Clinton Bastin is an atomic pioneer who worked on used fuel recycling for most of his 42 year career. He has some strong opinions to share about related technologies.
Clinton Bastin is an atomic pioneer who worked on used fuel recycling for most of his 42 year career. He recently published We Need to Reprocess Spent Nuclear Fuel, and We Can Do It Safely, At Reasonable Cost (924 kB PDF). After I read that detailed opinion piece, with its critique of the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) and its comparisons between projects that have worked consistently with those that have not, I got in touch and began an email dialog.
After several exchanges, I had to get Clinton on the show to share some of his vast knowledge. It is a true privilege to be able to talk with a pioneer in an industry that has been as important to the world as atomic fission; especially in an specialized area that has gained considerable political attention.
As a teaser, I want to share an recent op-ed that Clinton wrote and submitted to the New York Times. It was not published there, but these days being overlooked by the major media does not mean that the voice or the opinion is silenced.
As a long-time reader of The New York Times, chemical engineer and nuclear scientist for the Department of Energy and its predecessors for 42 years, and President of a DOE Headquarters Employees’ Union from 1983 through 1996, I am dismayed that The Times never explains to its readers that the DOE:
– has spent about one trillion dollars and failed to address the energy challenges that were the reason for its creation;
– lost the ability to produce nuclear materials needed for medicine, space exploration, defense, industry, and research;
– suppressed information that should have been used to correct false allegations of dangers of radioactive waste stored at DOE sites in order to obtain many billions of dollars for so-called “cleanup” of the wastes which has been simply to remove it from where it is safely stored to other locations which resulted in much more danger and radiation exposure to humans than if nothing had been done;
– helped maintain a 34-year moratorium on new nuclear power plants, our safest, least polluting and potentially most abundant energy source;
– failed to provide full and accurate information to Americans about energy and nuclear technology;
– ignores the laws of thermodynamics, which is the science concerned with the relationship and conversion of heat to mechanical (usable) energy or work, in its development of usable energy with low-temperature energy sources such as geothermal, solar, tidal and wind;
– continues to fund expensive experiments for development of controlled nuclear fusion on Earth, for which there is no scientific basis;
– exaggerates threats of nuclear weapons proliferation from fully safeguarded nuclear power programs in other nations;
– interacts with its national laboratories in a manner virtually identical to that of the former Soviet Union Ministry of Atomic Energy with its Institutes; and
– has (with the help of The Times) dismissed all of the competent, experienced corporations that managed safe and successful nuclear programs for the Manhattan Project and Atomic Energy Commission.
During the Administration of President Bill Clinton, my major effort as union president was to work as partner with Energy Secretary: Hazel O’Leary, Deputy Secretary Bill White and other DOE leaders for major downsizing of the DOE in a manner that would minimize adverse impact on employees.
The downsizing, planned and projected to extend well into this century, was reversed by the Administration of President George W. Bush.
Avondale Estates, GA
During our interview, Clinton stated that during the 20 years that he worked at the Department of Energy (formed in 1978 from the rubble of the Energy Research and Development Agency), the organization did not accomplish anything of real value.