America should go “full steam ahead” on nuclear power, the conservative American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) website advocated today. ACSH senior fellow Alex Berezow argued not just for nuclear power being part of an “all of the above” energy strategy, but for nuclear power being the world’s primary power source.
Summarizing findings in a newly published article in the peer-reviewed journal Sustainability, Berezow writes, “Instead of treating our energy policy like salad toppings at a buffet, let’s just go full steam ahead on the one thing that could meet all of the world’s energy needs right now: Nuclear power.”
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According to the Sustainability paper, wind power, solar power, and other renewable power sources are too diffuse, unreliable, and technologically immature to be a primary power source in the near future.
“The ‘diffuse and intermittent nature of the energy sources,’” writes Berezow, “is particularly problematic because they relate to the laws of physics. For multiple reasons, it is difficult to provide sufficient electricity to a dense urban area using only renewable sources. Neither does the sun shine nor the wind blow all day long.”
“Nuclear technology has advanced to such an extent that the three biggest safety concerns (namely, radioactive waste, weapons proliferation, and accidents) have been largely solved,” Berezow adds.
This is especially the case, according to Berezow and the Sustainability paper, with new reactor designs such as Integral Fast Reactors (IFRs).
“The IFR can utilize nuclear waste and weapons-grade plutonium and uranium for fuel,” the Sustainability paper notes. “A fleet of IFRs could consume both the spent nuclear fuel and the vast inventories of depleted uranium that have resulted from over half a century of nuclear power and weapons programs, for electricity and heat production. The IFR is ultimately capable of using over 99% of the potential energy in uranium and plutonium, via repeated recycling of the used fuel, which means that the existing material that we already have at our disposal could supply all the energy humanity is expected to require for many centuries…”
“Fukushima-style accidents, in which a cooling failure led to a meltdown, are impossible with IFRs because the entire system has been fundamentally re-engineered. If an IFR nuclear power plant must shut down due to some emergency, it can do so without relying on external power or even human intervention,” writes Berezow.
“How quickly could the world be powered exclusively by nuclear, if it chose this path?” asks Berezow. “As few as 25 years, according to an analysis previously published [by the author of the Sustainability paper]. We have the technological and financial wherewithal to do it; the only thing lacking is the political will. If climate change activists — who are often the most vocal nuclear opponents — are as serious as they say about the dangers posed by global warming, then they should jump aboard the atom wagon.”