molten salt cooled (but not fueled) reactors, along with Westinghouse, in a program begun before Moniz' arrival in May.

So what's with the bobbles on the boss's eyeglasses? They're trackers that allowed Moniz to move around and see the display and the data from different angles, presenting 3D objects as though they were floating before him, an Oak Ridge spokesman told me. The "collaborative immersive virtual environment" is part of an Oak Ridge project called Virtual Office Community and Computing (VOCC).

Either that or Moniz is trying to rival Black Eye Peas frontman (below) in making a techno fashion statement.

Advice to Mr. Be earnest in your pursuit of hip. Get some bobbles on your shades lest you look like a fashion dud rather than a fashion dude.


Photos of Moniz at ORNL are from Lynn Freeny, U.S. DOE, via Flickr. Image of is a screen grab from YouTube clip of Super Bowl XLV performance.

Some recent nuclear visions on SmartPlanet:

For all sorts of alternative nuclear stories including thorium, molten salt, pebble beds, fast reactors, modular reactors, fusion and more, click here.

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