GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Month: July 2014


In response to our visit to Omaha Beach in Normandy, I wrote a poem in an effort to capture the fleeting feelings and emotions of the beach.

Gray touches Gray.  The Green is out of place.  Waves seep the shore clean.

The Breeze rushes through you, by you, up, up  towards the lush cliffs.

Like Water rubbing the cliffs away, the wind leaves the soul and mind

rough and bare.  The Tide draws you out, pulling you further from shelter.

Slowly Sand sways under your step.  Water encloses your foot,  step by step.

Closer to where Gray touches Gray.  The Cold morphs away as the tide pulls

you further,  further into its grasps, piercing your soul, making you forget.



Silence.  Silence crawling up your spine, seeping into your souls and weaving in

your mind.  Rolling Waves hush.  NOT Telling of the remains pulled back.

refusing to reveal the bygone souls.  There lays a Sole scrap succumbing

to the sea slowly,  slowly trying to stay a float in the sinking sand.

Every Tide carries sand to soften the edges, burying the remainder

encouraging Gray touching Gray.



Follow the Wind.  Allow it to turn you.  Cliffs asunder out from the land

meeting the clouds.  Gray touches Gray.  Quaint Cottages once lost in the mist

find souls.  Pivoting, Following the land, find Yourself in the presence of the upward

looming defense.  Eeriness shudders.  All alone where Gray touches Gray.

Soundlessly the Breeze ruffles through the foliage surprising the voice

of the land, the story of forgotten souls.  Twisting, Intertwining leaves smooth

over the damage.  Death marked only by ST. Bishop’s lace.  Here no Gray touches Gray.

A Reflection on Berlin

Berlin has been…..a city that divides opinion, almost literally.  Even now, close to 25 years after the fall of the wall, one can still see the remnants of a city that once was divided and suffered from very different world views, even the architecture differs from the former east and west.  But the greatest treat has been to be escorted around the city by Stevie, a wonderful woman who has experienced this divide first-hand.  Her stories about what life was like in this divided city are miraculous and she truly offers us the chance to experience inter-generational learning, which is something I think many of my generation do not take advantage of near enough.  I quite enjoyed her story about the lengths she went to discuss important topics with her friend who lived in east Berlin, and how they always went outside to discuss important matters, or discussed them in her friend’s bathroom with the shower running full blast in order to muffle their voices.  It really shows what it was like to live in this city during such divided times, and we were able to experience that through her.  For that I am eternally grateful to her.


Now on to a tougher, more solemn topic: The Holocaust.  There is an awareness that you see and feel in this city concerning the atrocities committed during the Third Reich.  Outside of the hotel there are small bronze plaques that commemorate Jewish citizens that lived in the same neighborhood and lost their lives in concentration camps.  It is a powerful and emotional thing to see.  Even more powerful is the Holocaust museum located underneath the memorial close to the center of the city.  I have been to the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C., and I hade believed that I was emotionally ready to experience the atrocities once again, but Berlin’s museum made the experience more personal.  Inside the museum were biographies of individual families as well as individuals that had been removed from their homes and murdered.  It made the Holocaust more than a set of statistics for me.  I remarked after leaving the museum that I had hoped I would not have nightmares that night, such was the effect of the museum.


All of this was exacerbated by the fact that we visited the Wannsee museum the day before.  The Wannsee House was the location of the Wannsee Conference, which was convened by the Nazi party to specifically address the “Jewish Problem,” and how, logically, they were going to be able to deal with liquidation of 11 million Jews.  There are no words to describe what it felt like to be in a place where some of the most sinister men history has ever seen signed away the lives of 11 million people without remorse.  It took simply a scribble on paper to turn violent prejudice into full genocide.

It truly has been an emotional experience.

IFRI and Iran’s Nuclear Crisis

At IFRI we had a speaker addressing the Iranian Nuclear Crisis and France’s interest in the issue. The issue centers around Iran’s enrichment of Uranium past being just fuel-grade. Fuel-grade Uranium does not require as much U-235 than weapons-grade Uranium, so this enrichment has caused skepticism among the international community towards Iran’s intentions. But this is not news, this has been the case for many years. France’s interest in this affair lies both in the security threat of Iran to Europe as a whole and in their role as one of the major nuclear powers (along with the US). Current negotiations are hoped to be completed by the end of this year and provide a medium- to long-term solution to this crisis. Specifically, a solution that is long-term enough to be effective and sustainable, but short-term enough to not be affected by changing regimes. Our speaker mentioned how nuclear fuel is at the center of these negotiations, because if an alternative fuel or means of acquiring fuel could be found, the crisis would be solved, for the most part.

Now that that is out of the way, it’s time to get to the purpose of this post: I asked a technical question regarding the fuel situation, one that probably only 4 people in the room could’ve hoped to understand, at least in my opinion, and one of which, the speaker, flat out stated that he had no clue about what I was talking about, because of his lack of research into that specific matter (though he still answered to the best of his abilities). My question was about the use of Thorium as a fuel source for Iran that would both mitigate the conflict and benefit the scientific community. The purpose of this post is to give a basic nuclear engineering background for my fellow students (and speakers, if they happen to read this) to be able to better understand this and to maybe get some basic publicity for what is a very realistic solution to this problem.

The use of Thorium as a fuel source is very easy to adapt to because few modifications would have to be made to Iran’s current nuclear reactors. Thorium, as a fuel, naturally mainly comes in the form of Thorium-232, which is considered “fertile.” “Fertile” means that the material is not fissile (able to undergo fission), but can be bred to become a fissile element (U-233). Uranium-233 is the element that actually undergoes fission in the Thorium fuel cycle. Fission and breeding both occur in generally the same process, so if Iran wanted to collect U-233 to make bombs, they would have to shut down their reactors and remove the fuel. Because of this it is an easy safety check to Iran because we just have to track their waste stream. Also, U-232 which is non-fissile and not fertile, and also a part of the Thorium fuel cycle, cannot be chemically separated from the U-233, and so acts as an inherent proliferation guard. In addition to this, U-233 is universally considered to be completely not effective as weapons material and thus poses little more risk than a dirty bomb. Dirty bombs are conventional explosives laced with radioactive materials, and thus much easier to develop than nuclear weapons for terrorists or rogue nations. Also, Thorium is more than 3 times as abundant as Uranium, so would be a much cheaper fuel for Iran. And in addition to this, because the most common form, Thorium-232, is the fertile isotope and the one that would be used, no enrichment facility would be needed in Iran, which is also at the center of the issue with Iran. Because of the ease of tracking U-233 in the waste stream, the fact that U-232 acts as a natural guard against proliferation, the relative ease of adaptation for Iran to use Thorium-232 (the only natural isotope of it) as a fuel, and the abundance of Thorium, it is of my opinion that this is a very realistic solution to this issue with Iran, one that should be near the center of the discussion if it is not already. Now, I am only a first year nuclear engineer, so I am not extremely well-versed in all of the implications of Thorium as a fuel for Iran, but I do feel that from the knowledge I do have, it would be very successful in ending this crisis. Also, the use of Thorium as a fuel would pose benefits to the scientific community because it has only been very scarcely used throughout history. So, the use of this by Iran would not only improve political relations with the West, but help increase its scientific standing in the international community, which could pose future benefits for Iran as a nation, as well. Thus, I believe that both France and the US, along with all other nations that are parties to the negotiations with Iran, should at least consider this in their solution and maybe do more research into the technical background of this and whether or not it truly is plausible solution.

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