Friday, June 8, 2012

Energy From Thorium – An ICOSA Interview with Kirk Sorensen and Member of the House of Lords, Baroness Worthington

What is the potential for the use of thorium as an energy resource? I just traveled to Huntsville, Alabama with Jan Mazotti for ICOSA magazine to find out directly from Flibe Energy. Liquid fluoride thorium reactors or LFTR (pronounced "lifter"), have the potential to revolutionize the energy industry by providing clean, reliable, and continuous power generation while using a fuel that we have in abundance. Remarkably, however, it's not just about power. It's also about creating a reliable supply of isotopes for medical treatment, rocket fuel, and other useful by-products. In short, LFTR is about taking a fresh look at a proven technology so that we can move securely into the future. 

In our interview with Flibe, we discuss how it works, the state of the technology, what needs to happen to integrate LFTR into America's energy generation portfolio and more specifically, what that might look like. What struck me, however, is the similarity of Flibe's story to some of America's greatest success stories and greatest leaders.  

"To alter the course of an industry requires a very special and rare partnership between one who knows why and those who know how," says Simon Sinek in his book entitled, "Start With Why."  Why is the vision and the how is the processes and systems that make the vision a reality. "In nearly every case of a person or an organization that has gone on to inspire people to do great things, there exists a special partnership between why and how . . . Bill Gates, for example, may have been a visionary who imagined a world with a PC on every desk, but Paul Allen built the company," observes Sinek. According to Sinek, "the why types are the visionaries, the ones with the overactive imagination, whereas how types live more in the here and now." They build the structures and processes needed to get things done. Success requires both.

Flibe Energy was co-founded by Kirk Sorensen and Kirk Dorius, former college roommates.  Both were students in mechanical engineering. Sorensen went on to study aerospace engineering and Dorius went to law school. The match pairs Sorensen's infectious enthusiasm, charisma and vision with Dorius' tenacious determination and practicality needed to lay to the foundation to turn vision into reality. According to Sinek, this is the beginning of a recipe for success. "A shared upbringing and life experience increases the probability of a shared set of values and beliefs." Sinek provides several examples of why/how partnerships.  Walt Disney and Roy Disney were brothers. Bill Gates and Paul Allen went to high school together. Herb Kelleher was Rollin King's divorce attorney and friend (Southwest Airlines). Martin Luther King Jr. and Abernathy both preached in Birmingham.  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were best friends in high school. Kirk Sorensen and Kirk Dorius were college roommates. If history is any indication, Flibe is on solid footing.

Pessimists are often right, but it's the optimists that change the world, says Thomas Friedman, author of "The World is Flat." In his book, Sinek demonstrates that American's have had great success in making a vision a reality when we understand why. The process starts with the vision and charisma of the leader - something Sorensen clearly demonstrates. Each tangible demonstration of success that the vision became a reality strengthens the foothold and encourages acceptance. The energy landscape is transitioning. With LFTR technology and Flibe Energy, we may very well be at the beginning of another great American success story.

You will be able to listen to the radio show on and ICOSA's YouTube station soon.