Monday, January 4, 2010

"Atoms for Peace"...maybe on track now

Some of you may remember the following speech or perhaps read it in some college class. Now the nuclear weapon race and nuclear power plants will move in a new direction. [Caution must still be considered regarding nuclear waste.]

President Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" Speech

December 8th, 1953

Before the General Assembly of the United Nations on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy

Madame President, Members of the General Assembly:

When Secretary General Hammarskjold's invitation to address this General Assembly reached me in Bermuda, I was just beginning a series of conferences with the Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of Great Britain and of France. Our subject was some of the problems that beset our world.

During the remainder of the Bermuda Conference, I had constantly in mind that ahead of me lay a great honor. That honor is mine today as I stand here, Privileged to address the General Assembly of the United Nations.

At the same time that I appreciate the distinction of addressing you, I have a sense of exhilaration as I look upon this Assembly.

Never before in history has so much hope for so many people been gathered together in a single organization. Your deliberations and decisions during these somber years have already realized part of those hopes.

But the great test and the great accomplishments still lie ahead. And in the confident expectation of those accomplishments, I would use the office which, for the time being, I hold, to assure you that the Government of the United States will remain steadfast in its support of this body. This we shall do in the conviction that you will provide a great share of the wisdom, the courage, and the faith which can bring to this world lasting peace for all nations, and happiness and well-being for all men.

Clearly, it would not be fitting for me to take this occasion to present to you a unilateral American report on Bermuda. Nevertheless, I assure you that in our deliberations on that lovely island we sought to invoke those same great concepts of universal peace and human dignity which are so clearly etched in your Charter.

Neither would it be a measure of this great opportunity merely to recite, however hopefully, pious platitudes.

I therefore decided that this occasion warranted my saying to you some of the things that have been on the minds and hearts of my legislative and executive associates and on mine for a great many months-thoughts I had originally planned to say primarily to the American people.

I know that the American people share my deep belief that if a danger exists in the world, it is a danger shared by all--and equally, that if hope exists in the mind of one nation, that hope should be shared by all.

Finally, if there is to be advanced any proposal designed to ease even by the smallest measure the tensions of today's world, what more appropriate audience could there be than the members of the General Assembly of the United Nations?

I feel impelled to speak today in a language that in a sense is new--one which I, who has spent so much of my life in the military profession, would have preferred never to use.

That new language is the language of atomic warfare.

The atomic age has moved forward at such a pace that every citizen of the world should have some comprehension, at least incomparative terms, of the extent of this development of the utmost significance to every one of us. Clearly, if the people of the world are to conduct an intelligent search for peace, they must be armed with the significant facts of today's existence.

My recital of atomic danger and power is necessarily stated in United States terms, for these are the only in controvertible facts that I know. I need hardly point out to this Assembly, however, that this subject is global, not merely national in character.

On July 16, 1945, the United States set off the world's first atomic explosion. Since that date in 1945, the United States of America has conducted 42 test explosions.

Atomic bombs today are more than 25 times as powerful as the weapons with which the atomic age dawned, while hydrogen weapons are in the ranges of millions of tons of TNT equivalent.

Today, the United States' stockpile of atomic weapons, which, of course, increases daily, exceeds by many times the explosive equivalent of the total of all bombs and all shells that came from every plane and every gun in every theatre of war in all of the years of World War II.

A single air group, whether afloat or land-based, can now deliver to any reachable target a destructive cargo exceeding in power all the bombs that fell on Britain in all of World War II.

In size and variety, the development of atomic weapons has been no less remarkable. The development has been such that atomic weapons have virtually achieved conventional status within our armed services. In the United States, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marine Corps are all capable of putting this weapon to military use.

But the dread secret, and the fearful engines of atomic might, are not ours alone.

In the first place, the secret is possessed by our friends and allies, Great Britain and Canada, whose scientific genius made a tremendous contribution to our original discoveries, and the designs of atomic bombs.

The secret is also known by the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union has informed us that, over recent years, it has devoted extensive resources to atomic weapons. During this period, the Soviet Union has exploded a series of atomic devices, including at least one involving thermo-nuclear reactions.

If at one time the United States possessed what might have been called a monopoly of atomic power, that monopoly ceased to exist several years ago. Therefore, although our earlier start has permitted us to accumulate what is today a great quantitative advantage, the atomic realities of today comprehend two facts of even greater significance.

First, the knowledge now possessed by several nations will eventually be shared by others--possibly all others.

Second, even a vast superiority in numbers of weapons, and a consequent capability of devastating retaliation, is no preventive, of itself, against the fearful material damage and toll of human lives that would be inflicted by surprise aggression.

The free world, at least dimly aware of these facts, has naturally embarked on a large program of warning and defense systems. That program will be accelerated and expanded.

But let no one think that the expenditure of vast sums for weapons and systems of defense can guarantee absolute safety for the cities and citizens of any nation. The awful arithmetic of the atomic bomb does not permit any such easy solution. Even against the most powerful defense, an aggressor in possession of the effective minimum number of atomic bombs for a surprise attack could probably place a sufficient number of his bombs on the chosen targets to cause hideous damage.

Should such an atomic attack be launched against the United States, our reactions would be swift and resolute. But for me to say that the defense capabilities of the United States are such that they could inflict terrible losses upon an aggressor--for me to say that the retaliation capabilities of the United States are so great that such an aggressor's land would be laid waste--all this, while fact, is not the true expression of the purpose and the hope of the United States.

To pause there would be to confirm the hopeless finality of a belief that two atomic colossi are doomed malevolently to eye each other indefinitely across a trembling world. To stop there would be to accept helplessly the probability of civilization destroyed--the annihilation of the irreplaceable heritage of mankind handed down to us generation from generation--and the condemnation of mankind to begin all over again the age-old struggle upward from savagery toward decency, and right, and justice.

Surely no sane member of the human race could discover victory in such desolation. Could anyone wish his name to be coupled by history with such human degradation and destruction.

Occasional pages of history do record the faces of the "Great Destroyers" but the whole book of history reveals mankind's never-ending quest for peace, and mankind's God-given capacity to build.

It is with the book of history, and not with isolated pages, that the United States will ever wish to be identified. My country wants to be constructive, not destructive. It wants agreement, not wars, among nations. It wants itself to live in freedom, and in the confidence that the people of every other nation enjoy equally the right of choosing their own way of life.

So my country's purpose is to help us move out of the dark chamber of horrors into the light, to find a way by which the minds of men, the hopes of men, the souls of men every where, can move forward toward peace and happiness and well being.

In this quest, I know that we must not lack patience.

I know that in a world divided, such as our today, salvation cannot be attained by one dramatic act.

I know that many steps will have to be taken over many months before the world can look at itself one day and truly realize that a new climate of mutually peaceful confidence is abroad in the world.

But I know, above all else, that we much start to take these steps--now.

The United States and its allies, Great Britain and France, have over the past months tried to take some of these steps. Let no one say that we shun the conference table.

On the record has long stood the request of the United States, Great Britain, and France to negotiate with the Soviet Union the problems of a divided Germany.

On that record has long stood the request of the same three nations to negotiate the problems of Korea.

Most recently, we have received from the Soviet Union what is in effect an expression of willingness to hold a Four Power meeting. Along with our allies, Great Britain and France, we were pleased to see that this note did not contain the unacceptable preconditions previously put forward.

As you already know from our joint Bermuda communique, the United States, Great Britain, and France have agreed promptly to meet with the Soviet Union.

The Government of the United States approaches this conference with hopeful sincerity. We will bend every effort of our minds to the single purpose of emerging from that conference with tangible results toward peace--the only true way of lessening international tension.

We never have, we never will, propose or suggest that the Soviet Union surrender what is rightfully theirs.

We will never say that the people of Russia are an enemy with whom we have no desire ever to deal or mingle in friendly and fruitful relationship.

On the contrary, we hope that this coming Conference may initiate a relationship with the Soviet Union which will eventually bring about a free inter mingling of the peoples of the east and of the west--the one sure, human way of developing the understanding required for confident and peaceful relations.

Instead of the discontent which is now settling upon Eastern Germany, occupied Austria, and countries of Eastern Europe, we seek a harmonious family of free European nations, with none a threat to the other, and least of all a threat to the peoples of Russia.

Beyond the turmoil and strife and misery of Asia, we seek peaceful opportunity for these peoples to develop their natural resources and to elevate their lives.

These are not idle works or shallow visions. Behind them lies a story of nations lately come to independence, not as a result of war, but through free grant or peaceful negotiation. There is a record, already written, of assistance gladly given by nations of the west to needy peoples, and to those suffering the temporary effects of famine, drought, and natural disaster.

These are deeds of peace. They speak more loudly than promises or protestations of peaceful intent.

But I do not wish to rest either upon the reiteration of past proposals or the restatement of past deeds. The gravity of the time is such that every new avenue of peace, no matter how dimly discernible, should be explored.

These is at least one new avenue of peace which has not yet been well explored--an avenue now laid out by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

In its resolution of November 18th, 1953 this General Assembly suggested--and I quote--"that the Disarmament Commission study the desirability of establishing a sub-committee consisting of representatives of the Powers principally involved, which should seek in private an acceptable solution . . . and report on such a solution to the General Assembly and to the Security Council not later than 1 September 1954."

The United States, heeding the suggestion of the General Assembly of the United Nations, is instantly prepared to meet privately with such other countries as may be "principally involved," to seek "an acceptable solution" to the atomic armaments race which over shadows not only the peace, but the very life, of the world.

We shall carry into these private or diplomatic talks a new conception.

The United States would seek more than the mere reduction or elimination of atomic materials for military purposes.

It is not enough to take this weapon out of the hands of the soldiers. It must be put into the hands of those who will know how to strip its military casing and adapt it to the arts of peace.

The United States knows that if the fearful trend of atomic military build up can be reversed, this greatest of destructive forces can be developed into a great boon, for the benefit of all mankind.

The United States knows that peaceful power from atomic energy is no dream of the future. That capability, already proved, is here--now--today. Who can doubt, if the entire body of the world's scientists and engineers had adequate amounts of fissionable material with which to test and develop their ideas, that this capability would rapidly be transformed into universal, efficient, and economic usage.

To hasten the day when fear of the atom will begin to disappear from the minds of people, and the governments of the East and West, there are certain steps that can be taken now.

I therefore make the following proposals:

The Governments principally involved, to the extent permitted by elementary prudence, to begin now and continue to make joint contributions from their stockpiles of normal uranium and fissionable materials to an international Atomic Energy Agency. We would expect that such an agency would be set up under the aegis of the United Nations.

The ratios of contributions, the procedures and other details would properly be within the scope of the "private conversations"I have referred to earlier.

The United states is prepared to under take these explorations in good faith. Any partner of the United States acting in the same good faith will find the United States a not unreasonable or ungenerous associate.

Undoubtedly initial and early contributions to this plan would be small in quantity. However, the proposal has the great virtue that it can be under taken without the irritations and mutual suspicions incident to any attempt to set up a completely acceptable system of world-wide inspection and control.

The Atomic Energy Agency could be made responsible for the impounding, storage, and protection of the contributed fissionable and other materials. The ingenuity of our scientists will provide special safe conditions under which such a bank of fissionable material can be made essentially immune to surprise seizure.

The more important responsibility of this Atomic Energy Agency would be to devise methods where by this fissionable material would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind. Experts would be mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine, and other peaceful activities. A special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world. Thus the contributing powers would be dedicating some of their strength to serve the needs rather than the fears of mankind.

The United States would be more than willing--it would be proud to take up with others "principally involved: the development of plans where by such peaceful use of atomic energy would be expedited.

Of those "principally involved" the Soviet Union must, of course, be one.

I would be prepared to submit to the Congress of the United States, and with every expectation of approval, any such plan that would:

First--encourage world-wide investigation into the most effective peace time uses of fissionable material, and with the certainty that they had all the material needed for the conduct of all experiments that were appropriate;

Second--begin to diminish the potential destructive power of the world's atomic stockpiles;

Third--allow all peoples of all nations to see that, in this enlightened age, the great powers of the earth, both of the East and of the West, are interested in human aspirations first, rather than in building up the armaments of war;

Fourth--open up a new channel for peaceful discussion, and initiate at least a new approach to the many difficult problems that must be solved in both private and public conversations, if the world is to shake off the inertia imposed by fear, and is to make positive progress toward peace.

Against the dark background of the atomic bomb, the United Stats does not wish merely to present strength, but also the desire and the hope for peace.

The coming months will be fraught with fateful decisions. In this Assembly; in the capitals and military headquarters of the world; in the hearts of men every where, be they governors, or governed, may they be decisions which will lead this work out of fear and into peace.

To the making of these fateful decisions, the United States pledges before you--and therefore before the world--its determination to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma--to devote its entire heart and mind to find the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life.

I again thank the delegates for the great honor they have done me, in inviting me to appear before them, and in listening to me so courteously.

Thank you.

"Nuclear's next generation"

Inside story: A group of six new blueprints for nuclear power stations promise advances in safety and efficiency. How do they differ from existing designs?

December 10th, 2009

The Economist

DWIGHT EISENHOWER observed in his “Atoms for Peace” speech in 1953 that nuclear technology originally developed for military purposes could also be put to peaceful uses, namely generating electricity. His speech led to the dissemination of nuclear technology for civilian purposes and the establishment of the first nuclear power stations. Many of these early reactors, built during the cold war, made a virtue of the “dual use” nature of nuclear technology. Designs were favoured that could create weapons-grade material as well as electricity.

Today those priorities have been reversed. America and Russia are taking steps to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons, and the international community is trying to prevent their acquisition by new states. Under America’s “Megatons to Megawatts” programme, weapons-grade material from retired warheads is being broken down to provide fuel for civilian nuclear power stations. With 53 new reactors under construction around the world and dozens more planned, the main difficulties facing nuclear scientists now are to reduce the threat of proliferation, improve efficiency and do something about the growing stock of nuclear waste in indefinite temporary storage.

These new priorities favour new sorts of reactor. Taking the lead in the development of the next generation of reactors is an international programme called the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), a collaboration between the governments of America, Argentina, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Japan, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and Switzerland, plus Euratom, the EU’s nuclear body. Established in 2001, the GIF has drawn up a shortlist of six of the most promising designs, which range from updated versions of existing reactors to radically different approaches.

All nuclear reactors rely on nuclear fission, a process discovered in the 1930s. When certain heavy atoms are struck by a neutron, they absorb it, become unstable and split apart. This results in two lighter atoms, and two or three neutrons are ejected. The process releases large amounts of energy, much of it in the form of the kinetic energy of the fast-moving fission products. This energy is converted to heat as the fission products slow down. If the ejected neutrons hit other atoms nearby, those too can break apart, releasing further neutrons in a chain reaction. When enough neutrons produce further fissions—rather than escaping, bouncing off or being absorbed by atoms that do not split—the process becomes self-sustaining.

The technology underpinning civilian nuclear power-generation has not progressed much since the 1950s when a small number of prototype commercial reactors were first brought online. Based on the military reactors developed for weapons programmes and naval propulsion, these “generation I” systems pioneered the pressurised water reactor (PWR) design, which is the basis for most of the “generation II” nuclear reactors now in operation. In a PWR ordinary water, kept at a high pressure to prevent it from boiling, is used both to cool the reactor core and to “moderate” the nuclear reaction by reducing the speed of the neutrons in order to maximise their ability to cause further fissions. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), of the 436 nuclear reactors in operation today, 356 are either PWRs or boiling-water reactors—a simplified version of the same design.

The vast majority of current reactors use a “once through” fuel cycle, in which each batch of fuel spends a single term in the reactor core, and the leftovers are then removed and placed in storage. This spent fuel presents a storage problem, but it also offers an opportunity. According to the World Nuclear Association, an industry body, the spent fuel recovered from a reactor still contains around 96% of the original uranium, as well as plutonium that has been formed in the core. If the nuclear renaissance takes off at the rate that many are predicting, this inefficient use of the uranium fuel is likely to prove unsustainable, says Bill Stacey, a professor of nuclear engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The original series

In the near term most new reactors will continue to be PWRs. A forthcoming crop of “generation III” and “generation III+” reactors build on the light-water design with new safety mechanisms. Some can also run on mixed oxide (MOx) fuel, which is produced by reprocessing spent fuel to extract the plutonium and uranium and combining them to make a new fuel. But although MOx is currently used in around one-third of French reactors, the idea of reprocessing is controversial and has yet to gain widespread international support. Critics say it is uneconomic and increases the risk of proliferation.

The six most promising “generation IV” designs identified by the GIF from an original list of over 100 concepts depart markedly from the light-water moderated, once-through models that dominate the existing fleet. Even those reactors that draw upon aspects of current designs add some new twists.

Start with the supercritical water-cooled reactor (SCWR). Although it uses water as the coolant, like existing designs, the water is at a much higher temperature (above 374{degree}C) and pressure. Under these conditions the water exists in a single, supercritical phase, rather than as liquid or steam. This eliminates the need to transfer heat from the coolant water to steam (via a secondary heat-exchanger) to drive a steam turbine, as is the case with current PWRs. Instead, supercritical water from the core drives a turbine directly.

Doing away with the need for separate pumps, pressurisers and steam generators results in higher thermal efficiency: 45% rather than the 33% of existing PWRs, according to Idaho National Laboratory. The simplicity of the design should also make it cheaper. The GIF estimates that an SCWR could be built at a cost of $900 per kilowatt of generating capacity—about a quarter of the expected cost of current generation III+ reactors. Some industry observers, however, are sceptical that these cost savings can be achieved.

Given that it builds on existing reactor designs, and also borrows from supercritical fossil-fuel boilers, which are also an established technology, the SCWR is likely to be one of the first generation-IV designs to be implemented. The GIF is aiming to have a demonstration version ready by 2022. But several technical challenges remain. In particular, says William Cook of the University of New Brunswick in Canada, “current reactor materials that do not crack corrode excessively, while materials that do not corrode excessively crack.” New alloys will be needed that do not crack or corrode under stress.

The second design with roots in existing technology is the Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR). It has a once-through uranium cycle, but instead of water it uses graphite as the moderator and helium gas as the coolant. (Helium has the advantage that it is chemically inert and has only a limited tendency to become radioactive when exposed to neutrons.) As its name suggests, the VHTR is designed to run at very high temperatures, heating the coolant to around 950{degree}C, compared with 315{degree}C for a standard PWR, making it more thermally efficient.

Like the SCWR, the VHTR will require the development of new materials. Although the helium coolant presents fewer corrosion problems than supercritical water, creating core materials and fuel casings that can withstand the high temperatures involved is a daunting task. Nevertheless, the VHTR has sufficiently impressed the Obama administration, which in September announced $40m in funding for research and development of the Next Generation Nuclear Plant, a reactor based on the VHTR design.

Unlike the SCWR and the VHTR, which build on current reactors, the other four generation-IV designs take a completely different approach to the nuclear-fuel cycle. Three of them are “fast neutron” reactors, which do not include a moderator to slow down free neutrons during the fission process. With more free neutrons flying about, fast reactors can consume or “burn up” existing nuclear waste, a characteristic that endears them to waste-reduction advocates who see them as a means of “closing” the nuclear fuel cycle.

In keeping with the Janus-faced nature of nuclear technology, however, fast reactors can also be used to produce or “breed” new fissile material—converting uranium-238 into the notoriously dual-purpose plutonium, for example. Opponents of fast reactors worry about the costs and proliferation risks. But the prospect of being able to extract useful energy from nuclear waste, and also reduce its volume and toxicity, give fast reactors obvious appeal. The three shortlisted fast-reactor concepts—sodium-cooled, gas-cooled and lead-cooled—are differentiated primarily by their use of coolant. Each has its own pros and cons.

The most successful of the three designs to date has been the sodium-cooled fast reactor (SFR), which has racked up the highest number of reactor-years of operation in prototype form. One of the merits of the SFR is that “we really can build one,” says Robert Hill of America’s Argonne National Laboratories. He points to the Russian BN600, a reactor that has been running since the 1980s. Sodium is favoured as a coolant because of its good heat-transfer properties, its ability to operate at lower pressures than other coolants and its relative “transparency” to fast neutrons, which means it does not interfere in the fission process, says Dr Hill. According to the IAEA, Russia, South Korea and India are all currently operating versions of the SFR, and China is due to bring a prototype online in mid-2010.

The gas-cooled fast reactor (GFR), in contrast, has yet to be demonstrated on a commercial scale. But many see it as a better bet than the SFR due to its technical similarity to generation III gas-cooled designs. Like the VHTR, the GFR uses pressurised helium both to cool the reactor core and drive a turbine, yielding higher thermal efficiency than systems with a secondary heat-transfer loop. As with a VHTR, the other advantages of a gas coolant, says Tom Wei, a senior engineer at Argonne, include its non-corrosive characteristics and its capacity for use at high temperatures (the GFR would operate at around 850{degree}C). But, like the VHTR, the GFR will require new materials to enable its cladding and fuel assemblies to withstand such high temperatures.

The third fast-reactor concept uses molten lead as the coolant, an approach historically favoured by the Soviet military, which used early lead-bismuth cooled fast reactors to power its submarines. Since the late 1990s there has been renewed interest in the lead-cooled fast reactor (LFR), particularly in Europe. A distinctive advantage of the LFR concept is its potential to be adapted to smaller “battery” designs, which can be manufactured as self-contained systems with a “lifetime core”. Such reactors could provide a way to extend civilian nuclear power to new countries without giving them access to the sensitive parts of the nuclear-fuel cycle.

Although a commercial fleet of fast reactors would be attractive from a waste-management perspective, it presents its own set of proliferation-related problems. According to Charles Ferguson, a nuclear expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank, the commercial adoption of fast reactors would require “near real-time monitoring capabilities” via secure video links to ensure that the reactors were not being used to make weapons. Getting countries to agree to such intrusive measures, he says, would be very difficult.

The sixth shortlisted design, the molten salt reactor (MSR), works by dissolving nuclear fuel in a fluoride solution, which acts as both the fuel and the coolant in the reactor core. The molten salt, which has good heat-transfer properties and can be heated to temperatures above 1,000{degree}C without boiling, is moderated using graphite. The circulation of the fuel in this way eliminates the need for fuel fabrication and allows for continuous online reprocessing. It also makes the design well suited to the use of existing fissile material, which can be easily blended into the fuel mixture. And like fast reactors, the MSR can be designed to burn up many of the longer-lived byproducts of the fission process, resulting in nuclear waste that is much less radioactive than that produced by the once-through cycle.

One form of MSR, the liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR), has garnered particular enthusiasm among those who regard thorium as an attractive replacement for uranium and plutonium in the fuel cycle. (Thorium is both cheaper and more abundant than uranium.) According to Kirk Sorensen, an engineer at NASA who also runs a blog on the merits of the thorium cycle, natural thorium provides at least 250 times more energy per unit than natural uranium. However, unlike fissile uranium, natural thorium must be “seeded” with external neutrons in order to get it to fission. Another obstacle for the MSR is finding materials capable of withstanding hot, corrosive, radioactive salt.

Flicking the switch

Which of these designs will prevail in the coming decades? After all, not all the generation-IV reactor concepts are likely to make it to commercialisation. Ideally, the strongest approaches will win out through “natural selection”, says Thierry Dujardin at the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) in Paris. But with each of the designs closely connected to different national research programmes—and international variations within each of the categories—governments are unsurprisingly reluctant to see their particular projects sidelined.

Harold McFarlane at the Idaho National Laboratory reckons the VHTR and SFR are almost ready to move out of the research phase and into the design stage. Others share this view: the British government has identified the VHTR, GFR, and SFR as high-priority designs, and Japan, France and America agreed last year to work together on SFR prototypes.

Dr Ferguson thinks the prospects of the entire generation-IV programme are contingent on the level of investment allocated to nearer-term projects. “Do we commit to generation III or do we leapfrog to generation IV?” he asks. Two important considerations for answering his question are regulatory compliance and economic viability. With regard to the former, the NEA’s Multinational Design Evaluation Programme is considering an international licensing scheme to standardise safety requirements for the new reactors. As for the latter, the success of generation IV reactors is likely to hinge on large amounts of government support.

In the near term this support should take the form of increased research-and-development funding, says Dr Stacey of Georgia Tech. In the longer term, governments have an important role to play in the provision of loan guarantees, which are vital for overcoming engineering and “first of a kind” risks, says Joe Turnage at Unistar, a commercial nuclear joint-venture between Constellation Energy, an American utility, and EDF, a French one. But whatever the next generation of nuclear power-stations looks like, it is clear that the research being done around the world to develop such a variety of new reactors, rather than new nuclear weapons, has fulfilled Eisenhower’s wish, back in 1953, that “the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life.”

1 comment:

htomfields said...

For more information about Idaho National Laboratory's research projects, visit the lab's facebook site.