Effective government involvement essential for many innovations

The Breakthrough Institute has published a thought-provoking piece titled Reinventing Libertarianism: Jim Manzi and the New Conservative Case for Innovation It is highly recommended reading.

Here is a comment that I left on the piece, focusing on my particular interest area of clean nuclear energy development.

Interesting observations. I agree with just about everything other than the following statement:

“Nuclear energy came out of the Manhattan Project. No private company could ever have taken a weapon and made it an energy source.”

My deep research into the history of nuclear energy reveals that the order should be differently phrased.

Nuclear energy is a natural part of our physical world. God – or nature, if you prefer – put densely packed energy into the atomic nucleus and gave human discoverers the key for unlocking that energy.

Fission itself occurred in natural rock formations in a place called Oklo in Gabon, Africa. No private company could have turned this gift into a weapon capable of mass destruction, but an enormous, government-funded, world war-inspired effort against a nation led by a madman could.

Nuclear energy could have been easily harnessed for good by a small group of scientists and engineers. Without the Manhattan project and its resulting installation of deep nuclear and radiation fears, peaceful nuclear energy development could have progressed along the same lines as the taming of fire.

Rod Adams
Publisher, Atomic Insights

Of course, it is impossible to reverse time and to start all over again. Since governments around the world have already seized strong control over nuclear energy innovation, actions to free the atom and allow it to better serve human masters must involve effective government decision-making.

Though most governments have not been terribly successful in their approach to atomic energy — with a few notable exceptions — it is time for citizens to put pressure on their representatives to learn more about the incredible gift of massive stores of energy-dense, emission-free fuels like uranium and thorium provide to humanity.

Floating off-shore nuclear power plant

MIT researchers are working on a modern version of floating nuclear power plants using concepts derived from the off-shore oil and gas industry. The facilities would be built in a shipyard and towed to their destination.

The concept does not seem to be specific to any particular reactor design, but is more of a siting concept with some features worth consideration and discussion.

The concept of floating nuclear power plants is not new. Neither is the concept of off-shore power plants. That’s okay, nearly every human innovation is a combination of pre-existing products, services and ideas.

I’m not entirely sold on the safety advantages of such a concept because I remain firmly convinced that our current land-based nuclear plants are adequately safe. However, I can readily see several advantages from a cost and flexibility perspective.

This is a concept worth further investigation. It is certainly something that is generating substantial interest in the media, but that might be more of a tribute to the efforts of the capable public relations group at MIT.

The Atlantic (April 17, 2014) Could a Floating Nuclear Power Plant Prevent Another Fukushima?

Engadget (April 16, 2014) MIT designs a floating, tsunami-proof nuclear plant

Discovery (April 18, 2014) Floating Nuclear Plant Would Ride Out Tsunamis

Business Standard (April 17, 2014) Floating nuclear plants may withstand tsunamis

The Verge (April 16, 2014) Floating nuclear power plants could avoid disasters like Fukushima

IPCC working group III recommends nearly quadrupling nuclear energy

A few of my pronuclear friends have been disappointed by the treatment of nuclear energy in the recently released final draft of the IPCC working group III Summary for policy makers. For example, Steve Aplin at Canadian Energy Issues thinks that the IPCC is prejudiced against nuclear energy. While there may be some members of […]

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NS Savannah tours May 18, 2014

Press Release Historic Ship N.S. Savannah Open for Tours May 18, 2014 in Observance of Maritime Day N.S. Savannah Association, Inc. 4/17/2014 The unique, nuclear powered ship N.S. Savannah will be opened for tours at her pier in Baltimore, Md. on Sunday, May 18, 2014 as a part of the annual commemoration of Maritime Day. […]

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Trip report from visit to NS Savannah

About three weeks ago, I wrote an article about commercial nuclear ship propulsion. That post introduced Benjamin Haas, a student at SUNY Maritime, who has been leading a design team that is developing the conceptual design for a nuclear powered shipping system. Ben’s team is not just focused on the ship itself, but on all […]

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Asking Powerful Public Scientists Hard Questions

On Wednesday, April 9, 2014, The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists hosted a symposium titled Speaking Knowledge to Power in Princeton University’s Robertson Hall. The speakers included John Holdren, Allison Macfarlane, Frank von Hippel and Christopher Chyba. Three out of the four (Holdren, von Hippel, […]

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TMI Operators Took Actions They Were Trained to Take

Editor’s note. This post has a deep background story. The author, Mike Derivan, was the shift supervisor at the Davis Besse Nuclear Power Plant (DBNPP) on September 24, 1977 when it experienced an event that started out almost exactly like the event at Three Mile Island on March 28, 1979. The event began with a […]

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Smoking Gun – NCPC & John F. Kennedy

There is a folder in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum titled National Coal Policy Conference that documents an apparently successful effort to influence a rising political star to support national policies that favor coal over natural gas, residual oil and atomic energy. The NCPC, whose existence lasted from its founding in 1959 […]

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Some lessons were learned from TMI. Others were not.

Three Mile Island from the air

On March 28, 1979, a little more than thirty-five years ago, a nuclear reactor located on an island in the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, suffered a partial core melt. On some levels, the accident that became known as TMI (Three Mile Island) was a wake-up call and an expensive learning opportunity for both the […]

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Designated law-breaker at DOE still wants budget approved

This interaction between Congressman Shimkus and Secretary Moniz took place during a the Energy and Commerce Committee FY2015 DOE budget hearing on April 3, 2014. It’s too bad that hearings like this have strict time limits imposed on the questioners. There is a good reason why I would be exceedingly reluctant to accept any kind […]

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Vogtle Construction Update Video

This video provides an encouraging view of the positive impact that the Vogtle expansion project is having on the local community. It’s 4,000 – 5,000 construction jobs is just one part of the economic impact; that $23 million dollar property tax check shown during the video is another part that apparently brings smiles to the […]

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