Similar Posts

Recent Comments from our Readers

  1. Avatar
  2. Avatar
  3. Avatar
  4. Avatar
  5. Avatar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Comments:

30 Comments

  1. I have mixed feelings about this post. I acknowledge that fresh looks by the younger population is a very positive step, because it can increase the volume to the policy makers. However I feel a bit insulted to think I am classified as a gray haired, wrinkled child of the ’50s/’60s who has been stuck in thinking that we have to stay with LWR technology. There are a large number of folks of my generation who have been insisting on the exact opposite, we must get away from LWR technology. And a lot of them have been commenting here for years. I’ll try to just “get over it”. It is encouraging to see it at least being acknowledged, by new blood, what the source of the problem is that’s preventing a transition to new technology.

    1. @mjd

      I was not thinking of people like you. After all, you served and did not evade by going to Oxford like a certain 100% renewables advocate named Amory Lovins. Following your service in uniform, you then served the public by providing them with high quality, clean electricity.

      Obviously, there were a goodly number of children of the 50s who came of age in the 1960s without learning to cower under their desks, learning that all doses of radiation, no matter how small, are harmful or that natural gas — plus a bit of wind & solar — is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

      1. Rod, I appreciate your response to my comment; thanks. In hind sight my original comment was much too brief. What originally triggered it was this quote attributed to Dr. Slaybaugh:
        “It’s no longer the case that we have to stay with LWRs. There’s an opportunity and a fresh perspective that are combined in an environment where people are really serious about nuclear because people are finally getting serious about the environment.”

        I understand that Dr. Slaybaugh was trying to answer a question, and probably “off the cuff.” So here’s my point; There are a lot of us, including career LWR folks, who are not included in the collective “we” saying “we have to stay with LWRs.” So that’s not quite a totally fresh perspective (a 5 decade old idea is hardly fresh). Further, tying nuclear future to “the environment” really means the global warming discussion. This has been beat to death on your site; and I think the consensus is that is not the only, or even the best, reason to support nuclear. That is really a side advantage at most, if at all.

        But I’ll shift to where the rubber hits the road (as we have privately discussed) on why we must shift to new nuke technology. And this point MUST be part of the discussion driving the shift to new technology. Nuclear power, if it is going to have a future, must stop building cores that can melt and “go over the fence.” Period. This is THE ISSUE. Whether you want to hear it or not, the fear is in our DNA. So knock off the arguments about “but it won’t hurt you”, because we haven’t and won’t win them. Eliminate that argument, by simply using new designs that don’t put it any event crap in my backyard. Good grief, why is this so hard to understand? Governments have given up on nukes because they don’t want to deal with this issue! It’s why Fukushima killed the “Renaissance.”

        Discussions like this conference are good. Because they focus on the embedded problems in the current system preventing new reactor tech from becoming shovel ready, with buyers. But the “Nuke Industry” needs to stop denying the reason we need to do this.

        1. @mjd

          The biggest problem I see with your suggested course of action is that it does nothing to eliminate the pressure to shut down valuable, existing plants.

          If we give in to irrational, carefully taught fear and stop informing people of the truth that even a core melt event has little, if any, impact on public health, we will lose access to some incredibly valuable capital investments.

          If we tell ourselves that the only way to gain public acceptance for nuclear energy is to build only plants that have been proven — somehow — that they can never release any radioactive material at all “over the fence,” we will have established an impossibly expensive and long delay time design requirement.

          1. “The biggest problem I see with your suggested course of action is that it does nothing to eliminate the pressure to shut down valuable, existing plants.”

            I agree, but I don’t see it as a “big” problem. Ignore it, while working to fix the issues on why some of the current fleet is not making money. That pressure, from some directions, has always been there. It will always be ignored by the business decision makers when the plant is profitable.

            The rest of your assessment in this response doesn’t address the topic under discussion, especially:
            “…we will have established an impossibly expensive and long delay time design requirement.” I think the whole topic here is understanding business as usual needs to change, not accept it, as it is the driver of “expensive and long.” I’m specifically talking the NRC process.

            Besides… we are eventually going to end up with melt proof cores (Atomic Engines is one of them), so start now. That’s what this whole thread is about, breaking away from ALL of the old embedded ideas and barriers.

            1. @mjd

              I don’t think we really disagree on the desirability of working toward building reactors that cannot melt and cannot spread harmful doses of radioactive materials to any member of the public.

              My concern is the time and expense that would be required to prove that claim beyond a shadow of a doubt. The search for perfection is the enemy of good enough. There is a “yuge” chasm of cost between pretty darned good and getting better and absolute perfection with zero doses over an infinite period of time.

              For example, one of the key economies associated with an Adams Engine will be the fact that it uses a gas that we know will gradually become slightly radioactive due to the production of C-14 through an (n,p) reaction with N-14 that has a relatively small, but certainly non-zero probability of happening anytime N2 gas is exposed to a neutron flux.

              We know two ways to avoid producing a small amount of C-14, which is a long lived beta emitter and not a hazard to human health due to inevitable dilution with C-12. One is to switch the working fluid to He, which has a zero cross section for absorption and cannot get activated itself. The other is to isotopically separate natural N2 gas into N-14 and N-15. N=15 has a virtually zero cross section, but it is quite rare; just 0.3% of natural N2 is N-15. There are proven techniques available to produce laboratory quantities of N-15, but making enough of it to power all of the Adams Engines we’d like to produce someday is a completely unknown cost, especially when considering leakage and replacement concerns.

              Therefore, the low cost path, even though it will take time and patience, is to help people understand that the C-14 we will produce is something that needs to be properly handled rather than being a show stopper if we cannot prove we have a leak free system.

              Aside: C-14 has some unique properties that may make it a profitable product rather than a concern.

  2. The exciting aspect of nuclear tech is that it has such a large and mostly untapped design space. Think of how far laser and CMOS tech has developed since the, say, 1960s, and then look at commercial application of nuclear tech. Nuclear tech has such a wide range of applications yet we are mostly using it for baseload electrical power. Hopefully we are entering the upswing of another S-curve of nuclear tech application.

    1. ” Think of how far laser and CMOS tech has developed since the, say, 1960s,”

      Yes – How many vacuum tubes do you see today? There was still a lot of equipment made in the sixties with them. If nuclear power had been allowed to develop, there may not be any discussion of global warming.

      1. That might be one of the smaller changes in what might have been avoided by continuing nuclear energy development during the las 40 years at the pace established by 1973.

        We might have avoided a whole lot of Middle East bloodshed along with at least two or three avoided economic crises caused by excessively high energy prices. Our banks might still be chasing and serving needs of consumer depositors, our governments might be less inclined to bulk up on fancy weapons systems, and our air would be nearly pollution-free.

        Never too late to change course.

  3. I would dare say that the renewable energy innovators feel the same about their particular passion. And just like the passion driving nuclear innovation, that passion will drive the evolution of the renewable technologies. Yet unrealized technological capabilities are not just limited to nuclear. Sometimes the exceptionalism expressed here seems a bit short sighted. Like EP’s eugenics, such exceptionalism often drives an over-rated impression of self. Nuclear ain’t the only game in town, and it never will be.

    1. @poa

      Sorry, my friend, but that dog don’t hunt here.

      The power sources lumped together under the “renewable” brand have mostly been known since the beginning of time, or at least since the beginning of human existence. Sails, solar collectors, biomass fires, falling water, and even geothermal energy sources have been used essentially forever by society. We know all there is to know about both their capabilities and their limitations.

      I don’t care if you call me an elitist [I’m just one generation removed from abject poverty] but I’m a reasonably bright guy who has studied energy with the best available (either in person or in books/journal articles) since 1977. There are no undiscovered or unapplied frontiers in “renewable” energy, but there are enormous libraries worth of information that point the way to an almost unlimited number of vectors by which to advance nuclear technology.

      An amazing natural (or god-given) gift whose existence only began to be revealed 120 years ago has been suppressed for the past seven decades by purposeful actions, many undertaken by the very government that you tend to dislike.

      It’s time to throw off the Lilliputian threads and let the nuclear Gulliver demonstrate what he can do to help humanity prosper.

  4. “As inventions begin to save the world, they need innovative thinkers in financing, business model creation, product development, marketing, project management, regulations, and competitive strategies.”

    All great aspirations. But meaningless until we learn that mankind is one single global community.

    1. Yeah, right.  Mankind has always been a mess of warring factions.  Much of technological and even social progress has been because of this, not in spite of it; the Treaty of Westphalia is a case in point.

      1. You excuse our failings, EP. And your core beliefs demonstrate them. You are a postcard example of what we should strive not to be.

        1. @poa

          Recognizing human foibles is not the same as excusing them.

          Advocating that we wait until all of those foibles have been recognized — and presumably eliminated — before taking aggressive action to solve as many problems as possible with what we know about nuclear energy is essentially advocacy of standing still.

          1. @poa

            IMO people get along much better when they are not struggling with each other over basic resources. Technology is a way to eliminate artificial constraints to a more universal prosperity. It will never, of course, be universal. Some people leave themselves behind by the choices that they make.

      1. @poa

        In my opinion, the nuclear industry needs more people who have been formally trained in colleges of design. We have designed and built some really ugly facilities and our marketing materials could use some serious improvement. That is one of the reasons I am such a fan of Suzy Baker and PopAtomic Studios. It was great news for me that an established nuclear entity hired her to improve their PR and outreach programs, but we need dozens to hundreds of people with similar training and vision.

        1. Rod, the only difference between Dan’s FU and mine is that I was honest about it.

          You rewarded his cowardice by removing my honesty.

          1. “It’s not cowardice, but manners that keeps conversations civil”

            On what planet would Kurt’s comment be considered “civil”?

            1. One that doesn’t get worked up over sly insults but refrains from using profanity (even with substituted letters in obvious places) in polite company. His comment, by the way, was also edited to remove a slight that might turn off some of my target audience.

          1. @poa

            Silly question. We need people like Suzy Baker because we have traditionally had too high of a concentration of people like Brian, Engineer-Poer, and Dan Kurt.

            They all have strengths, but like all humans, they also have weaknesses that need to be moderated or overcome by being part of a team with a more diverse range of talents, priorities and formal training.

      1. I hope the host of this forum does not mind me playing copy editor from time to time, with whatever humor I can find in it.

        I wish the host of this forum would find a module to provide a preview feature for comments.  One’s attempts at HTML do not always render the way one intends them the first time.

      2. Dear Rod,

        That you studied English in college was known to me as I have lurked on this blog for a number of years BUT you studied Nuclear Engineering as well. I also studied English as an undergraduate while getting a science/math degree before post grad and post doc science studies. I have also been a voracious reader since high-school so English and Literature are highly regarded by me but English is not a background alone to guide one to following the scientific method and evaluating/understanding scientific topics. A strong background in math and hard science as a prerequisite is needed. Your English degree has helped you run this Blog and develop your great communication skills, no doubt, but your education in hard science, engineering and math gives you credibility. My favorite chemistry professor taught Physical Chemistry and as a young Ph.D. helped develop the Navy reactor that went into the first Nuclear subs before he took a teaching position. I had four semesters of his instruction including Nuclear Chemistry. He told us that the future would be in Thorium reactors and I still believe it will happen but probably in China or India not in the USA given the constant barrage of propaganda that has overwhelmed the Nuclear Industry since the 1970s.

        Keep up the good work.

        Dan Kurt

  5. I consider myself an optimist and I appreciated the NRC, DOE and NEI participation in the summit and showcase. It was amazing to me how the politicians and the media were much more enthusiastic to see the youthful interest and synergy in the nuclear industry regarding advanced nuclear power than the regulator and promoters.

    The historical elitism and/or beat down of the regulator and promoter agencies showed through in that they continually reiterated that commercial nuclear was much different/more challenging than any other regulated industry, the ultra conservative safety culture was top priority, there was a massive amount of work to do move forward, that they would try to not be an unreasonable burden and that they were limited by law.

    I can find more enthusiasm at the DMV and they are permitting many challenged people (illiterate, 15 – 80 years old, under the influence, caffeinated, intoxicated, etc.) to drive multi-ton vehicles with toxic materials by each other at 65 mph.

    Why do they feel that they have to warn others in the audience that they are the keepers of the gold standard knowledge to contain the incredible responsibility that comes with designing and operating a commercial nuclear power plant? Apparently, all the nuclear developers should be patient with them for other countries just don’t have the intelligence to properly permit the advanced nuclear power plants like they can.

    Fifteen years and a billion dollars to permit a new LWR (NuScale) just don’t seem to be a development impediment to them. No one can possibly have the brain power to understand the challenges of commercial nuclear but those that have decades of experience in the industry already. You would think that someone was dying from nuclear power plants radiation release accidents daily.

    There were several issues that the regulators seemed not willing to understand and/or address.
    1) The responsibility to develop a US permit process that would allow non-LWR’s before the 2030’s (Transatomic & Terrestrial);
    2) Why they thought $2 million dollars in vouchers would be sufficient to serve the forty or so new reactor development companies that might choose to take advantage of the national laboratories; and
    3) why they preferred to discuss the extension of existing nuclear plants when the discussion was about “The Advanced Nuclear Summit and Showcase”.

    I was left wondering if they had some marching orders from the utility companies and other politicians who have billions tied up in assets and/or stock to protect the existing nuclear industry and renewable s from advanced low cost, inherently safe and clean energy nuclear plants until at least 2030.

    Sorry about my rant and maybe I need to reevaluate whether I am still an optimist. Although I still retain hope that the US won’t fall further behind other countries in advanced nuclear development for it seems that the national labs are starting to see the light.