1. The greatest generation kept the world safe for us and put our amazing infrastructure (power plants, interstates, airports) in place. The next generation expanded our view of equality among humans (actually, started by the Greatest Generation. After all, Truman de-segregated the military). I think it is time now for this generation to step up to technological advances again.
    However, I do wonder if we can. Children are fed drugs for hyperactivity, and denied free play at recess because they might hurt themselves without supervision. Museums of science are all about ecology (which is good to know about and take care of) but I leave with the vague feeling that the role of humans on earth is to wreck it. We get up in the morning and “ruin” the ecology. (Actually, that is a statement full of hubris. As humans, all we can do is change the ecology, just like any other species or event. It is not our to “ruin.)
    As a young girl, I was inspired by science museums. We were making progress and the world was getting better! The real challenge is becoming hopeful again about the possibility of progress. I think that is why Obama’s slogan resonated so much…Yes We Can and the Audacity of Hope. With hope, we can do so many things.

    1. What you say is true of almost all Western cultures today. If the US seems to have fallen further than most, it is only because of the heights that it reached, relative to others, in the Post-Wat era.

    2. I think there is also a problem in communicating needs. If young people are told their Republic needs help building and running and designing nuclear power plants, and asked to fulfill their civic duty, they will do so. The same goes for any other important business, from infrastructure reconstruction to electric power distribution.
      I think the same thing goes for the military’s recruiting problems: if the military ran a campaign saying “Your Uncle Sam needs you! Do your civic duty. Join the military.” rather than “Join the Army, get benefits!” “Pain is weakness leaving the body! Join the Marines.” Rather than “what we can do for you”, appeal to their sense of duty; ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. (Also appeal to their sense of intellectual stimulation and intellectual fun, if you want smart young people.)
      Young people don’t just want a job; they want to feel inspired, they want a mission, they want a cause. They want to feel they serve a purpose greater than their own self interest or the self-interest of their employer. Plus, people who feel that they are serving a cause, often will serve at a lower price than those who are doing things just for the money. For instance, many people would willingly take a subsistence-level salary, if necessary, just to get their foot in the door in an industry they were interested in, if they view it as incredibly important for the long term future of the country or view it as a job that would probably be intellectually stimulating and “fun”, so to speak…

  2. When i was young we used to watch science fiction movies/series on the TV all the time, space travel, warp engines and all. Now the new “green” movement is replacing that with backwards technology such as windmills and energy rationing disguised as being “smart” and “conserving”. I do however believe that you can’t put a good (young) man down, and all the attempts at restricting progress are eventually going to fail.

  3. I feel pretty confident that the drive and innovation exists in today’s generation: I’ve seen it, I’ve used it, I’m part of it. I am, however, genuinely concerned that the stultifying levels of bureaucracy and red tape will blunt the spirit of innovation and prevent it from truly changing the world.
    Take this, for instance:
    Brightsource wants to install a ~400MWe solar thermal plant in the middle of the desert in California. A major hurdle (and one they had to *redesign the plant for*) is the existence of ~25 desert tortoises that will have to be re-located to build the plant.
    400MWe for California (remember “rolling blackouts”?). 25 desert tortoises.
    It’s just one more example of BANANA: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody. I fear that the number of wickets that any new technology must jump through, and the number of opportunities for it to be killed by any one of a number of different interest groups, really threaten innovation today.
    The Apollo 1 fire occurred on January 27, 1967, and killed 3 astronauts. The first Saturn V launch occurred in November of that same year — nine months later. In today’s litigious and risk-averse society, I’m not sure we could do a similar turnaround.

    1. I agree that drive and vision exist in our young people. Unfortunately, I also think that our current ways of assessing the world and its dangers run counter to young people’s ability to make a difference.
      We actually live longer and healthier lives than our parents did. You know, sixty is the new fifty, etc. We think nothing of owning surprising amounts of material things. My family didn’t own a car while I was growing up. My husband and I have owned two cars for decades, and think nothing of it. I mean we think of it, but we don’t think…wow, are we ever RICH. Two cars! Who would have thought we would ever be so rich?
      And yet we communicate endlessly that the world is very dangerous and the sky is falling. Visit a science museum. See what I mean.

    2. Ivanpah got a $1.37 billion loan guarantee. If you take that as the cost of the project and NREL figures for its designed output (1,079,232 MWhr/yr), factor out the 30% of that power that will come from the natural gas assist, you get $15,000 per available installed low CO2 emitting kW. Even with the gas assist the project only produces at an average rate of 123 MW or about 31% of nameplate. The thing will cover 6 and 1/3 square miles. If you wanted to build these instead of nukes such as the one Areva is building in Finland you’d need almost 12 of them.
      Maybe the turtles are trying to tell us something.
      BANANA is a dismaying phenomenon I agree. But it is less dismaying when you consider that what is being blocked seems like it isn’t a solution to any problem anyone is looking at except for those who want the turtles dead.
      Here’s what Chuck Devore, a state assemblyman from California said about solar thermal in that state, on Atomic podcast #92:
      And you need to honestly take a look at what’s happening out in the desert. I’ve visited the solar fields out at Cramer Junction. They produce as I recall about 135 MW of power. They are solar thermal fields that have been up probably for about 20 years now. In other words not very much power. And they cover about 1000 acres or so. And what I was struck by when I went out to visit them was the fact that there was no plant or animal life whatsoever underneath those panels. The entire 1000 acre area was a dead zone, because the plants are a fire hazard for the parabolic trough mirrors. And they spray, like an herbicide to keep the plants from growing and to keep the dust down because the dust and sand abrade the mirrors and increases their maintenance costs. And so what I found somewhat interesting was that in that entire area it was devoid of any life. Now people who don’t live in the desert may think that’s all well and good, there’s no life out there anyway, but as a guy who has spent a lot of time out in the eastern High Sierra I can tell you there’s a lot of life out there…. How much of the desert are we willing to cover? Because the energy density of solar power is so minimal compared to the energy density of something like nuclear power where you can produce hundreds of times the amount of electricity on a much smaller imprint on the ground….

      1. Thanks for mentioning Chuck DeVore. I’ve actually spoken to his staff via phone on a few occasions – this was while I was just beginning to understand the superiority of nuclear power over what I was then more actively involved in – residential solar power systems. Ha.
        The land-use footprint aspect needs to be more forcefully and clearly stated whenever possible. The average person doesn’t ‘get’ capacity factor any more than they ‘get’ an atom. But they ‘get’ sprawl and no animal or plant life within that sprawl. IMHO, you fight the emotional battle for nuclear superiority with those aspects that the public can relate to: on-demand, reliable, small land-use, long-lasting, good jobs requiring smart people to do most of them. Technical details can be addressed as a secondary level of information/advertising.
        BTW, I know one of the groups trying to establish a solar farm near California City. Hope it doesn’t happen, even though our company would benefit from supplying some electronic parts to it.

  4. I agree with everything said here, including the guest. I just turned fifty and have returned for a Masters in Nuclear engineering after spending thirty years in various fields of alternative energy. I am about to start all over again as a student intern with Dominion and expect to help build their next nuclear station and keep the existing units running better and more powerfully than ever.
    I have deep gratitude for the sacrifices and efforts of the Greatest Generation. However, they did a very bad job raising the Boomers. I am at the tail end of the Baby Boom and have always been disgusted by how selfish my cohort has been. I fear that we will literally have to wait until some of us die off or get so infirm that the Gen X’ers can set things right again. While we (serious people who read and care about others) all worked hard and pulled our weight, the Greatest Generation let the whiniest, most fearful and ignorant take over the culture. So now we have a culture of victimhood and ignorance led by actors, activists, and organizers.
    I am seriously considering making my contribution for the rest of my life somewhere where else. I have four great kids that will be on their own in a few years and my ex-wives would rather seek comfort than join me in making a contribution. I’m thinking I need to go someplace that protects freedom (property rights) and achievement is really respected and antisocial behavior is not tolerated, like Singapore, Korea or China.

  5. Jerry,
    You are right on in pointing out that windmills and energy rationing are now presented as being smart and conserving. What is not understood is that clean and affordable energy underlies a society’s wealth and a society that opts for windmills and energy rationing will loose out in our competitive world.
    We must light a different fire to inspire the coming generation. I was a child in the 1940s,before TV. My favorite radio program was DuPont Radio Theater. I can still recall episodes from which I acquired the concepts of Mendelian genetics and ABO blood types and an episode on Rh factor. I am quite certain that I can trace my inspiration for pursuit of a career in biology to that radio program. DuPont advertised “Better Things for Better Living Through Chemistry”. The “Through Chemistry” was dropped when the green movement gave chemistry a bad name.
    In the 1960s and 1970s after Sputnik, I directed several NSF supported Summer Science Training Programs(SSTPs) for high ability high school students at my College. Competition for a place in the SSTP was great. We had more than 700 applicants for 30 spots. I recall that one year, we had students build simple spectrophotometers and make pipettes by drawing out glass tubes and calibrating them to one ml. They also made incubators from a Styrofoam ice chests and an aquarium thermostats. They did growth studies on yeast an/or bacteria utilizing their spectrophotometers and plate counts using their homemade pipettes and used glass petri dishes purchased from Mayo Clinic’s bargain basement. Student took home to their high schools the things they made and a supply of petri dishes. The SSTP program was one of the best investments that NSF ever made. Over the years I have received letters from a number former SSTP students telling about how that summer changed the course of their lives. Most have gone on to becomes leaders in various fields of science The SSTP program offered the unique enjoyment of working with truly innovative students. One year, I recall that two students chose to study sowbugs. Each evening after supper the SSTP students sponsored sow bug races. They would place sow bugs with different colored painted spots under a petri dish top in the center of a chalked circle, lift off the petri dish and cheer for their favorite sow bug to be first to reach the perimeter. This activity became popular with summer campus residents and it drew a crowd each night including many Scandinavian educators who were on campus for a summer program.
    Sputnik had a lot to do with creating an interest in science in the 1960s. I do believe that today there is an urgency to develop an affordable clean energy source. How do we ignite the level of interest in science that occurred in the 1960s?

    1. John, thanks for sharing your experiences with SSTP (I remember it being Secondary Science Training Programs). I participated in the SSTP program at the University of Oklahoma in the summer of 1968 that featured classes in mathematics, geometry, and computer programming. We got to use the two Bendix G-15 computers they had there at the time, which used vacuum tubes, not transistors or integrated circuits! I went on to get a Master’s degree in electrical engineering, which is how I still make a living.
      Back to the topic at issue — getting the United States back to being a country that can compete in the nuclear energy field. I don’t think it is too late for use to turn out the talent that could lead the world in the design and manufacture of nuclear reactors of many sorts. Unfortunately, we have built for ourselves a society full of rent-seekers, each of whom tries to tap into the real wealth (real wealth = something one can use, eat, move around in, live in, etc. Real wealth is not money) created by others, or in the case of some anti-nukes, gain money for themselves by opposing the real wealth created by nuclear energy. “katana0182 (Dave)” spoke of those builders who may be eager to design and construct the nuclear power infrastructure as a duty for the good of society, even at a diminished income for themselves. Compare this to the rent-seekers who are eager to build wealth and power for themselves from the work of the true builders. These are the rent-seekers who want their percentage cut when financing the construction of the plant, others want to tax it, others want to make sure that the workers have the proper skin color rather than the proper skills, others want to make the environmental impact nearly nil rather than simply a lot lower than the alternatives, some want to hinder the regulatory process seemingly just to demonstrate their power, etc. It seems the rent-seekers are organized a lot better now than they were at the beginning of the first atomic era. In addition, there seems to have been a conscious decision to de-industrialize our country, moving so much manufacturing off shore. While there certainly are moves to bring some nuclear-related manufacturing back into this country, I am sure if one were to look at suppliers the next level down, one would find that a lot of the components are imported.
      I do hope for a turn-around. Should it ever arrive, it will be greeted by the lionization of welders and engineers, pipefitters and scientists, rather than bankers, politicians, and Wall Street stock traders. Prosperity will be seen flowing from hard work rather than clever financial schemes and influence peddling.

      1. Thanks for spurring my memory, you are correct the first S in SSTP is Secondary. I note that your program had math and computer science. I recall that our first SSTP in 1964 had a mathematics component. One physics SSTP student built a very simple vacuum tube computer that summerr. We had more than 70 students in a program that involved Chemistry, Physics, and Biology, Students were assigned to one of the three sciences and all participated in the mathematics component. NSF also funded two high school teachers in each of the fours disciplines. I still maintain contact with three of the teachers. That early model was very successful. Getting students involved in science and math in a significant way while in high school is a sound practice. Coming into college with strong math and science is a necessary start for students headed to top graduate schools. NSF should again bring out the SSTP.

  6. On the topic of US greatness I would say, bear in mind that I am a Canadian living in the US on a green card, that “the greatest generation” could have cared less about Hitler taking over Europe while Japan occupied most of China, until the Pearl Harbor attack unified them. Only then did they become the unbeatable types such as the Marines on some of those Japanese held islands who took in excess of 80% casualties without losing their fighting spirit.
    The darkest hour is just before the dawn. I wouldn’t underestimate the US.

    1. Not intending to nit pick, but the U.S.’s involvement in WWII was an inevitability. Japan knew this, which is the reason why they attacked Pearl Harbor preemptively in the first place. They attempted to eliminate our pacific naval presence but luckily the majority of our carrier fleet was not their that morning.

    1. I think Rod’s point is that we should not rest on our laurels.
      The renaissance has begun, but the U.S. retains the greatest obstructions towards building the first new plant stateside in 30 years.

    2. Kit P – Did you read my post or did you just assume the content from the headline? My point is that we have a lot to offer the world, that we have a lot of terrific and well qualified people, and that we need to get moving – I did not assume that we would not get moving and I did not say anything negative about our design efforts.
      I just happen to disagree with your continued assertions that we somehow do not need to build a lot of nuclear fission power plants in the US so that we can STOP blowing up mountains and STOP dumping coal and natural gas combustion waste into the atmosphere.

      1. Rod for an English major you sure have a problem with verb tenses.
        We ‘ARE’ building lots of new nukes. I just happen to disagree with Rod’s continued assertions that we should do something that we are already doing.

        1. My understanding of tenses is pretty good. Based on the definition of the word “building” our total in the US is exactly one and that project started when I was in high school. We also have serious site preparation work in progress on two more units, but even that one does not have a committed financing package. There are a number of other projects in various stages of planning, but people like your hero at Exelon refuse to make any commitments. In fact, didn’t the Victoria Station application recently turn from a COL to a lesser ESP application?

  7. The US seems to have given up the spirit of competition in favor of the spirit of international cooperation. And US corporations don’t seem to have any inhibitions about outsourcing our jobs to foreign countries with cheaper labor in order to increase their profits.
    China’s not afraid to use government resources in order to help its corporations invest in the future technologies that will allow it to dominate the world. In the US, on the other hand, the philosophy is to simply let private industry decide our fate even though these companies and corporations may have no loyalty to the US or the American people and whether we have a job or not.
    In the US, we need a government that’s willing to invest in America the way Roosevelt did during the Great Depression when we built huge hydroelectric power plants, the way Kennedy did when he invested in the technologies that sent men to the Moon and placed the first commercial satellites into orbit. But simply waiting around for the international corporations or China to decide our fate would be a big mistake.

  8. For all of the “rah rah, go US” rhetoric, there are certain pertinent facts that cannot be ignored. This is not about competition. This is about willingness to actually do something.
    I think that William Tucker summed it up the best: “We now manufacture very little of anything in this country except entertainment, lawsuits, and environmental impact statements.”
    We’ve become a country of bloggers, not doers (no offense, Rod). Everybody talks about doing something, but nobody is doing anything. Thus, the Internet now has a cadre of armchair reactor designers, who write prolifically about their favorite design, and debate endlessly about the merits of this design over that design, ad nauseam.
    Nevertheless, none of this effort actually brings any particular design closer to reality. In fact, it is usually counterproductive, since a substantial portion of this noise is unfortunately directed towards trashing other more conventional designs that are far more mature.
    Sadly, “innovation” in the past couple of decades has become synonymous with “information technology.” Thus, people actually take Google and Bill Gates seriously when they claim that they want to get into the energy business, as absurd as that notion is!
    We’re a vain culture. We like to pat ourselves on the back and point out how “innovative” our computer technology is. I suspect that this is responsible for much of our complacency. However, this is a delusion. Almost every innovation that we associate with our modern computing environment was demonstrated before 1969.
    Besides, when it comes down to it, innovation is more of an enemy than a friend. It’s a shiny object that attracts animals, small children, and idiots. China, Russia, and South Korea are not innovating. They’re buying or have bought (or have stolen, in the case of Russia) our technology wholesale and are now actually building it with as few modifications and improvements that they can get away with.

    1. Well, Brian, what would you like us, individually and collectively, do to change that?
      How can the youth of today serve their country?

  9. I am a technologist and what interests me is the technology. I believe that the story with respect to America

  10. Respectfully, not one new plant started in 30 years is low productivity in the nuclear sector.
    The regulatory obstacles to building new nuclear are set too high and this needs to be reduced. A current application documentation package for a new reactor design is roughly 17,000 pages in length. If similar regulatory obstacles existed in the renewable energy sector I feel certain that no wind generator would ever be erected and no solar panel would ever be mounted.
    America still has the knowhow and the formal educational excellence to compete in the 21st century but the regulatory burden places America at an immediate competitive disadvantage. The US built the Shippingport Atomic Power Station in four years at the dawn of the nuclear age. The French have recently proved they can still build their EPR in four years. Regulation beyond a certain point just adds cost and not additional safety. For the US to participate in the Race for Nuclear Energy Market Dominance, part of the challenge before us is to reduce the US regulatory burden.

  11. One of the most important and simple things that could be done is allowing first of a kind power-generating reactors to be issued Class 104 licenses. Class 104 licenses are far easier to get than the standard Class 103 licenses and are subject to far fewer rules. They’re used for research reactors at institutes of higher education.
    However, under 10 CFR 50.22, Class 104 licenses cannot be issued to a facility where… “more than 50 percent of the annual cost of owning and operating the facility is devoted to the production of materials, products, or energy for sale or commercial distribution, or to the sale of services, other than research and development or education or training.”
    This dooms prototype reactors, as the prototype is expensive, and has to generate sufficient money to defray the capital outlay unless the organization building the prototype has very deep pockets and can afford to have capital sunk into a fixed asset (or, is it, in this case, a liability) that does not bring in revenue but only incurs costs.
    There are ways to subvert the intent of this regulation using creative but legal means (using shell corporations) – but subversion of the regulation would presumably lead to it being changed by the NRC. If the regulation was changed to allow for test reactors – the first of a kind in a series – to be built under Class 104 licenses – and used to make money – rather than requiring that they be built under Class 103 licenses, this would make research and development of advanced nuclear power concepts a lot easier in the US.

    1. Dave – Based on your summary of the limitations of Class 104 licenses, what if the entity building and operating the facility was a university campus or technology park that had a large power demand of its own and had no desire to actually sell power? Wouldn’t the savings from halting fuel purchases help to defray the costs of owning and operating the reactor, especially if the entity figured in the value of the research, training and educational opportunities from the building and operating?
      I can think of quite a number of such entities in the US that would seem to be able to qualify for a Class 104 license for a moderately sized facility.

      1. @ Rod,
        Yes, like Purdue university, or Ohio State both with huge campuses and thousands of students.

      2. This would be an absolutely brilliant idea – especially in the northern states where there’s lots of need for heat. A perfect co-generation opportunity. I know that many large universities use steam for everything – my “alma mater” (UMass – still need to finish) does, even during the middle of the summer – produced by their power and heating plant – because they’re high-density and can save a lot of money by being self-sufficient.
        (Unfortunately, I couldn’t advise building here. The political realities of Massachusetts are unpredictable for nuclear power. Though the Commonwealth is an educated place…you have people – even academics – and even “scientists” (well, “soft” scientists, mostly) – who don’t understand that anti-nuclearism stems from the same anti-science, anti-naturalistic, dogmatic approach to reality that creationism and religious fundamentalism come from. I mean, we have folks like Markey, who was taking potshots at the MIT Research Reactor a few months back for using HEU. Never mind that a fair portion of his district works for MIT or for MIT spinoffs!)
        Because of this, large – and even moderate size – universities and colleges would be perfect places to install research reactors that just so happen to generate enough electricity and steam to power the campus. If suitably adaptable, small reactors could serve as an education, research, training, isotope production, and cogeneration facility. Of course, you would probably want to have two small reactors, one to carry the “hotel load” along with isotope production for the med school and university departments, while the other reactor is used for research and education. You could even switch them up every semester, or something like that. They wouldn’t necessarily need to be the same type of reactor.
        When I was writing this comment, I remembered that GA had a plan to install a GT-MHR, or a smaller version thereof, at the University of Texas/Permian Basin, called H3TR. I don’t know how serious they were/are, haven’t heard anything from that direction for a time. I also know that AECL was trying to find a host for a reactor called the SLOWPOKE Heating System back in the 1980s that was mainly for district heating, and they tried to set it up in the University of Saskatchewan, but it didn’t work out.
        A perfect place to try something like this would be the Midwest, lots of good engineering schools, Purdue, U of Michigan, U of Wisconsin Madison, perhaps even further West in the Rocky Mountain states (Idaho or Montana?)

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