Obituaries of the “Nuclear Renaissance” have been widespread and frequent in the years since the Great Recession and reactions to the Great Northeast Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami. I’m pretty sure those obits have been premature in declaring the subject to be dead.
Last week, I attended the 6th Annual Advanced Reactor Summit and Technology Showcase. The event alllowed me to reconnect with some of my favorite atomic innovators and to meet, in real life, a long-time friend and colleague in the atomic advocacy community.
It’s worth remembering that the historical period we refer to as “The Renaissance” took about 50 years of foundation-building before taking hold and flourishing in a burst of human creativity and achievement that lasted about 300 years.
While already on the US West Coast, I spent the weekend in the heart of Silicon Valley engaged in fascinating discussions about atomic investment opportunities and challenges in an under appreciated branch of high technology.
Ever since that transformative experience, I’ve been thinking deep thoughts and trying to find words with which to describe and explain my optimism for a new Atomic Age.
My reflective moments have been punctuated and reinforced by such experiences as watching several committee hearings during which there was near universal agreement that we have a CO2 production crisis in need of solutions, that nuclear energy is an important tool that must be refined and used more effectively, and that America still has a virtually unmatched set of advantages that enable advanced atomic development.
I won’t attempt to provide details here about individual presentations from the AR Summit that provided encouragement, but if you are curious, you might want to search Twitter for my tweets that included the hashtag #ARSummit.
Among the talks and discussions that I found most valuable for my recent reflections were David Wright’s description of his regulatory and leadership philosophies; talks about additive manufacturing and its associated capacity for continuous, in process inspections; talks about methods for accelerating irradiation testing and model verification; talks about new uses of silicon carbide and SiC-SiC composites; talks about molten salt systems designed for easy fabrication and lower capital costs; and discussions on the summit sidelines about multiagency progress in addressing radiation protection models and the underlying science justifying substantial changes.
My visit to the heart of American startup and high tech investing culture reminded me that we are a country that is full of human, financial, physical and technical capital. We have a well-established process for bringing the disparate ingredients of success together in a way that can produce surprisingly rapid and repeatable revolutions.
We know how to recognize opportunity, how to solve problems and how to spread those solutions around the world.
Stand by for the next Atomic Age. You can call it Nuclear Renaissance 2.0, if you prefer.