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What Does Science Demand? A Global Energy Transformation With Focus on Inequality of Consumption


If you are referring to the billions which went into the Dept. of Energy’s Nuclear Waste Fund, that money is being held by the government, and only the government has discretion over how it is to be spent. The commercial nuclear sector doesn’t have that money and has no access to it, and they are prohibited by federal law from coming up with an offsite storage solution or disposal repository on their own.

But the problem of figuring out what to do with our large supply of spent fuel and DU could become much simpler if we develop the option of consuming it as fuel, to produce a very large amount of non-carbon energy. (The current U.S. supply already holds more energy than humans have produced from all sources combined over the last 5000 years).

“instead of trying to make guinea pigs of US again and pay for your failed experiments?”

The advanced nuclear projects under development are mostly being funded by private investment, almost none of which is coming from the current nuclear industries. And the development research is centered on making nuclear power safe, clean, and economically competitive. It is a gross mischaracterization to liken that to human experimentation.

“It’s not like there are no alternatives now. We already have a nuclear reactor that can provide all the power the world wants in one day, more safely, more cheaply and one that isn’t used to build nuke bombs. It’s called the sun.”

And there it is. It is always panic, despair, gloom and doom regarding the enormous challenge we face of displacing fossil fuels–until there is any mention of advanced nuclear development. And then it’s all sunshine and pinwheels and it becomes rosy, breezy, cheap and easy to make do with the options we have–i.e. the very ones which, all combined, are currently failing to halt the continuing growth in fossil fuels, much less to even begin to displace them.

On our current trajectory, fossil fuel consumption will still be increasing through 2040. It seems ridiculously premature to be doing victory celebrations at this point, while we are still losing ground and while a turning point in the battle isn’t even on the visible horizon. We should be developing all our best options that can help to change the trajectory we are on. After we develop them, we’ll be in a much better position to decide which ones are the safest, cleanest, cheapest, most dependable, and have the least environmental footprint. If we are lucky, we will develop more options than we need. That is far preferable to the consequences of not developing enough.


I would point out that there has never been any bright line between the federal government and the “private” nuclear power industry except for PR purposes. I’m sure you can enumerate at least as many ways they have collaborated hand in glove since before the first commercial reactor went into service as I can, having grown up in the phony “Atoms For Peace” era, in Oklahoma, home to Kerr-McGee industries. Of course we all know the proper term for that kind of collaboration between government and business.

I would also note that to the best of my knowledge ANY vessel used to contain ANY nuclear reaction for a long enough time to generate commercial levels of power becomes highly radioactive itself, and thus requires levels of integrity and care–especially in its decommissioning–than is common today.


How much is bullshit selling for today?


Much like the line is blurred between the government and large hydropower projects, or the government research-supported pharma industry, or military and aerospace contractors, or the banking industry. Even so, that doesn’t mean any of the affiliate arms can actually defy federal law, which is what it would take for nuclear companies to try to usurp the exclusive authority of the DOE to come up with their own spent fuel repository or storage management project.

For now, the teams developing advanced reactors are operating independently from national labs and government mandates, so there is an opportunity for a new industry which was not essentially created by government fiat. But under our current regulatory structure, regulators are financed primarily by the very industry they are tasked with regulating, and it’s hard to see how that dependency could be a good thing with respect to keeping government and industry fully separate and independent from each other…

“Of course we all know the proper term for that kind of collaboration between government and business.”

Socialism for the rich. Crony capitalism. Business as usual.

“I would also note that to the best of my knowledge ANY vessel used to contain ANY nuclear reaction for a long enough time to generate commercial levels of power becomes highly radioactive itself, and thus requires levels of integrity and care–especially in its decommissioning–than is common today.”

Activated reactor materials are much easier to deal with than spent fuel. Spent fuel contains radioisotopes that would be chemically and physically mobile if all the levels of containment were to be breached. Activated radioisotopes in reactor materials are bound up in the metal alloys, so the main consideration is gamma radiation. This is only a proximity hazard, and routine gamma shielding is ample. If you check out the picture on this page;


the three casks on the end hold all the activated reactor vessel internals from the decommissioned plant, and most of the activation products they contain have half lives of less than six years. This is very easy to contain during the several decades it will take for the radioactivity to fade. The main thing is to keep the metal out of the general metal recycling streams. (Activated metals could be recycled in special, isolated recycling streams for making new reactor components, since that metal is destined to become activated anyway.)

It is also possible to design reactors such that neutron activation of the reactor vessel is minimal. The Moltex design, for example, only has the fuel tube assemblies in the high-neutron-flux region. The molten salt coolant provides shielding between the core and the vessel walls. The fuel tubes themselves would be largely transparent to neutrons, much like cladding is on today’s fuel, so it would mostly be the brackets that hold the fuel assemblies together which would become activated. But these would not be high-stress components so they could take a lot of neutron degradation before needing to be replaced. Even replacing them every ten years would not amount to a lot of material over the life of the reactor, and again, they’d only need storage on the order of decades.


No serious discussion of addressing global warming can take place without addressing the fact that the major emitters will have to take, at the least, a 50% cut in their “standard” of living…as they perceive it. Until the quality of live in the industrialized countries is focused less on materialism and possessions and more on personal relationships, we are doomed. If a generation is defined as 20 years, then we have at most, two generations before industrial civilization collapses and we no longer have the science or technology to tackle the problems we have created.


An easier explanation would be that nuclear power generation is not affordable and exceeds the technological capabilities of our current levels of civilization.


Not sure what this refers to (explanation for what? easier than what?) but the new simpler, cleaner, safer, cheaper reactor designs in development are being pursued out of a recognition that today’s reactors are not good enough. And strictly speaking, any time we develop a new technology, we advance our technological capabilities, but the fundamentals of the new designs are easily within our current metallurgical and manufacturing capabilities.