by John Shanahan and John Dendahl
There are 2 key available technologies for producing nuclear energy:
- Light Water Reactor (LWR)
- Fast Neutron Reactor (FNR)
Both fission technologies began in the 1950s. Today there are 438 LWRs in operation in the world and 65 under construction. United States has 104 LWRs in operation and none under construction.
Light Water Reactors (LWRs) use about 1% of their potential fuel and produce radioactive byproducts that must be stored safely.
The Palo Verde LWR nuclear power plant in Arizona produces the electricity for Phoenix, about 3,942 MWe. It is the largest nuclear power plant in America.
Here are 2 important facts about commercial nuclear power in America:
- It has not caused a single radiological death or injury to the public
- This safety record is extraordinary
Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) use the spent fuel of the LWRs and therefore eliminate the need to store LWR radioactive byproducts. Using FNRs, there is enough uranium to supply the world with energy for 5 Billion years!
But FNRs have met with political obstacles.
The Sierra Club and other environmental organizations oppose nuclear power. The Sierra Club wrote in 1974:
The Sierra Club opposes new nuclear reactors utilizing the fission process pending adequate national and global policies to curb over-use and unnecessary economic growth.
The Sierra Club wants to stop human progress. What is “unnecessary economic growth“?
Russia built its BN 600 FNR in Sverdlovsk Oblast. America has experimented with the its Integral Fast Reactor (IFR), a version of an FNR, in its experimental Breeder Reactor II from 1980 to 1994, when it was shut down by President Clinton.
Dr. Charles Till of the Argonne National Laboratory in Idaho said the IFR has these advantages:
- Passive safe shutdown
- Recycles fuel on site
- Increases energy production by 100 times
- Uses LWR spent fuel and depleted uranium
- There is enough mined uranium to power America for over 500 years
All modern nuclear power includes these safety features:
- Cooling for reactor fuel and spent fuel
- Active safe shutdown systems (N-2)
- Passive save shutdown characteristics
In summary, nuclear energy has an excellent public safety record, is needed to power America’s economy, and the world has uranium for 5 Billion years!
More dangerous to the public are:
- Manufacture of fertilizer (Texas City, Texas 1947)
- Manufacture of pesticides (Bhopal, India 1984)
- Unhealthy lifestyles (sedentary and poor food)
- Accidents from medical treatments
- Automobile travel
- Many forms of recreation
Why are we not building more nuclear reactors in America?
The answer is we have allowed the Sierra Club and environmental organizations to make our decisions about our economic growth.