July 17, 2009

The Real Nuclear Meltdown

Where is the Real Dr. Chu, Mr. President? (Climate alarmism – nuclear = not much on the supply side)

by Donald Hertzmark

In quick succession the Obama administration has dealt a near-death blow to new civilian nuclear reactors in the U.S.

First, the Yucca Mountain Project, a waste storage facility in Nevada, was “zeroed-out” of the 2009 budget. Second, the administration has just ended U.S. participation in a new nuclear fuel recycling project, one that would extract more energy from existing fission energy sources, and reduce sharply the high level nuclear waste from nuclear power.

Presiding over both of these decisions–that effectively terminate the feasibility of new nuclear power plants for the U.S.–is Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy, Nobel Laureate in Physics and former director of the Lawrence Berkeley Energy Laboratory.

In contrast to the crowing of Senator Harry Reid about “killing” the Yucca Mountain Waste storage project, Dr. Chu described nuclear fuel recycling as an essential element of nuclear power for the U.S., and noted that storage of the type proposed for Yucca Mountain would be necessary for a few more years. In a 2009 interview with MIT’s Technology Review, for example, Dr. Chu specifically touted fast neutron (breeder) reactors and hybrid fission-fusion plants as good routes for future nuclear power technology.

In earlier interviews Dr. Chu had called nuclear energy a vital component of the U.S. energy mix and restated his desire to see the share of nuclear power rise above its current level of 20% of electricity generation. “Nuclear has to be a necessary part of the portfolio, said Chu prior to his confirmation as Energy Secretary. In line with that view, license applications will be sought by investor-owned utilities for 35 new nuclear power plants over the next several years.

In comparison to a technological sure thing, Chu has noted that “making solar cheap will require ‘transformative technologies’, equivalent to the discovery of the transistor,” something that the billions spent on solar energy have so far failed to create.

Catch 22: No Nuclear Fuel Options, No Nuclear Power Plants

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