Good nu­clear?

Kiwi in lead­ing devel­op­ment role

Element - - Contents - By Jamie Joseph


W hen Matthew Sim­mons stood up on stage at TEDx Auck­land in Oc­to­ber this year the ti­tle of his talk

was ‘Sav­ing lives with the world’s largest sub­woofer – a break­through dis­cov­ery of po­ten­tial warn­ing sys­tems for vol­ca­noes and at­mo­spheric dis­tur­bances’.

In 1983, then a 12-year-old boy, Sim­mons started his first busi­ness ven­ture re­pair­ing loud­speak­ers in his fa­ther’s work­shop. For­ward to 2012 and that young en­tre­pre­neur’s busi­ness is a New Zealand-based tech­nol­ogy trail­blazer with al­most 30 years of con­tin­u­ous in­no­va­tion, re­search and prod­uct devel­op­ment. His com­pany, Arvus Group, cov­ers an un­usu­ally wide range of in­dus­tries which in­clude elec­tron­ics, acous­tics, geo­ther­mal power gen­er­a­tion, at­mo­spheric and ge­ol­ogy mon­i­tor­ing, nu­clear and chem­i­cal sciences.

Sim­mons flew from the TEDx stage to the air­port to catch his sixth flight to China where he pre­sented at an In­ter­na­tional Thorium En­ergy Con­fer­ence in Shang­hai.

Says Sim­mons: “Nu­clear, in the form of Thorium is now back on the ta­ble. Th­ese small re­ac­tors were devel­oped over 40 years ago, but were for­got­ten, and now China, In­dia, South Africa, Ja­pan and the US are de­vel­op­ing them. It rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant shift in what is con­sid­ered good nu­clear.”

Sim­mons claims that thorium is ten times more abun­dant than ura­nium and thorium based re­ac­tors are safe, cheap and have al­most no waste or weapons-grade by-prod­ucts. Arvus is now part­ner­ing with com­pa­nies in China, South Africa, UK and the US to de­velop unique ma­te­ri­als and ther­mo­elec­tric so­lu­tions for th­ese new re­ac­tors.

Arvus is de­vel­op­ing a so­lu­tion called Ther­ma­genz™. This is a solid-state power gen­er­a­tor that can con­vert heat di­rectly to elec­tric­ity. There are no mov­ing parts and no need for water. The 2KW pro­to­type is al­most com­plete with strong in­ter­est from geo­ther­mal and nu­clear in­dus­tries.

Says Sim­mons, “Even now the so­lu­tion is vi­able, with plans for large geo­ther­mal in­stal­la­tions in the works. How­ever to get Ther­ma­genz™ work­ing in other power sys­tems we are de­vel­op­ing a unique semi­con­duc­tor that has the po­ten­tial to be over 50% ef­fi­cient. At th­ese lev­els Ther­ma­genz™ has the po­ten­tial to be a game changer for cheap, re­li­able car­bon free elec­tric­ity.”

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