The events in Japan are disastrous and heartbreaking, but they should not be used to stop us from safely utilizing nuclear energy for the benefit of our nation.
As a senior member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, I am a strong advocate for safe and clean nuclear technology to meet the energy needs of our growing nation.
Research and development makes technologies safer and more effective. Now is not the time to abandon nuclear energy, as our allies in Germany are doing. Now is the time to finally make the move to newer, safer nuclear technologies that better avoid the inherent risks in any energy production facility.
The specific failure at the Fukushima nuclear power plants in Japan is due to the inability to circulate cooling water due to lack of power to operate the pumps. This reactor was constructed 40 years ago and subsequent nuclear developments have created a safe, passive cooling system that operates without the need for pumps.
This is just one of the advances in safety that protect the American people, and others around the world, who rely on nuclear energy.
The current situation at Fukushima should not turn us away from nuclear energy, just as problems with the first pressurized aircraft didn’t turn us away from commercial aviation, and other setbacks didn’t derail other advancements. Unbeknownst to most, we are on the verge of safe nuclear reactors — reactors which cannot melt down or release radiation — being available for all humanity.
The first electricity-generating nuclear reactors were created in the 1950s. These designs were refined, and construction of Generation II reactors ran through the 1990s. Generation III reactors have incorporated all of the safety lessons learned in 50 years of how to operate the same basic reactor design.
It is time for us to move beyond our same old thinking about nuclear reactors, and move into the 21st century. We need to consider revolutionary uses, and revolutionary technologies.
American technology revolutionaries, both small companies and large, have been working and developing solutions to move us forward. The smallest American reactor, excluding research facilities, is a 482 MW reactor in Fort Calhoun, Neb. There are viable commercial applications for reactors constructed at half of this size down to 5% of this size, the Small Modular Reactor (SMR).
We can construct SMRs with the existing basic reactor design incorporating all the most-current safety lessons, or we can use Generation IV technology, which will revolutionize the world.