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President Bush: "We must promote civilian nuclear power."

The following is an excerpt from President Bush's speech yesterday at the National Renewable Energy Conference in St. Louis:
A controversial subject is nuclear power. You might remember, we've had a time in our country where people liked nuclear power, thought it was a strong solution to energy independence, and then we just shut her down because of engineering concerns. I strongly believe that if we want to keep this country competitive, if we want to make sure we can compete globally, we must promote civilian nuclear power. We must have more energy coming from nuclear power. (Applause.)

Nuclear power is renewable, and there are no greenhouse gases associated with nuclear power. One of the problems we've had is that nobody wants to build any plants. They're afraid of the costs of regulation and the litigious nature that surrounds the construction of nuclear power plants -- litigious problems surrounding the construction of the nuclear power plants.

And so, in the energy bill that I signed, the Congress wisely provided incentives and risk insurance for nuclear power plant construction. Last year only three companies were seeking to build power plants -- nuclear power plants. Today 14 have expressed new interest in construction. In other words, there's a new industry beginning to come back.

I think it's very important for us to spend dollars on how to best deal with the waste, in other words, research new ways to be able to assure the American people that we'll be able to deal with the nuclear waste in a smart way. And that's why we're teaming up with France, and Japan, and Russia to spend money -- $250 million from the United States' perspective, and they're matching it -- on what's called the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, all designed to research reprocessing and fast-burner reactors.

The idea is to take the nuclear industry, take the spent fuel, reprocess it, put it into a fast-burner reactor, which will yield about 90 percent less of the waste than under the current system. What I'm telling you is, is that the engineering is much safer today than it has been in the past, and we're spending money to make sure that we can deal with the waste in a sane way, so that we can with confidence say to the American people, now is the time to accelerate the expansion of nuclear power for the sake of national and economic security. (Applause.)
For more coverage of the speech, click here.

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Kirk Sorensen said…
The idea is to take the nuclear industry, take the spent fuel, reprocess it, put it into a fast-burner reactor, which will yield about 90 percent less of the waste than under the current system.

The problem is that it will take one fast-burner for every four or five light-water reactors to destroy the transuranic waste that they generate. To say nothing about going back and destroying transuranic waste already generated.

Switching to thorium/U-233 as nuclear fuel makes it possible to produce nuclear energy without producing any transuranic waste, which means nuclear energy could grow tremendously without being saddled with the need to build hundreds of fast-burner reactors.
gunter said…
Is this any surprise?

Stay the course on a failed expensive and dangerous technolgy.

Not at all unlike the Bush Administration's "onward into the fog" approach to his misguided and increasingly unpopular energy war in Iraq.

And likely to become as unpopular.

Gunter, NIRS
Brian Mays said…
gunter said...

"... And likely to become as unpopular. ..."

... Well, I suppose if you have anything to do with it, Mr. Gunter. That's your job, after all, isn't it?

As for what will actually happen, only time will tell. It's no longer the 80's, and it has been over 25 years since The China Syndrome was released. These days, most of the anti-nuclear protesters you see out there are relics from the old days, out to fight one last fight (and perhaps their grandchildren; those of you who have been to a public hearing on new reactors know what I am talking about). Aside from these dinosaurs in tie-dye, the rest of America seems content to let things go forward and see what will happen. This is particularly true in the part of the country where most of the new reactors are proposed to be built: the Southeast.

I do not see how generating electricity is a problem. Someday, may we have the problem of generating too much clean electricity. Plus, we already have transuranics and they need to go somewhere. FBRs are closer to the market than MSRs, and also do not produce transuranic waste (meaning that everything that is produced is burned). I don't see how the end result is any different, and is that not all that matters?
Paul Primavera said…
Paul Gunter,

Why can't we use nuclear power to produce hydrogen gas or hydrocabon fuels to relieve our dependency on oil acquired in lands of Islamic fascism?

There is only one set of groups opposing this: NIRS and its brethren. So when wars of foreign adventurism occur in such lands, you've only yourselves to blame.
Kirk Sorensen said…
I do not see how generating electricity is a problem.

Neither do I. What I am trying to say is that the GNEP scenario being put forward, if taken to its logical conclusion, will require additional light-water reactors (or any other thermal-spectrum uranium reactor) to be saddled with the construction of a fast-burner and a reprocessing plant every certain number of reactors built.

Now if you built only IFRs, you would not have this scenario, as you pointed out. I'm not crazy about IFRs (as we have discussed) but at least it has the virtue of being a self-consistent solution (complete consumption of the uranium resource, no transuranic waste leaving the plant).

The liquid-fluoride thorium reactor is another approach to the same problem, and one that I think will have safety and economic advantages over the LWR/GNEP scenario and the IFR-only scenario. But we should be cognizant that if we wish to build thousands of reactors and finally *solve* the world's energy problems, we need a breeder that does not produce transuranic waste. Either a fast-spectrum uranium reactor like an IFR or a thermal-spectrum thorium reactor like the LFR.

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