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The future of nuclear energy: Let a thousand flowers bloom

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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The interior of a TRIGA nuclear reactor at Oregon State University (Image: Oregon State University)

In the summer of 1956, a handful of men gathered in a former little red schoolhouse in San Diego. These men were among the most imaginative scientists and engineers of their generation. There was their leader, Frederic de Hoffmann who had worked on the Manhattan Project and was now the president of the company General Atomics. Hoffmann was not only a creative physicist but also an unusually shrewd and capable manager and entrepreneur; in the later years of his life he would take the celebrated Salk Institute to great heights. There was also Freeman Dyson, a remarkably versatile mathematical physicist from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton who had previously reconciled disparate theories of quantum electrodynamics – the strange theory of light and matter. And there was Edward Teller, another Manhattan Project veteran; a dark, volatile and brilliant physicist who would become so convinced of the power of nuclear weapons to save the world that he would inspire the caricature of the mad scientist in Stanley Kubrick’s classic film “Dr. Strangelove”.

Together these men and their associates worked on a single goal: the creation of a nuclear reactor that was intrinsically safe, one that would cease and desist its nuclear transformations even in the face of human folly and stupidity. The reactor would have the rather uninspired name TRIGA (Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomics) but its legacy would be anything but uninspiring. At the heart of the reactor’s success was not a technical innovation but an open atmosphere of debate and discussion. Every day someone – mostly Teller – would come up with ten ideas, most of which sounded crazy. The others – mostly Dyson – would then patiently work through the ideas, discarding several of them, extracting the gems from the dross and giving them rigorous shape.

TRIGA benefited from a maximum of free inquiry and individual creativity and a minimum of bureaucratic interference. There was no overarching managerial body dictating the thoughts of the designers. Everyone was free to come up with any idea they thought of, and the job of the rest of the group was to either refine the idea and make it more rigorous and practical or discard it and move on to the next idea. The makers of TRIGA would have been right at home with the computer entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley a few decades later.

At the core of TRIGA’s operation was a principle called the warm neutron principle. In a conventional reactor the neutrons in the fuel are moderated by hydrogen in the cooler water from the surroundings. There is a significant potential for a meltdown if someone pulls out the control rods, since the water which stays cool for a while will continue to moderate the neutrons and sustain their efficacy for causing fission. Dyson and Teller’s idea was to place half of the hydrogen in the water and the rest in the fuel in the form of a uranium and zirconium hydride alloy. This would result in only half of the hydrogen staying cool enough to moderate the neutrons, while the other half in the hydride stays warm and diminishes the ability of the neutrons to fission uranium. This results in the fuel having what is called a negative temperature coefficient. The fuel rods were fashioned with care and precision by Massoud Simnad, an Iranian metallurgist working on the project.

The warm neutron principle is what made TRIGA intrinsically safe, very unlikely to sustain a meltdown or catastrophic failure. It took less than three years for the engineers and technicians to take the reactor from the design stage to manufacturing. The first TRIGA was inaugurated by none other than Niels Bohr in San Diego. Seventy of these safe reactors were built. They were safe and cheap enough to be operated in hospitals and universities by students and their main function was to produce isotopes for scientific and engineering experiments. They were also robust and safe enough to be proliferation resistant. As Dyson recounts in his elegant memoir “Disturbing the Universe”, the TRIGA is perhaps the only nuclear reactor that made a profit for its creator.

TRIGA made the development of nuclear power seem relatively easy, cheap and fast. Why didn’t other reactors enjoy the same success? Why, after fifty years, is nuclear power still struggling in the face of economics and political and social backlash? There are many reasons, but the principal reason is simple: the designers of TRIGA were encouraged to have fun and they had the kind of freedom of inquiry commonly found in a startup company. The problem is that the fun went out of the nuclear business in the 70s and with fun creativity and cost considerations also went out of the window. In his book Dyson swiftly cuts through to the central issue:

“The fundamental problem of the nuclear industry is not reactor safety, not waste disposal, not the dangers of nuclear proliferation, real though all these problems are. The fundamental problem of the industry is that nobody any longer has any fun building reactors….Sometime between 1960 and 1970 the fun went out of the business. The adventurers, the experimenters, the inventors, were driven out, and the accountants and managers took control. The accountants and managers decided that it was not cost effective to let bright people play with weird reactors. So the weird reactors disappeared and with them the chance of any radical improvement beyond our existing systems. We are left with a very small number of reactor types, each of them frozen into a huge bureaucratic organization, each of them in various ways technically unsatisfactory, each of them less safe than many possible alternative designs which have been discarded. Nobody builds reactors for fun anymore. The spirit of the little red schoolhouse is dead. That, in my opinion, is what went wrong with nuclear power.”

Nobody builds reactors for fun anymore. What Dyson is getting at is quite simple. For any technological development to be possible, the technology needs to drive itself with the fuel of Darwinian innovation. It needs to generate all possible ideas – including the weird ones – and then fish out the best while ruthlessly weeding out the worst. This leads not only to quality but cost reduction since no entrepreneur is going to risk introducing an inherently expensive technology into the market. But all this is not possible until you allow people to play with ideas of their own volition and have fun doing it. People are not going to selflessly generate ideas by fiat, they are only going to do so when they are supported by funds and infrastructure but otherwise left to their own devices. The accountants and managers need to get the process started and then need to get out of the way.

Almost every successful technology has gone through this Darwinian phase. Dyson gives the example of motorcycles, which motorcyclists from his father’s generation designed and serviced with care and affection. In our generation the most resounding example is that of computer technology. We have lost track of how many versions of software and hardware young computer enthusiasts experimented with in their California garages before their own technical and artistic sensibilities and the will of the market picked the best ones. Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs made their fortunes in a milieu of young upstarts experimenting with the latest electronics and code and competing with fellow upstarts sprawled across the country. Just like the nuclear designers of the little red schoolhouse, the computer designers of the Silicon Valley garages were unencumbered by the demands of a central authority. So were the genetic engineers who founded companies like Genentech and Amgen. They could let their imaginations roam, bouncing ideas off one another and ruthlessly shooting down clumsy, expensive or ostentatious designs. It was the ability of bright young people to brainstorm to their hearts’ content and to launch nimble startups rapidly exploring diverse and cheap technological solutions that allowed computer technology to become the all-pervasive life force that it is today. Biotechnology is now poised to do the same. A similar process of Darwinian survival of the fittest permeates other successful technologies, from flight to automobile engineering to house construction. And most importantly, the creators of all these technologies had fun creating them.

Nothing like this happened with nuclear power. It was a technology whose development was dictated by a few prominent government and military officials and large organizations and straitjacketed within narrow constraints. Most of the developers of nuclear technologies were staid, elderly bureaucrats rather than young iconoclasts like Frederic de Hoffmann. An early design invented by Admiral Hyman Rickover – suitable for submarines but hardly optimal for efficient land-based power stations – was frozen and applied to hundreds of reactors around the country. Since then there have been only a hundred or so reactor designs and only half a dozen or so prominent ones. Due to a complicated mix of factors including public paranoia, lack of economies of scale, political correctness and misunderstandings about radiation, nuclear technology was never given a chance to be played around with, to be entrusted to youthful entrepreneurs experimenting with ideas, to find its own way through the creative and destructive process of Darwinian evolution to a plateau of technological and economic efficiency. The result was that the field remained both scientifically narrow and expensive. Even today there are only a handful of companies building and operating most of the world’s reactors.

To reinvigorate the promise of nuclear power to provide cheap energy to the world and combat climate change, the field needs to be infused with the same entrepreneurial spirit that pervaded the TRIGA design team and the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Young people who are brimming with ideas especially need to be given as many resources as possible to come up with solutions and explore them in startups, even if not garages. Just like any other technology, nuclear power can thrive only when the maximum number of people apply their creative minds to improving both the quality and cost of energy from fission. Fortunately a minority of companies and their creators are setting the trends.

I live in Cambridge, MA which has been a hotbed of innovation for several decades. In a few square miles along the picturesque Charles River lie literally hundreds of biotech, pharmaceutical and information technology startups, most enabled by the proximity of MIT and Harvard whose laboratories provide a steady supply of ideas that can be potentially turned into useful products. The scientists, engineers and managers in these startups constantly compete against each other and between themselves for the best ideas. My own startup is based on a novel way to make complex drugs using the specific base-pairing properties of DNA. Every year dozens of startups fail, and a few go public or are bought by other companies. The whole startup enterprise in Cambridge is subject to the forces of Darwinian selection that enables the filtering of the best ideas.

One component of this enterprise is named Transatomic Power. It was started by a duo of graduate students from MIT named Leslie Dewan and Mark Massie in 2010. The goal of Transatomic Power is to design a reactor that can generate power from nuclear waste, thus addressing the twin issues of clean energy and nuclear waste removal at the same time. The reactor which is a molten salt reactor lives off the preponderance of energy trapped in unfissioned reactor fuel from light water reactors. It is also compact enough to be shipped individually to the reactor site. Dewan and Massie are two of the few young people who actually see opportunity in the nuclear field and are willing to take risks in order to develop a novel approach to the problem.

On the other coast of the United States in Seattle is another team of nuclear entrepreneurs led by Nathan Myhrvold, a former CTO of Microsoft with degrees in physics and economics. Myhrvold has founded a company named Terrapower which operates on a novel nuclear design called the traveling wave reactor (TWR) which was also in part explored by Edward Teller and Lowell Wood in the 90s. The TWR is another reactor which can operate on waste, using depleted uranium to sustain a fission wave that spreads outward into the reactor, transforming the uranium into plutonium and leaving a small amount of fissile waste behind. The TWR promises to run for decades without having to refuel it or recover spent fuel, thus promising both safety and proliferation resistance. Among the enthusiasts of the TWR is Bill Gates, who knows a thing or two about Darwinian innovation in technology.

The founders of Terrapower and Transatomic are following in the footsteps of the dreamers in the little red schoolhouse. They have transformed nuclear technology into an entrepreneurial game of ideas and funding sustained by a healthy interplay between academic, industrial and government laboratories. I do not know whether their reactors will be the ones supplying the world’s energy in the near future, but what I do know is that they are doing exactly what needs to be done to sustain the innovative process of creation and destruction that is necessary for the evolution of any successful technology. They are bucking the trend set by the large, bureaucratic government organizations and their industrial counterparts. And most importantly, they are having fun doing it, trading ideas and exploring new technical ground. I see hope in the adventures of these nuclear explorers, just like the makers of TRIGA saw hope in the future of nuclear power and the whole world saw hope in the explorers of computer and biotechnology in the 80s. When it comes to nuclear technology we should let a thousand flowers bloom. And then we can pick the most beautiful.

This post was first published on the Nobel Week Dialogue website.

Ashutosh Jogalekar About the Author: Ashutosh (Ash) Jogalekar is a chemist interested in the history and philosophy of science. He considers science to be a seamless and all-encompassing part of the human experience. Follow on Twitter @curiouswavefn.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. outsidethebox 6:29 pm 12/6/2013

    It seems to me there are several good ideas out there for new kinds of reactors but whenever they are proposed what you read in the comment section of SciAm is that they are unproven. Well yeah. Until some government puts up the money to build one. Which would be a great idea.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Arbeiter 7:02 pm 12/6/2013

    Obadiah Stane, “Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave. With a box of scraps!” Discovery disciplines management rewarded for enforcing process not creating product. If a levied penalty (failure) is less than profit in hand (subsidy), it’s not a deterrent – it’s a business plan (Solyndra, A123 Systems). Redirected stupidity is not intelligence, whatever its talents for presentation (Beltway lobotomites).

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1102.2837
    Promotion within hierarchical management is quantitatively worse than random choice.

    Link to this
  3. 3. David Cummings 8:37 pm 12/6/2013

    Excellent essay; fascinating story.

    To me it’s not possible to imagine a realistic transition away from fossil fuel without a large component of nuclear power.

    Link to this
  4. 4. GRLCowan 8:04 am 12/7/2013

    Looks as if UA got banned.

    Governments, like David Cummings, cannot imagine a significant loss of their fossil fuel rents unless they fail to suppress nuclear power. A Hansen-style taking of these earnings and dividing them equally among the citizens would disempower publically funded nuke-hobblers, which is essentially all of them, and governments soon would be funding keen new nuclear prototypes again. NERVA, for instance, would quickly return.

    Hansen wants the dividend to be of *new* fossil fuel tax revenues, not existing ones, but dividend-first is better.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Fanandala 11:07 am 12/7/2013

    Thank you for this well written and positive article.

    Link to this
  6. 6. sethdayal 3:30 pm 12/7/2013

    The entire Soviet Alfa sub fleet was powered by a Gen IV reactor over its service life. Copies are on the list for sub 2017 deployment as SMR ‘s.

    The Russians have had their BN-600 Gen IV reactor connected to the grid for 10 years now and both the Indians and Russkis have new Gen IV fast reactors connecting to the grid in 2014. – first of many to 2020.

    China is building nukes at 3 cents a KWh all in, half just the fuel cost of the coal and 25% of the the gas, they are importing from Australia. The only delay is the wait to 2017 for the in service date of China’s modular HGTR reactor 15 years ahead of the US, 70% allocated to synfuel production at a projected forward cost of a penny a kwh. Chinese factories will be shipping them out in containers to Big Oil corrupted countries in the West as soon as China finishes swapping out its coal turning the West into a well deserved industrial backwater.

    Note that the only US research on advanced nuclear is $250M per annum on the HTGR for 2030 service while Bog Oil’s Obama is spending $8B on wacky nutball carbon capture experiments. I guess Obama is so blinded by his Big Oil backers that he can’t even read a newspaper.

    Here’s another.

    With a paltry $two billion in investment diverted from the stupid wind, solar investments and carbon capture experiments, within 5 years these would be Canada’s major energy and industrial export. David LeBlanc at the U of Ottawa has redesigned the Molten salt reactor which would resolve all safety and cost issues with nuclear. This tech was actually build and ran in a reactor for many years – even flown around on an airplane. By using existing nuclear waste for fuel it could power the world for hundreds of years.

    David predicts costs at less than 1/2 cent a kwh .

    All it needs is $5B, 5 years, and a place to build em , and factory produced units would be streaming out fast enough to eliminate fossil fuels in the 10 to 15 year timeframe fast enough to save us. They could be plopped in to coal and gas generator sites under a single national license. The payback period on these puppies would be less than year by displacing horrendously expensive petrol product and eliminating air pollution related heath care costs immediately saving tens of thousands of lives annually.

    Canada one remaining chance at becoming an energy superpower.

    Google “terrestrial-energy-will-make-integral”

    Link to this
  7. 7. David Russell 1:06 am 12/8/2013

    A must read is Project Orion. I was in San Diego when General Atomics was created as a front end for Project Orion and probably played in the Surf at La Jolla with George Dyson, his son who wrote the book on the project. my last years in San Diego were in the late 50s to 1960 and I lived in Point Loma where much of the Proof of Concept work was done on this novel propulsion system that became more effective as it became larger. If we would have followed through, it was said to be able to obtaib 10% of the speed of light and we would be nearing our closest start right about now.

    But my father new many of the players, from Convair, General Atomics and Ge. Freeman Dyson is one of my heroes and may still be with us. Any time I post anything of worth, he and Lee Smolin are included on the cc. His story of traveling with Richard Feynman out west and coming back and writing the how too on QED was break through and allowed many people to beging using what maybe 4 people got at the time.

    Did I say I love this man dearly and his son George wrote a phenomenal book on Project Orion that should knock your socks off. There is more to this man than the Dyson Sphere.

    Link to this
  8. 8. Postman1 1:07 pm 12/8/2013

    @David Russell, you might enjoy these:
    http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?s=Freeman+Dyson

    Link to this
  9. 9. sault 3:49 pm 12/8/2013

    seth,

    As with all your fanciful rants, I’ll believe it when I see it. People can project costs and performance all they like, but until something is operating in the real world, you CANNOT make the kinds of statements you do about these reactors and hope to be anywhere close to accurate.

    Link to this
  10. 10. sault 4:02 pm 12/8/2013

    Ash,

    Agreed, government decisions decades ago concerning nuclear power locked us into a sub-optimal design for civilian nuclear power and we are still feeling the consequences. Maybe they were more interested in generating plutonium than electricity, but I digress. The best way to make sure we don’t make the same mistake again is to allow market forces to operate on the nuclear industry instead of shielding it.

    For example, the Price Anderson Act forces the federal government to pick up the tab for damages above a woefully small cap if a reactor melts down. This allowed potentially unsafe light water reactors to proliferate free from the burden of having to procure adequate liability insurance on the open market. I say, if you can’t build a rector that’s safe enough where a private company WILL offer reasonably-priced liability insurance, then maybe you don’t want to build that reactor at all.

    Likewise, allowing utilities that are in the process of building reactors to charge their customers for them years before the reactors become operational (or if they become operational at all) is also a bad idea. These “cost recovery” measures are meant to lower the utility’s borrowing and capital costs. However, this also shoves a lot of the financial risk of building reactors onto utility customers while allowing financial decisions the utility makes in regards to reactor construction to be artificially detached from reality. I say, if a utility can’t build a reactor in a reasonable time-frame and if its price tag is much more than it can handle, then maybe they don’t need to be building it in the first place.

    All this government intervention (and more!) caused economically and socially sub-optimal reactors to be built. If we allowed market forces to find the optimal solution, we would be able to have a sort of Darwinian Evolution of reactor designs that produces better results. Currently however, we are locking ourselves into more problems by making the same mistakes as in the past with the few new nuclear reactors being built.

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  11. 11. Crocodile Chuck 6:54 pm 12/8/2013

    Ash,

    “An early design invented by Admiral Hyman Rickover – suitable for submarines but hardly optimal for efficient land-based power stations – was frozen and applied to hundreds of reactors around the country. ”

    1) Hyman Rickover selected (not invented)
    the PWR design for the Nautilus because it was the only one at the time that would fit inside its hull.
    2) The PWR design was ‘ported’ over to the civilian side (‘atoms for peace’)
    because the DoD needed Pu for bombs.

    Last, as other readers have commented upthread, read George Dyson’s book on the Orion Project; also John McPhee’s ‘The Curve of Binding Energy’ on the remarkable bomb designer (and nuclear visionary) Ted Taylor

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Curve-Binding-Energy-Alarming/dp/0374515980

    Link to this
  12. 12. curiouswavefunction 9:41 pm 12/8/2013

    “Project Orion” and “The Curve of Binding Energy” are indeed excellent books. I agree that market forces need to operate in a prudent manner for enabling Darwinian evolution in the nuclear field.

    Link to this
  13. 13. sethdayal 10:54 pm 12/8/2013

    Sault – news nobody cares what you believe.

    I’ve listed successful two Soviet reactors one still on the grid with a successor online next year. While your illiteracy as always gets in the way of your uneducated spew, those are facts.

    I have tried numerous times to get through to Sault that it is illegal for a private insurer to carry risk for an event that could bankrupt it, even if the chance of the event occurring is infinitesimal. As a result you can’t obtain insurance for an asteroid strike.

    Nukes already have $15B in insurance, more than any other industry with the toughest regulator on earth. Even the worst case accident at FUKU, caused no damage outside the plant gates and would be impossible with US regulation. On the other hand all the tens of thousands of murders from wind/solar’s required gas backup are not subject to liablity claims. In fact a US dam disaster would have far higher US liability then even a FUKU event – no insurance their either, How about the hundreds of uninsured suburban Bhopal type plants in the US, that Greenpeace is claiming are ready to blow at any time.

    This obsession of the fascist in the US with market forces has been thoroughly shredded by Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman. The US’s worst in the OECD inefficient system of government by Wall Street’s “market forces” with its private financed utilities and medical care, has stood in the way of not only new nuke power, but all the $10′s of trillions in infrastructure repair needed. This from the national whose greatest legacy in was built by the public by FDR in his new deal. Recent innovations where the ratepayer invests in new plant bring the US system more in line with the much more successful public utility models like TVA, Bonneville and Hydro Quebec with the lowest rates in North America. Hydro Quebec won an award last year as the best run utility in North America.

    In any case the US is out of the Advanced nuke business, with Bill Clinton passing the torch to Russia, China and India, after selling out his country to Big Oil cancelling the IFR. It’s likely had he not done so the AGW crisis would now be solved, and the US economy would be booming selling this hitech product years ahead of the rest of the world, to the world.

    Link to this
  14. 14. Carlyle 12:11 am 12/9/2013

    This article deserves better prominence in SA. Particularly when they see fit to prominently run an article for over a month on having cows guts piped for methane production. Insane.

    Link to this
  15. 15. OgreMk5 12:42 pm 12/9/2013

    The central point about innovation applies to any and every field of endeavor. I think that’s why big businesses so often buy small businesses. Big ones just can’t be innovative anymore.

    Link to this
  16. 16. David Cummings 4:33 pm 12/9/2013

    “This article deserves better prominence in SA.”

    I agree.

    Link to this
  17. 17. Dr. Strangelove 8:57 pm 12/10/2013

    Ash
    Good article but I disagree that nuclear power is unsuccessful and the reason is the fun went out of business. Nuclear power is more successful than all renewable energies except hydropower. Nuclear provides 13% of electricity worldwide. 437 operating nuclear reactors in 31 countries and 68 under construction in 15 countries.

    The reason why nuclear did not get a bigger market share is political opposition from the greenies and cheaper coal and natural gas. Innovation and fun are important to develop new technologies. But it doesn’t solve the irrational fear of nuclear and cheap fossil fuels. Coal isn’t fun but it got the biggest market share because it’s cheap.

    BTW it’s common belief that Dr. Strangelove was inspired by Teller. I disagree. The real inspiration of that character was John von Neumann. The mathematical genius who helped built the atomic bomb and the H-bomb and formulated the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) strategy of the US in the 1950s. Notice in the movie, Dr. Strangelove is in a wheelchair explaining the MAD strategy to US military generals. Von Neumann attended military strategy meetings in a wheelchair.

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  18. 18. Chris Miller 8:09 am 12/11/2013

    A good (or even genius) engineer may design a wonderful new intrinsically safe type of nuclear reactor, but the problem is it needs to get safety certification, which requires billions of dollars. And even then the ecoloons would still try to stop us building it because it’s still full of “evil ray-dee-ay-shun OMG we’re all going to die”.

    Link to this
  19. 19. hkraznodar 11:45 am 12/17/2013

    I’m going to side step all of the politics discussed by previous comments. I just would like to point out that Stanley Kubrick never identified the source of inspiration for the Dr. Strangelove character. Your assumption that it was Edward Teller is nothing but idle speculation and should have been presented as such instead of stated as if it was fact.

    Link to this
  20. 20. Angema 5:17 pm 12/30/2013

    I hate to break it to you seth, but sault is right. He’s also right that one of the primary reasons uranium and the LWR was chosen to produce power, was specifically for its ability to produce weapons.

    You quote ridiculous figures for the cost of electricity from nuclear. 1 cent/kwh? No. It is true that our current nuclear fleet produces electricity that is very cheap, but new nuclear reactors are not cheap. The reasons are threefold: 1) Our government heavily subsidized the development and construction of those original nuclear reactors and their capital costs are long since paid off, 2) Safety concerns have led to greater regulation (after Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island), and 3) the cost of construction has risen far faster than the rate of inflation.

    Even in regulated markets in the U.S., where utilities are guaranteed a rate of return on their investment (and thus have a much lower cost of capital) the economics don’t work without massive government subsidies. And electricity production subsidized by the govt so that it only costs the consumer $0.01/kwh doesn’t make it cheap.

    Finally, the “Darwinian selection” the author refers to really goes by another name: market forces. I suspect the reason TWIGA was successful was that a TWIGA reactor to produce isotopes is orders of magnitude smaller than an electricity producing plant. Orders of magnitude less cost to create so orders of magnitude less financial risk. The only way to make a new nuclear design work now, to mitigate the financial risk, is if it is small and modular (10 MW – 100MW?). Maybe that’s the way things will go.

    I’m certainly not against nuclear power, but it doesn’t make financial sense currently. Until someone, perhaps one of these companies, creates a reactor that can turn a profit without massive subsidies, nuclear won’t be built in the U.S. And I have no problem with safety regulations. A plant that has tremendous destructive potential should have to prove it’s safe. Fukushima had no damage outside the plant gates, you say? Thyroid problems in infants born in the four months after Fukushima in California, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii jumped 28% (radioactive iodine). Please don’t insult everyone by saying that’s a coincidence. Here is the URL of the study if you’d like (pdf): http://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperDownload.aspx?FileName=OJPed_2013030716594887.pdf&paperID=28599

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  21. 21. JRT 11:22 pm 05/13/2014

    These new ideas for reactors are certainly welcome. However, it should be pointed out that the General Atomics GT-MHR [HTGR] and the GE-Hitachi PRISM [IFR] reactors are supposedly ready to be built immediately.

    All new Generation IV reactor designs face the same Billion dollar stumbling block that these two ready to build designs do. In the US, you can’t even build a prototype without NRC approvals which is very costly. Added to that was the 5 year delay that the NRC imposed in considering Generation IV designs for certification. That delay was supposed to end this year, but I haven’t really heard any news of what is happening — specifically in regard to the PRISM which GE-H is supposed to build a prototype on the Savannah River Site.

    I commend the Congress for reforming the licensing itself and providing indemnity for bureaucratic delays. However, the excessive NRC regulations for the reactors still remain a major stumbling block especially since they don’t appear to understand about Generation IV reactors without water cooled cores.

    This is nothing new here. The reactionaryism of regulation is simply one of its undesirable side effects. But, the Congress needs to take action to reform it — to fix the problem.

    Link to this

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