A nationally renowned physicist spoke to students and the public on Tuesday about the advanced technology of thorium reactors. The event was sponsored by the Department of Engineering and Physics in hopes of bringing their idea of a new research lab to life.
Kirk Sorensen is the president and chief technologist of Flibe Energy, a company dedicated to the design and development of highly efficient thorium power sources. In layman’s terms, thorium based nuclear power is more beneficial than uranium filled power because it’s less wasteful, safer and more abundantly found on earth.
Dr. Rusty Towell, chair of the department, helped coordinate and plan for Sorensen’s visit. He is also the lead faculty member in charge of the new initiative research lab. The lab, still in the beginning phases, will be used to help find advanced reactor designs such as thorium.
“Sorensen is one of the best in the nation when it comes to this new technology,” Towell said, “His passion is to take this technology that was discovered in the ’60s and commercialize it today.”
Dr. Charles Ivey, former chair of the Physics department and the person who helped start the program, was another strong force that allowed for Sorensen to come and speak on campus.
“He approached me about this new technology”¦and at his prodding I learned more about and saw that it was safer and more efficient,” Towell said.
Sorensen worked at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center for ten years developing new technologies for space transportation, including a two-year detail to the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, according to an article published by the Texas Physics Association in 2014. He’s also a visiting instructor at Tennessee Technological University.
“We’ve advertised the visit throughout the community and in West Texas Science center,” Towell said.
Samuel Stephens, a sophomore physics major, was in the audience to hear Sorensen speak.
“I was very interested in the presentation,” Stephens said. “The type of reactor that Mr. Sorensen proposes is almost a wonder machine, generating power and medicinal byproducts, while producing almost no dangerous waste.”
The department hopes Sorensen will provide guidance for the new research center .
“The real goal of bringing Kirk in is to help ensure that our research center is answering important questions,” Towell said.