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From Arms to Renewables: How Workers in This Southern Military Industrial Hub Are Converting the Economy

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/11/01/arms-renewables-how-workers-southern-military-industrial-hub-are-converting-economy

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Thank you Taylor Barnes for the insights into the dynamics may the lives of these engineers and all be loaded with the grace of shifting out of the military and into the creative, exploratory, inspired and inspiring stance on troubled times.

Hope you present more investigative reporting like this! Beautiful work. Boy did I need a story like this today.

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Wow, building that Green Economy is already here and yet politicians mostly do not see it!
So I guess it’s time to update Hamlet too. : )
“There are more green jobs in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your military philosophy, Horatio.”
I think Shakespeare would appreciate that. And so would the Planet : )

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A prime example of a direct transition from military to clean energy is Elysium Industries, where most of the core design team came out of research and development facilities of the Naval Nuclear Laboratory (Knolls, Bettis, etc.). Of all the U.S. atomic startups, the Elysium team has the most experience with developing, building, testing, and running new and experimental reactor designs from their work for the Navy. Their current effort centers on a compact and simple molten salt fast reactor–consisting basically of a can surrounded by neutron reflectors–with a power capacity up to 5 gigawatts thermal, which will primarily consume existing nuclear spent fuel as fuel. This design was inspired by a reactor concept they originally considered for ship propulsion, but the team soon realized it would be far better suited to civilian power and industrial heat generation, so they left the Navy to form a company to develop it.

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It looks very interesting until I hit the link to DOE page on cancelled or superseded directives. I could be wrong, but it seems the notoriously convoluted federal contracting and transparency seems to be shifting but not necessarily in a way to encourage trust and transparency. Experience would seem to indicate that only time will tell and the nuclear industry blew through public trust in its narratives long ago.

If its true that spent fuel stocks (more than could ever be needed for a hundred generations) can be used and slowly reduce said stockpiles, then it would seem to make sense to build the new systems over the existing stockpiles to maximize their efficacy. How many more “right questions” are out there to be asked?

~https://www.directives.doe.gov/Canceled#c6=Cancellation+Notice&c6=Certification+Memo&c6=Guide&c6=Manual&c6=Notice&c6=Order&c6=Policy&c5=now-93&c5=now-0&b_start=0

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I think it has enough potential to be worth investigating.

“until I hit the link to DOE page on cancelled or superseded directives.”

I’m not clear on how that is related. Directives go obsolete or get replaced with newer directives in practically every department. The development of new ways of using nuclear energy is almost certainly going to require new directives, policies, and regulations.

“Experience would seem to indicate that only time will tell and the nuclear industry blew through public trust in its narratives long ago.”

The public is about evenly split when it comes to the old industry with old-tech. I don’t see that shifting greatly without a transition to a new way of doing things.

“If its true that spent fuel stocks (more than could ever be needed for a hundred generations) can be used and slowly reduce said stockpiles,…”

It might be tough to use it all up within 100 years. In less than 300 years would be quite feasible–especially if we use this sort of nuclear for industrial heat and synfuel production.

“then it would seem to make sense to build the new systems over the existing stockpiles to maximize their efficacy.”

A lot of the existing stockpiles are next to rivers, or major lakes, or next to the ocean, or not far from metropolitan areas which have grown since those power plants were built. Some are in earthquake zones. Many of the ones left over after plant decommissioning are just sitting out in the woods with minimal security. I can see good arguments for consolidating those stockpiles to more remote areas, with stable geology, where it is easier to secure in bulk. And if you want to use this reactor to burn up surplus weapons-grade plutonium, then it would be better to leave the plutonium where it is, under high security, and bring in the spent fuel to blend with it on site. Much better than taking weapons-grade plutonium out on the road. Once blended into the fuel, there is no known way to get the weapons-grade plutonium back out, which greatly reduces the security risk if you transport it after it has been incorporated into the fuel. (You can easily carry enough bomb plutonium for a Nagasaki-sized bomb in a small box–a few kilograms. Just the primer fuel load for one Elysium reactor would suck up around seven thousand kilograms. That’s a lot of potential bombs prevented.)

“How many more “right questions” are out there to be asked?”

As many as we can think of. And I expect new questions will come up through the course of development, testing, and evaluation. What I’m hoping is that nuclear skeptics and critics will want to participate reasonably in that discussion. If they adopt a position of intransigent opposition to discussion or consideration, they will effectively remove themselves from any chance of being part of the process.