It is the cleanest of all available and proven technologies that can grow rapidly. We have to grow the stable supply base, not just grow the renewables. It is our safest bet for independence, reliability and fighting global warming. Nuclear “enjoys” unjustifiable bad public opinion. That’s where leadership is needed to shift public opinion.
Build more nuclear power stations:
- Step 1 — Double the capacity of existing nuclear stations by building next to existing stations. Required: Federal and local government fast track for building next to current nuclear reactors. Given the enormous regulatory roadblocks, and the time it would take to remove them, it is the fastest way to add capacity (or replace decommissioned one).
- Step 2 — Build in new locations. Required: a federal law that will force the states with the largest energy growth requirements to build part of their new generation infrastructure as nuclear. It should be enforced with financial penalties (i.e., withholding federal transfers to the state). It should be a severe financial “whip”. NIMBY cannot be an option when it comes to the crisis we are facing. There are also industry capacity questions that could be solved by the market if demand will be “guaranteed”.
Develop and implement technologies that will allow us to economically extend the usable life of current aging nuclear power stations. The national energy laboratories should be assigned with the R&D task in close cooperation with industry. Many nuclear power stations will be retired within 10-15 years (some have already been shut down). Electrical energy shortages could be expected in some regions in the near term.
The ban on nuclear reprocessing should be lifted immediately. As a safety measure, only a small number of breeder reactors should be built in selected areas. The policy will be re-evaluated in 15 years (depending on availability of U235 and other generation technologies). We can save time by learning from the French experience with breeder reactors. They are electricity exporters to neighboring countries.
The storage facility in Yucca Mountain should be opened as soon as possible. There should be a federal way to enforce it on Nevada. The current storage places (in the power stations) are by an order of magnitude more dangerous to the nation from security point of view and from an environmental risk than the use of Yucca Mountain.
Thorium breeder reactor — The national energy laboratories in cooperation with industry should be assigned the task of building a Thorium based nuclear reactor as soon as possible. If economic feasibility is proven, licenses for new reactors should give preference to Thorium breeder reactors. Thorium is an abundant mineral. The process does not create “bomb” type materials; therefore it could be implemented in many developing countries. We are already behind India in Thorium reactor research.