On the evening of July 29, 2012, Suzy Hobbs-Baker, Director of the Nuclear Literacy Project and founder of PopAtomic Studios, Dan Yurman, who blogs at Idaho Samizdat and writes for Fuel Cycle Week and the ANS Nuclear Cafe, Margaret Harding, an independent nuclear energy consultant who blogs at 4 Factor Consulting, and Cal Abel, a PhD student at Georgia Tech and the founder of a startup company developing nuclear process heat production systems, joined me for a roundtable discussion about a variety of atomic topics that have been in the recent news.
Dan filled us in with details about the Department of Energy’s Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the development of small modular reactors using light water reactor technology.
Suzy introduced the topic of encouraging nuclear scientists and engineers to recognize the expertise of climate scientists and to aggressively offer nuclear technology as an ultra low carbon energy source. Suzy has published a thought provoking blog post on the topic at the ANS Nuclear Cafe titled Climate Change and Nuclear Energy: We Need to Talk.
Cal explained how he was working hard to develop and then provide technology that performs the challenging balancing act of increasing our access to useful energy, decreasing the cost of that energy, maintaining the value of much of our current energy production infrastructure, decreasing our CO2 emissions, AND increasing the reliability of our energy production systems. He is not talking about perpetual motion machines but real system designs based on hard science and engineering.
Margaret offered her usual expert commentary on all topics discussed.
I continued singing my currently favorite song about how highly motivated the global fossil fuel industry marketers and decision makers have been during the past fifty years to discourage any shift in the energy markets from fossil to nuclear energy.
As Dan pointed out, however, even some of the world’s most prolific producers of petroleum are making serious investments in nuclear energy production systems. When the UAE, Iran and Saudi Arabia all decide that it is time to build nuclear power plants, they are sending the world a signal indicating that they know their fossil reserves are getting more and more difficult to extract at a rate that will allow them to continue developing.
We should all be paying attention to the many reasons why it is past time to be building lots of new nuclear power plants. There is an old saying about trees that is apropos here:
The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.