The Atomic Show #158 – Loan guarantee politics, fuel recycling, small reactors prospects

Margaret Harding, Lisa Stiles, Dan Yurman and Rod Adams talk about the political maneuverings related to nuclear plant loan guarantees, the politics related to nuclear fuel recycling, and the prospects for significant deployment of smaller nuclear power plants in the United States.

Rod discusses the evidence that he documented on Atomic Insights with regard to the specific kind of plutonium used during the often referenced 1962 test at the Nevada Test Site. People opposed to plutonium recycling from commercial nuclear fuel often point to that test as proof positive that plutonium from power reactors can be used as raw material for a bomb, but the historical evidence proves that the material was far closer to “weapons-grade” that has previously been acknowledged. It bore no isotopic resemblance to the plutonium that can be extracted from modern commercial reactors, which remains exposed to neutrons for a much longer period of time.

That long neutron exposure produces plutonium that is a complex mix of isotopes, some of which have characteristics that prevent them from being useful in constructing a weapon. These plutonium isotopes (Pu-238, Pu-239, Pu-240 and Pu-241) cannot be easily separated from each other. In fact, the effort would be significantly more difficult than separating the two isotopes of uranium from each other in an enrichment facility.

Recycling programs involving used commercial nuclear fuel do not represent a nuclear weapons proliferation threat. Any technically competent person who claims that it does is not telling the truth and are most likely using this untruth as an argument against the widespread deployment of nuclear energy production plants because they favor increased use of a different, competitive energy source.

The discussion also turned to the economic potential for smaller reactors that can be installed in series on a common site. Dan, who has previously been a bit skeptical on The Atomic Show when the topic of small reactors has come up, has started to see the financial benefits of being able to build nuclear power plants in smaller steps, each of which can generate revenue as the step is completed.

At the end of the show, we briefly discussed fund raising ideas for an interesting video project to document the experience of two high school students who took a pro-nuclear energy position in a high school debate competition all the way to the national finals. They obtained much of their supporting information from nuclear pioneers/experts including Ted Rockwell, Len Koch, Charles Till and Robert Schenter. The video envisions the debaters obtaining face to face interviews with these pioneers. If you are interested in helping to support the travel and production expenses for this project, please send me an email at rod(underscore)adams(at symbol)atomicinsights(dot)com.

Comments are always welcome.

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About Rod Adams

3 Responses to “The Atomic Show #158 – Loan guarantee politics, fuel recycling, small reactors prospects”

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  1. Colin Megson says:

    Rod,

    I’m over in the UK and have listened to the last few of your podcast to attempt to keep up with developments. However, I am frustrated by the lack of impetus in the pro-nuclear debate at this period of golden opportunity and I appeal to you and your listeners to pursue a different tack.

    As an ex-coal miner and later (after obtaining qualifications in mechanical engineering) a design engineer in the nuclear reactor industry, I witnessed firsthand the vast superiority of the safety ethos in nuclear engineering, vis-à-vis ‘conventional’ engineering.

    Strangely, over the two hundred years or so of mechanised fossil fuel extraction, decline of fatalities and injuries from the tens of thousands per annum, to just a few thousands is deemed successful by society at large and, presumably, accepted as a price well worth paying. Even more strangely, a million premature deaths per annum (this excludes wood-burning type deaths) from fossil fuel use has not entered the psyche of the general public and does not feature in everyday conversation; little is made of it in any of the media.

    By contrast, Chernobyl features again and again, with the latest propaganda of 900,000 extra cases of cancer resulting in 450,000 premature deaths. If a magic wand could be waved and tomorrow, nuclear power generation, combined with a hydrogen economy, could completely replace fossil fuel for all forms of power use, a simpleton should accept that we could have two Chernobyl-type incidents per annum and still be better off; a statistician would probably calculate that the likelihood of two such events would be once every 50,000 years (my guess).

    The failure of proponents of nuclear power to pursue this line of attack, in every debate I have accessed on-line or witnessed in the popular media, is tragic in the extreme and remiss to the point of being labeled disgraceful. Instead, politicians and public find them locking horns with global warming deniers and oil industry apologists, in bemusing debates which are singularly lacking in persuasive powers.

    The tide is flowing in the right direction to kill off fossil fuel power generation and replace it entirely with the nuclear/hydrogen alternative and to do it quickly, over the next four or five decades.

    Campaign strategy would be hammering home to politicians and media:

    (a) Prevention of one million premature deaths per annum, linked to case after case of personal accounts of family tragedies, regarded as nothing more than collateral damage of our compulsive use of filthy power generation.

    (b) The noticeably cleaner world we can live in: cleaner air; cleaner rivers, lakes, groundwater and oceans; cleaner eco-systems, devoid of devastating mining operations and oil contamination.

    (c) As a by-product, it may even prove whether anthropogenic global warming is a reality or not. The general public isn’t bothered either way at the moment, since the costs remain largely externalized. Maybe, after 50 years or so, one or other of the opposing camps will be able to say ‘I told you so’.

    (d) Such rapid change in technology will create a boom in growth and initial prosperity for the technologically-savvy nuclear economies, which, to the benefit of all, might quickly include many in the developing world. Nirvana beckons those politicians who come onside.

    Is there anyone out there who is persuaded by my arguments and who would care to contact me about such a campaign? I have little experience in these matters and would need all the help I can get. If so, please e-mail me at: colin.megson@hotmail.co.uk

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