Myths Vs. Facts

When someone writes great words about thorium, there is no need for me to try to “one-up” them.  I just steal what they wrote.  Here is an example that I lifted in toto from Filbe Energy. Enjoy!

There are a number of persistent myths about radiation, nuclear energy, reactors, thorium, and the LFTR itself that are often repeated at all levels of education and experience. This is an attempt to separate myth from fact.

Myth: Thorium is just another idea being pushed by the nuclear industry.

Fact: The predominant “nuclear industry” of today consists of companies like Westinghouse, General Electric, Toshiba, AREVA, Rosatom, Babcock & Wilcox that are pursuing water-cooled reactor designs fueled by solid uranium dioxide. They have expressed very little if any interest in thorium as a nuclear fuel for the simple reason that it is not a good technological fit with their solid-fueled, water-cooled reactors. For them to embrace thorium in a liquid-fueled, high-temperature reactor like LFTR would require a complete “reboot” of their nuclear business strategy thus far, which is heavily dependent on revenues from the sale of fabricated solid nuclear fuel. It is highly unlikely that they will ever have an economic incentive to adopt thorium in a liquid-fueled form, and most of them have evaluated the potential benefits of thorium in a solid-fueled form and found them uncompelling. The notion that thorium fuel is a fad that they are embracing to improve their public relations position has no basis in reality, and is a figment of the imagination of anti-nuclear campaigners who are troubled by the growing interest in the thorium fuel cycle implemented in liquid-fluoride nuclear reactors.

Myth: Thorium as a nuclear fuel has been a failure.

Fact: Almost all efforts to use thorium as a nuclear fuel in the past have been connected with solid-fueled reactors, where as previously mentioned, it does not offer compelling advantages, a fact that we have never contested. The effective use of thorium as a nuclear fuel, by definition, implies a system that employs chemical processing to separate uranium from thorium, and fuel from fission products. Chemical processing of any type is very difficult with solid nuclear fuels, like uranium dioxide fuel or thorium dioxide fuel. It is much simpler with fluid fuels, and simplest of all with liquid fluoride fuels. In liquid fluoride form, the chemical processing needed to realize the potential of thorium as a nuclear fuel is much more straightforward, and thus the benefits of thorium can be realized.

Myth: We know that it will take at least thirty years to build a thorium reactor.

Fact: No one knows how long it will take, but we do have valuable analogies to examine. The Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) went from a new start to criticality in five years, and went on to operate for another five years, in the equivalent of $80M in today’s funding. When Rickover asked the Atomic Energy Commission in the early 1950s how long it would take them to build a reactor for a nuclear submarine, they carefully considered it and told him that one should be ready by the 1980s. The USS Nautilus put to sea in 1954. Drive and determination to achieve a goal, coupled with technological competence, work wonders on the timeline for a new technology development. Given incentive, financial resources, and a responsive regulatory environment, thorium-fueled liquid-fluoride reactors can be designed, demonstrated, and implemented in a reasonable period.

Misrepresentation: Thorium reactors still need uranium or plutonium. This is a proliferation risk.

This is a misrepresentation of how a liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) operates. It is true that any reactor, including a LFTR, needs fissile material in order to start up. This is the “initial inventory” by nuclear engineers, and it is necessary for “achieving criticality,” which is what the startup of a nuclear reactor is called. Natural thorium contains no fissile isotopes, so this material must be supplied initially. But it is a misrepresentation to say that LFTRs still need to be supplied with uranium or plutonium after this initial startup. LFTRs generate new fissile fuel from the thorium in their blanket (a region of the reactor that surrounds the active core). In the blanket thorium absorbs neutrons and forms new nuclear fuel, uranium-233, which is chemically extracted and added to the fuel salt of the LFTR. So after being provided with the initial fissile material to start the reactor, it doesn’t need anymore. It uses the neutrons of the fission reaction to continue to make the fuel it needs. Furthermore, if enriched uranium or plutonium were to be used to start LFTRs, this would not constitute a “proliferation risk”. Using this material to start a LFTR is not going to help countries that don’t have nuclear weapons to obtain them. Rather, it would work against that risk by permanently destroying this material (through fission) and replacing it with a material (uranium-233) that has strong intrinsic barriers against diversion for use in nuclear weapons.

Misrepresentation: Using thorium would require a resumption of reprocessing in the United States.

This misrepresentation requires some additional background explanation. Early in the nuclear era, it was assumed that the spent nuclear fuel produced from solid-uranium-fueled reactors (which also contained plutonium) would be chemically processed to separate the uranium and plutonium from the fission products and from one another. Then the uranium and plutonium would be refabricated into new solid fuel pellets and used again in uranium-fueled reactors. There was particularly strong interest that the uranium/plutonium fuel would be used for sodium-cooled fast breeder reactors. France built a huge chemical processing facility for nuclear fuel at La Hague for this purpose. There was a fear that the same chemical processing technology that would be used to handle civilian spent nuclear fuel would be exported, along with civilian nuclear power plants, to developing countries around the world that did not already have either a civilian nuclear power program or a nuclear weapons program. The fearful scenario continued with the expectation that the possession of the technology to chemically separate plutonium from uranium would prove so tempting to those non-weapons countries that they would build special plutonium-producing “production” reactors, just as the US, USSR, UK, France, and China had done, in order to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons, and then employ the chemical processing technology to extract that plutonium and use it to fabricate weapons.

This never happened. Any country that wanted to develop nuclear weapons did so prior to obtaining civilian nuclear power or chemical processing technology. Other countries like Germany and Japan developed conventional chemical processing technology for nuclear fuel but never built “production reactors” or fabricated nuclear weapons. Furthermore, conventional nuclear chemical processing has nothing to do with the liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) technology we advocate since the chemical processing in a LFTR is based on fluoride chemistry (totally different from conventional chemical processing technology) and on the separation of uranium from thorium, not plutonium from uranium. The chemical processing technology proposed for a LFTR would be ineffective if someone attempted to use it to separate plutonium from uranium, and furthermore the LFTR is designed to make as little plutonium as possible. If plutonium is used to start a LFTR, it is consumed in the first few months as the reactor establishes its fuel cycle, again, based on thorium and uranium-233. The chemical processing system proposed for use in the LFTR is entirely contained in the reactor facility, and operates at high temperatures and under high radiation fields. It is essentially impossible to repurpose this system once it has operated, and it simply isn’t designed to produce any materials suitable for weapons.

Those who perpetuate this misrepresentation play on public ignorance of different chemical processing techniques to cause people to believe that conventional, aqueous reprocessing techniques (often called “PUREX”) are just the same as those that would be used in the LFTR. They’re not. In fact, they’re absolutely nothing like one another.

Myth: There’s no point to developing thorium reactors because it will still produce radiation.

Fact: Yes, the fission of uranium-233 from thorium will still produce fission products that are highly radioactive, and these will have to be carefully isolated until they decay away. But to reject fission because of the production of radioactive materials is to miss a tremendous opportunity to help mankind. Many desirable products of thorium reactors come about precisely because the fission products are radioactive. The beneficial use of medical radioisotopes relies on the fact that these products are radioactive, which allows them to be used for imaging and treatment in the body. Fission reactions are the only practical ways for many of these medical radioisotopes to be generated in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices. Furthermore, nearly all fission products have short half-lives, which means that they rapidly decay to a stable, non-radioactive state. Only a handful of fission products, including strontium-90, cesium-237, and samarium-151, have half-lives that require isolation beyond a century.

Myth: Molten salt will explode on contact with air and water.

Fact: Anti-nuclear campaigners who propagate this myth are confusing chemically-stable fluoride salts with chemically-reactive liquid metals like sodium that have been proposed as reactor coolants in other types of reactors. Fluoride salts do not explode or react with air and water because of their tremendous chemical stability. Furthermore, they chemically trap important fission products like strontium and cesium as very stable fluorides in their fuel form. Finally, to be clear, liquid metallic sodium (not used in liquid fluoride reactors) is very reactive with air and water; sodium chloride (table salt, also not used in liquid fluoride reactors) is not reactive; sodium fluoride (sometimes used in liquid fluoride reactors) is not reactive and is even more chemically stable than sodium chloride.

Myth: All radiation is dangerous at any dose level.

Fact: We are continuously surrounded by radiation, nearly all of which comes from natural sources. Our bodies themselves are naturally radioactive due to the presence of carbon-14 and potassium-40. All lifeforms have radiation repair mechanisms and indeed are always repairing radiation damage to their DNA, a great deal of which comes from being exposed to the Sun. Small doses of radiation are not dangerous because they do not overwhelm the body’s radiation repair mechanisms, and most natural and manmade doses are very small.

Myth: Radiation is a silent threat that is difficult to detect.

Fact: While we do not have natural senses that detect ionizing radiation, radiation in utterly miniscule quantities is easy to detect and verify with modern instruments, and the various signatures will determine whether it is naturally-occurring or manmade. The intensity of the radiation will allow trained personnel to evaluate the potential risk.

Myth: All radioactive material is dangerous, and a long half life means it is really dangerous.

Fact: The longer the half-life, the less radioactive and less dangerous a substance is. Some radioactive materials with long half-lives, such as plutonium-239, are hazardous only in certain conditions such as inhalation because of their specific type of radioactive decay (alpha emission). Fission products—the results of the fission reaction—do not decay by alpha emission but rather by beta and gamma emission. This still presents a hazard but one of a different nature, and one that is well-understood.

Myth: radioactivity lasts forever.

Fact: Radioactivity means the material is decaying away and the most radioactive substances are those that are going away the most quickly.

Myth: Nuclear energy equals nuclear weapons.

Fact: Nuclear reactors that generate power and nuclear weapons are totally different things. Every country that has developed nuclear weapons has done so because they set out to do so. They used the same techniques that the United States did during the Manhattan Project of World War 2, namely the enrichment of natural uranium and the production of plutonium in dedicated nuclear reactors meant only for this purpose. No country has taken electricity-generated nuclear reactor technology from another country and perverted it into a means to produce nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the inherent resistance of thorium and its byproducts to use in nuclear weapons were the central reason why it was rejected for use in nuclear weapons during the Manhattan Project and why it has lagged in development ever since.

Myth: The world will never change and accept energy from thorium.

Fact: The world is always changing. We have to decide whether to make the changes needed to embrace this natural, sustainable, reliable and economical energy source.

bwr

Quit Living in the Cellar

I want my fellow Utahns and the rest of the world to stop living in the cellar and move into the penthouse. Please take a look at the graph below and I will explain. (Graph was adapted from Balsara and Newman.)

Specific Energy Density GraphAt the left side of the graph is the cellar where we are currently living – fossil fuels and lots of Tesla talk about batteries. The graph is on a log-log scale; both axes are logarithmic.  That means that each division (line) going from left to right and from top to bottom is 10 times more that the previous one.

Also, the graph plots theoretical specific energy density versus what is actually delivered in practical, every day use. Thus, all of the things shown on the graph are to the left of the dotted line, which represents the case where the practical is equal to the theoretical, which never happens in reality.

Let’s consider gasoline, which I like and have no intention of giving up. It has a practical energy density of 3,870 Watt-hours per kilogram, which is considerably more than lithium-ion batteries at 250 Watt-hours per kilogram. This is the reason that 12 gallons of gasoline in a four-door car will take you about 350-400 miles in air conditioned comfort, while an electric car may take you 100 miles or far less if you use the AC.

Next, take a moment and follow the dotted line to the right. You will see two data points at the top right; plutonium  decay (Pu-238), and nuclear fission.  These are points that I added to the graph, since Balsara and Newman never mention nuclear energy in their paper. (Why?)

Pu-238 decay powers spacecraft that have gone to the outer planets and beyond, where solar panels are useless, because they are so far from the sun.

(This technology has been used in spacecraft such as Voyager 1 and 2, Cassini–Huygens and New Horizons, and in other devices, such as the Mars Science Laboratory, for long-term nuclear power generation.)

The photo below shows a pellet of plutonium 238 that glows red hot due to the self-heat it generates as it radioactively decays. (Don’t worry, the alpha particles that are characteristic of its decay can be stopped by a sheet of paper, but you might want to use something that doesn’t burn. You can stand next to thermoelectric generators made for satellites with this wonderful element, without risk.)

plutonium_238_pelletNuclear fission, the point farthest to the right on the graph, with a mind-boggling theoretical specific energy density of 24,500,000,000 Watt-hours per kilogram, is the penthouse I am inviting you all to enjoy.

The specific energy density of nuclear fission is 2.7 million times more dense than gasoline and 63.6 million times more dense than lithium ion batteries. This would also be a good point to mention that batteries do not produce energy of themselves. They have to be charged by electricity produced by oil, coal, solar, wind, hydro, or nuclear.

Because of the incredible amount of energy locked in the nuclei of certain elements (thorium, uranium, and plutonium) as shown by the graph, very little material is needed to provide vast amounts of energy for all of us. As I have mentioned before, there is enough of those elements to provide all of humanity with abundant, safe, clean energy.

I compare that energy abundance to leaving the cellar and moving to the penthouse!

UAMPS

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) is basically a group of cities that provide electrical service to their residents. These cities have banded together to produce, purchase, and distribute electrical power to their members throughout Utah and surrounding areas.

UAMPS was established in 1980 under the Utah Interlocal Cooperation Act, Title 11, Chapter 13, Utah Code Annotated 1953, as amended, and is a political subdivision of the State of Utah. Its 45 members (the “members”) include public power utilities in eight states: Utah, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming. Each of the Members has entered into the UAMPS Agreement for Joint and Cooperative Action, which provides for the organization and operation of UAMPS. UAMPS’ purpose include the planning, financing, development, acquisition, construction, operation and maintenance of various projects for the generation, supply, transmission and management of electric energy for the benefit of the Members.

UAMPS is a project-based organization and presently operates 16 separate projects that provide a variety of power supply, transmission and other services to the Members that participate in them. The Members make their own elections to participate in UAMPS’ projects and are not obligated to participate in any particular project. In general, UAMPS and its Members that elect to participate in a project enter into a contract that specifies the services or product to be provided by UAMPS from the project, the payments to be made by the participating Members in respect of the costs of the project and other matters relating to the project.

UAMPS has recently made some preliminary movement towards producing power with nuclear energy. Here is part of their press release on the subject:

Nuclear energy has long been attractive because it emits no carbon or pollutants and produces massive amounts of reliable, stable energy, decade after decade. But the promise of a “nuclear renaissance” was dramatically interrupted by the March, 2011, catastrophic failure at the Fukushima, Japan, nuclear plant. Today, however, a new generation of small, modular reactors promises a new phase of the nuclear renaissance. We believe the technology being developed by NuScale Power, of Oregon, will produce small modular reactors (SMRs) that are safe, cost-effective, and simple. SMRs are as different from the enormous large-reactor plants built in the 1960s as a 2015 Prius hybrid is to a1960s-era Cadillac with its enormous fins and terrible gas mileage.

UAMPS has entered into a Teaming Agreement with NuScale and Energy Northwest outlining the parties’ intent to investigate developing a Carbon-Free Power Project using SMR technology, possibly at the Department of Energy’s Idaho Laboratory (INL) near Idaho Falls. It could be the first SMR project in the world. INL, whose mission is the development and deployment of advanced nuclear technologies, has immense reactor experience, sufficient water resources, access to transmission lines, environmental data needed in the DOE permitting process, and strong local political support.

The Carbon-Free Power Project could consist of up to twelve 50 MW SMRs (600 MW total). Each reactor sits within a containment vessel measuring 76 feet tall x 15 feet in diameter. Each reactor and containment vessel operates independently of the other reactors inside a water-filled 8-million gallon water pool that is built below grade.

The reactor operates using the principles of natural circulation; hence, no pumps are needed to circulate water through the reactor. The system uses the natural physics convection process, providing the ability to safely shut down and self-cool, indefinitely, with no operator action, AC or DC power, and no additional water. The design simplicity allows the NuScale Power Module to be factory-built, and transported to the site on trucks. The design makes the plants faster to construct, and less expensive to operate. The footprint of a 600 MW plant is small, only 44 acres. NuScale recently won a $217 million DOE grant to develop the SMR and apply for NRC design certification approval.

No final decision regarding a Carbon-Free Power Project should be expected before 2017. But the UAMPS Board of Directors has directed management and staff to carefully investigate the possibilities and to monitor the certification and licensing process. A plant would likely not be operational before the end of 2023, when UAMPS coal plants will likely need to be retired.

Publicly-owned utilities like UAMPS are under tremendous pressure to provide cleaner energy and reduce reliance on carbon-based fuels. UAMPS believes it is prudent and wise to carefully investigate a Carbon-Free Power Project as a possible source of safe, clean, emission-free, reliable, baseload energy.

As you may know, the NuScale approach to nuclear power is to use existing light water fuel and technology (ceramic uranium oxide fuel pellets and zirconium cladding), but with much smaller reactor sizes (50 megawatt electric) that can cool completely passively in case of station blackout.

I think this is great, and if the reactors are every built at INL, I would actually get to use nuclear generated electricity at my home!

I intend to write to the city council and mayor of Brigham City to ask that they support UAMPS with this projects.  I will keep you updated.

bwr

Congratulations to Atomic Insights!

Recently, Rod Adam’s website, Atomic Insights celebrated its 20th anniversary. A hearty congratulations to Rod for his tireless work in promoting nuclear energy!

As part of the celebration, Rod republished electronically the first paper issue of his newsletter.

Here are a few samples from the newsletter:

One pound of uranium contains as much energy as 2 million pounds of oil. Releasing that energy from the uranium results in less than one pound of waste material that can be stored in a simple container for decades with no effect on the environment.

A pound of uranium is easy to move while transporting 2 million pounds of oil requires the service of about thirty standard sized tanker trucks.

People in industrialized countries are told that their way of life is wasteful and that there is not enough fossil fuel in the world to allow developing nations to duplicate our kind of prosperity. We are rarely told that the world’s stockpile of uranium and plutonium represents many decades worth of energy resources or that extensive deposits of uranium exist in the United States, Australia, and Canada. The fact that thorium, an element that is more common than uranium, has been used to fuel certain kinds of reactors is virtually unknown.

Many Americans believe that nuclear reactors are too big or too expensive. Nuclear power plants the same size as a truck engine have been built for space applications.

At least five of the 25 lowest cost electricity producers in the United States are nuclear plants.

The nuclear industry in the United States has amassed an incredible safety record of zero deaths caused by radiation. Nuclear powered submarines, cruisers and aircraft carriers have combined for over 100 million miles of ocean travel during a forty year period. The energy source has proven its merit and deserves to be carefully considered and discussed.

The newsletter concludes with this:

A New Era

It is time to begin a new discussion about energy in America, one that is based on facts and comparisons instead of one based on fear, vested political interests and ignorance. Since our government has abdicated its role in educating and moderating active debate in favor of subsidizing the interests of narrowly focused groups, we will take on the responsibility for bringing you information and discussion.

We encourage your participation in this newsletter. With the help of your questions and our attempts at response, we expect to produce a lively source of information unavailable elsewhere. Let the fireworks begin.

So, again, Congratulations Rod!

bwr

The Oracle of Omaha

There is a large and contentious ongoing debate about alternative energy, wind power being one of those alternatives. Much has been written about wind power being unpredictable and fickle,well, like the wind. This is certainly true.

I have considered economics to be the bigger issue with regard to the alternatives.  Are they really cost effective? After all, in this world, resources (time, money, and raw materials, etc.) really are scarce.  If you eat all your seed corn over the winter, when it comes time to plant in the spring, there is nothing to plant and then you are going to starve.

If wind mills are built instead of reliable nuclear power plants, we will have less energy and less money to do other things.

Well, none other than Warren Buffet has weighed in on the economics of windmills.  Here is what he says,

“I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate. For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

That pretty much puts the issue to bed for me. It’s not that I admire Mr. Buffet all that much, but I acknowledge that from an investing and financial perspective, he certainly knows what he is talking about. Windmills do NOT make sense without the tax credit.

Anti-nuclear forces have worked for decades to increase the costs of nuclear power providers, while working to get very generous subsidies for alternatives. Then they say that nuclear can’t compete with alternatives. Please!

End the subsidies to windmills, or give the same subsidies to all energy sources. After all, don’t we pretend to believe in equal protection under the law?

bwr

Lewis Strauss and Hugh Hefner

Maybe I have a penchant for wacky and obscure analogies, but bear with me on this.

 Lewis Strauss was chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission from 1953 to 1958, under President Eisenhower (Ike).

I started this article somewhat differently than where it is now leading me, but to make a long story short, Lewis Strauss was a member of the establishment elite and a significant one. He was the personal financial adviser to the Rockefeller Family, whose fortunes came from oil and banking. This was in 1950 when Strauss had just left the AEC as a commissioner and before returning as the chairman in 1953, at the request of Ike.

That this has to be spelled out is disturbing in and of itself. Here is a man beholden to the Rockefellers and their oil money becoming the chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission in 1953. Did anyone notice at the time?  Did anyone think that Strauss had a conflict of interest?

Here is an analogy that most Utahns will understand: Having Lewis Strauss as chairman of the AEC is like have Hugh Hefner (the pornographer) as the president of the young woman’s mutual improvement association. There was a blatant conflict of interest that was damaging to nuclear power in the case of Lewis Strauss.  I don’t have to research all the great things he allegedly said about nuclear this and that when he was in the AEC. What I need are 10 professional researchers and access to the AEC and Rockefeller archives for about 10 years to attempt to reconstruct what was really done and not what was said.

Please remember that in 1953 the Eisenhower Administration and the CIA overthrew Mohammad Mosaddeq as prime minister of Iran so that five oil companies (Standard Oil of New Jersey, Socony-Vacuum — formerly Standard Oil of NY, and now Mobil — Standard Oil of California, Gulf, and Texaco) could get 40% of the oil coming out of Iran.

Am I really supposed to believe that Lewis Strauss, the personal financial adviser to the Rockefellers did not doing their bidding in the AEC at the same time that the CIA was doing their bidding in Iran?

Again, I am not calling for the reform of the NRC (successor of the AEC) to make things less bureaucratic for nuclear power. I am calling for the dissolution of the NRC. Defund the NRC!

This leads me to a question:

Why are American political institutions so ridiculously easy to take over? As I have discussed, oil had its man in the AEC from the very beginning in 1946.

I don’t want the ring of power, I want it thrown into Mount Doom.

bwr

 

Gresham’s Law

Maybe you have heard about Gresham’s Law? Simply stated it says that bad money drives out good. Here is how the Bionic Mosquito states it:

Gresham’s Law is often stated: bad money drives out good. This is incomplete, and an incomplete statement of Gresham’s Law. It is more accurately stated: Bad money drives out good if their exchange rate is set by law.

If different “money” is free to trade, without any hindrance from legal tender laws, tax preferences, etc., bad money will not drive out good, nor necessarily will good money drive out bad. Different “monies” will find their value in the market, and will trade. Period.

However, if one money is protected by legal tender, and the valuation is fixed by government, then yes, the bad money will drive out the good. All will get rid of the over-valued (by government decree) money, as it MUST be accepted by the counter-party, and accepted at a value higher than the market would determine.

This is how it works. Up until 1965, the US 25 cent piece, a “quarter” was 90% silver. The metal content of the quarter was more than 25 cents and the US Mint was losing money making them. So, the marvelous Battelle Memorial Institute came up with the sandwich quarter made of copper and nickel, which has been in circulation since. Since both coins are valued by law as having a value of 25 cents, people who are smarter than the decrees of the feddle gummint keep the silver coins and use the sandwich quarter for purchases. (Perhaps you ask why the the US Mint didn’t just continue making the silver quarter and sell them to the public at market value and not legal tender/face value? Well, because then the counterfeiting/money debasement operation of the Feddle Reserve, in full swing since the beginning <1913> would be obvious to everyone. We can’t have that. <sarc>)

What does this have to do with electricity? A lot. Bad (unreliable) electricity drives out good (baseload) electricity . Let me explain. When net metering laws value unreliable electricity the same as nuclear baseload, the unreliable electricity (wind and solar) drives the good baseload electricity (nuclear) out of business. How does this work in practice?

We have actually seen this in practice.

Consider when nuclear baseload is producing electricity and the wind starts blowing. By law, the utility companies have to buy this power, sometimes at retail rates when it is produced. Since the baseload can’t be throttled in an instant, (that’s why it’s called baseload.) the excess electricity has to go somewhere, which means that sometimes the utilities have to pay someone to use the electricity.

This undervalues nuclear baseload generation and overvalues unreliable and unpredictable wind and solar. The results are as predictable as with silver and sandwich coins.  The silver coins go into hoards and the sandwich coins circulate widely. In the case of nuclear, fewer, if any plants are built, others are closed while more and more wind and solar are installed. (Tell me that this was not the plan in the first place.) The result is increasing electricity costs and more outages.

bwr

A Way Forward

In my occupation as an engineer, I regularly field questions regarding the products my company produces.  Someone will call me and tell me a story about such and such that happened while the product was being manufactured, or this and that happened during transportation of the products from point A to point B and are the products still good?

My first response to such questions is to ask if something similar has happened before.  Frequently, the answer is yes. “Well then,” is my response, “let’s just do what we did last time this happened. No need to reinvent the wheel.”

This is also a good experience to apply to the NRC, DOE and FERC.  What have we done in the past to bloated, inefficient, anachronistic bureaucracies that have outlived their usefulness, if ever they had one? We got rid of them. They no longer exist.

For example, let’s consider the state of affairs in 1969 with the Civil Aeronautics Board, the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the telephone companies.

Airline regulation was an oligopoly. The Civil Aeronautics Board controlled ticket prices for all interstate flights. It controlled flight routes. That disappeared a decade later under Jimmy Carter. There is price competition on a scale never dreamed of prior to Carter’s presidency. It is cheap to fly anywhere in the world.

Or what about the Interstate Commerce Commission?

The Interstate Commerce Commission still controlled freight rates in 1969. That organization was literally shut down in 1995. There is freedom on the highways as never before.

And the Federal Communications Commission?

 The FCC controlled the licensing of airwaves broadcasting. It still does, but broadcasting is fading in importance. (It is fading very fast. ed.)

What about telephone companies?

We lived under a virtual monopoly of the telephone system. Then came the 1968 Carterfone decision by the Supreme Court. That broke the monopoly of the telephone cartel.

Each one of these changes was opposed by those whose illegitimate income depended on officers with guns enforcing the arbitrary rules against upstarts and entrepreneurs.

Does anyone want to return to 1969?  Some might ask what will we do without the NRC, the DOE and FERC? The same questions were asked a generation or two ago. Today we know the answers. We will have more freedom and richer lives with products we never before dreamed of.

The sky is the limit and let nuclear innovation go forward! Goodbye to the NRC, DOE and FERC. Life will be better without them.  That is the path forward for a nuclear renaissance!

The quotes are from Dr. Gary North.

Integral Fast Reactor

Rod Adams (check out his website) put me onto this fantastic book about the Integral Fast Reactor that was developed by Argonne Labs (now Idaho National Lab) from 1984 to 1994.

Plentiful Energy CoverI have been reading the book for the last few days and find it fascinating. Even though I have been a nuclear advocate for decades, I continue to learn new things about nuclear all the time.

I am also amazed at how much the anti-nuclear folks have defined the terms and framed the area of acceptable debate regarding the role of nuclear energy in the US for the last 40 years. In short, they have created the reality that they want.

Consider this paragraph from page 108 of the book:

This is the situation: Plutonium, as used in the IFR, cannot be simply demonized and forgotten. It is the means to unlimited electricity. The magnitude of the needs and estimates of the sources that might be able to fill those needs lead to one simple point: Fast reactors only, taking advantage of the breeding properties of plutonium in a fast spectrum, much improved over any uranium isotope, can change in a fundamental way the outlook for energy on the necessary massive scale. Their resource extension properties multiply the amount of usable fuel by a factor of a hundred or so, fully two orders of magnitude. Fine calculations are unnecessary. Demand can be met for many centuries, by a technology that is known today, and whose properties are largely established. This technology is not speculative, as are fusion, new breakthroughs in solar, or other suggested alternatives. It can be counted on.

Instead of plutonium being the most evil and toxic thing on earth (according to the antis), it is in fact, the means to “unlimited electricity”.

The book is well worth reading.

bwr