A funny thing happened on the way to the final round of Germany’s prestigious GreenTec Awards. A molten salt reactor that the public had voted into the August 30th gala gathering vanished from the competition, muscled out by none other than the contest’s organizers.
It seemed like an odd turn of events, considering that GreenTec exists to honor “ecological and economic consciousness and commitment,” as it says on its website.
What could be more ecologically sound than the Dual-Fluid Reactor, an MSR entered into the contest by Berlin’s Institute for Solid-State Nuclear Physics. MSRs and other advanced nuclear designs auger a CO2-free energy future and represent clear improvements in nuclear safety, efficiency, and waste management when compared to conventional nuclear. The Dual-Fluid Reactor (DFR) is no exception (click on the video below to learn more about it, including how it can be used as a source of industrial process heat to make hydrogen and synthetic fuels).
Clearly, a significant portion of the German public understands this. The Dual-Fluid Reactor (DFR) made it to the finals on the strength of an open, online voting round. Under the rules of the competition, GreenTec judges select two finalists in each of the contest’s eight categories, and the public selects the third.
While the judges did not send the DFR to Berlin, some sensible common folks did, bestowing the DFR as one of the three shortlisted contenders for the vaunted Galileo category, a science-oriented award sponsored by German media company Pro-Sieben.
But this is Germany, where the energy lords extol renewables like solar and wind, and where the government decided two years ago to walk away from nuclear in the aftermath of Fukushima. GreenTec, backed by clean technology company VKPartners GmbH, counts Germany’s energy minister Peter Altmaier as its patron. Altmaier will be participating on the Berlin awards stage (where it might have been a tad uncomfortable for an anti-nuclear government to potentially salute a nuclear energy technology).
So GreenTec took swift action, and disqualified the DFR. Airbrushed it right out of the picture.
The development stunned the Institute.
“On June 4, we have been disqualified and denominated by the jury, with no explanation,” it wrote on its website. “Rules have been changed afterwards to allow for a denomination of the online voting.”
Outrage ensued, as DFR supporters accused GreenTec of changing the voting rules to suit their own interests.
German blogger Rainer Klute - a regular commenter on Weinberg blogs - noted:
“People who had campaigned for the award and for the DFR were heavily shocked. Not only they found the decision as such completely incomprehensible, but also the procedure to make it. Changing rules in the course of the game is something that is usually considered less than fair. Most of us (but obviously not all) learned this early in our childhood. No wonder the award’s makers were criticized violently in blogs and social media, especially on their own Facebook page.”
GreenTec has posted an explanation on Facebook. It’s in German which I unfortunately don’t read. I asked GreenTec to clarify its actions for me in English. A spokeswoman replied via email that, “Indeed, it is true that our jury disqualified the project Dual Fluid Reactor (DFR) in the Galileo category. However, it is not true that we in any way changed the rules of participation for this specific case!”
The spokeswoman said that the Institute had violated a clause in the application process “which obliges participants to provide truthful information about their projects, ensuring an objective evaluation process.” She also noted that “The organizers are authorized to disqualify the applicant as well as take away his/her rights to the title.” They also stripped another finalist, called Care Energy.
She did not elaborate on the violation in the DFR application. I asked her to provide more details, which had not arrived at the time of publishing this blog.
Meanwhile, GreenTec is looking forward to its glitzy Aug. 30 evening, sans nuclear, when they will anoint winners in the Galileo category as well as in production, energy, mobility, aviation, recycling, communication, and building and living.
On that night, GreenTec says, stars will step out “demonstrating their enthusiasm for climate protection.”
Attention stars: You could shine brighter with MSR power.
Go to DFR class with the designers Nico Bernt and Daniel Weibach in this YouTube video:
Images are screen grabs from the Institute for Solid-State Nuclear Physic’s DFR video, via YouTube.