Nuclear Power To The Rescue!

In this week’s Off The Cuff, my good friend Erik Townsend walks us through the logic and data that support the use of small modular nuclear reactors as a means of meeting all of our energy needs. Well, at least for things that need electricity and heat.

We’ll still need some fossil fuels for things like asphalt and jet fuel for the foreseeable future, but those amounts would be much smaller and represent a more intelligent (and carbon offsettable) use of our remaining and dwindling oil resources.

The truth is, we already have the designs and the know-how to build modular nuclear reactors. We could build them in robotic factories and crank them out by the hundreds and thousands. Then we’d have stable power for a very long time.

China is already headed down this path with both 4th generation and thorium designs approved and event operating. The US just recently granted regulatory approval for a 4th generation pebble bed pilot-scale reactor, so it is far behind the game. Europe is…who knows?

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right kind of public support and people finally taking off their energy blinders and seeing the reality, we can actually envision a future of prosperity.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Always Worth Listening To Erik Townsend

Erik’s MacroVoices is well worth listening to. Like Chris, he allows his guests to fully explain. His questions are always penetrating. And… it is free!
So, I am looking forward to listening to both part 1 and part 2.


Wind And Solar Now Get The Kickbacks

We’ve just replaced the oil/gas/agribusiness lobby with the wind solar lobby.



Brilliant Erik! You’ve hit all right the nails on the heads. You’ve got the science and economics figured out. You’ve identified the core issue: no first world regulator (or the politicians who control them, or the big donors who control the politicians) will give your genuine solutions a chance. That’s because of institutional inertia, and the profit and political power motives embedded in the current paradigm. You’re addressing those issues wisely but I’m pessimistic you’ll ever solve them until Sputnik flies. Our Western regulators, politicians and big political donors won’t budge until they and our societies are shocked and embarrassed into it. Maybe the Chinese advances will be that shock. I hope so. What I think is more likely is that our Western systems will have to break down and collapse in serious ways before our self-imposed blindness and rigidity can be overcome and we can actually consider Sputnik. How far behind will we be at that point? I don’t know but the possibilities don’t give me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Have you considered recruiting enough donor money to buy some key Western politicians? That would give me some immediate hope.
Winston Churchill gives me some hope. He said, “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing… After they’ve tried everything else.” Again, when will that happen?


Just Started Watching This

I am delighted to see that Chris has produced content about the peaceful use of nuclear power! I asked him about covering this last summer. He responded to me and told me that he needed to finish his work on green energy before getting to the subject of nukes.
I have written many forum posts about nuclear power in the recent past. There are many issues of incredible complexity that must be addressed to make nuclear power a viable option. These issues/road blocks are mostly political in nature.


You are on target! The integral fast reactor (IFR) was a DOE project that got killed in 1994. There was an awful/unholy alliance between the anti-nukes and coal industry lobbyist that convinced congress to kill the IFR. This is such a tragic mistake. We are now almost 3 decades past the death of the IFR. We can’t get that time back!
I don’t think it is possible to overstate how much of a fuck up this was for the USA. It is possibly one of the worst mistakes that the USA has made.


When oil gas and energy prices skyrocket people will push for change.


My Reaction And Response To Part 1

The US NRC recently issued a construction permit to build a research and test reactor that will use molten salt reactor (MSR) technology.
The NRC is currently in the rule making process for developing part 53 for advanced nuclear reactors.
The NRC has many pro-nuke people working for it. Annie Caputo is a NRC commissioner that earned a nuclear engineering degree. She worked in the industry as a fuels engineer before joining the NRC. She is the only commissioner that “gets it”.
I disagree with a few comments that were said about the NRC. The NRC is NOT a subpart of the DOE. The DOE and the NRC were created in 1974 when the AEC was was dissolved/split apart as a result of the Energy Reorganization Act.
I held a part 55 license (nuclear operator) from 2009 to 2015 at Davis Besse in Ohio. The NRC resident inspectors assigned to Davis Besse would visit the control room every week day. They were not hostile to nukes. They enforced the regulations in a fair and objective way. I had many positive interactions with them. I encourage everyone reading this post to attend a NRC public meeting for a nuke plant near them. These public meetings occur every 2 years when things are running smoothly. I have witnessed a few bad apples in the NRC that are complete assholes for no reason but they are rare. I believe that most NRC employees are neutral or pro-nuke.
The biggest challenge to adopting nukes is the politics. The NRC is required to operate within the bounds of the laws passed by congress. There is a legal limit on how the NRC regulates. The real enemy of nukes are the ignorant public and money interests of everything else that is not nuclear.
INPO is also a problem for the nuke industry. INPO is supplied with nuke power plant managers on 2 year rotations. The best way to describe the kinds of people that get sent to INPO is to imagine a large vat of fresh milk with turds added to it. The top of the vat is skimmed off and sent to INPO. INPO is made up of the “cream of the crop” and biggest/nastiest turds of the nuclear power industry. It does not take long to figure out who is a turd and who is competent when INPO makes a site visit.
I am writing this in jest. The DOE is a complete shit show compared to the NRC. Google “Sam Briton” if you want more details.
Nuclear power has had too many expensive and disastrous projects. You would be shocked at how many uncompleted nuke plants there are in the USA. The latest example of this is VC Summer. South Carolina now has an expensive hole in the ground that cost billions to create. This is the first item that must be solved if we want to build a lot of nukes.
Light water reactor can be run in the desert. Palo Verde, west of Pheonix, is one such example. Palo Verde is a large 3 unit site that has three “System 80” Combustion Engineering power plants. The site uses shit plant effluent from Phoenix as a water source.
The current fleet of nuke plants are only about 33% efficient. Perry has the highest efficiency that I have ever seen and it is 35%. There are limitations on how efficient a Rankine cycle power plant can be made. The advanced reactors in theory could achieve 60% efficiency if they used a combined cycle power plant. This means using a Brayton cycle gas turbine to generate electricity and using the “waste” heat exiting the gas turbine to run a Rankine (steam) cycle power plant.
I am not against the idea of LWR SMR reactors. The problem with a LWR is in the neutronics. Water is an awful moderator because it is also a neutron poison. Making enough new fuel to supply these new plants will not be easy. I think the better solution is to design a SMR that can burn the high level waste currently being stored in spent fuel pools or dry cask storage. These advanced reactors will burn up the actinides in the spent fuel and solve the nuclear waste issue. What you would be left with would mostly decay to a stable isotope within 100 years.
We need advanced reactors yesterday. The current waste could provide a lot of fuel as we build up the uranium production capacity. The USA just recently started enriching fuel in Ohio at a DOE funded site. This fuel will be used for research and test reactors. This is the first USA enrichment plant to enter production in many decades. We will need a lot more capacity to make the new fuel for future nukes. Basically, the only realistic short term option to obtain the fuel is to use our spent nuclear fuel.


same here

fireboy and watergirl

and the feds will be happy as the inflation will crash the system and demand a new monetary system…

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Almost Seems Like

… the “China first or us when it comes to AI” discussion is merely a diversion.

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We Were Winning The War

…because of our know how, but we ended the war because of our ultimate weaponry. The DOD and the State Department sadly never forgot the latter, but the did forget the former.

Recording Volume Too Low

Pump up the volume!

We Do Not Need To Decarbonise The Atmosphere

Far from needing to decarbonise the atmosphere, CO2 concentrations are dangerously blow. We have been on a 50 million year downward trend in atmospheric CO2. In our era, despite the recent up-spike, most plant species struggle. Some plant species have evolved more efficient ways of using CO2, but there are limits. Raising atmospheric CO2 allows plants to colonise more arid regions - that is the real greening effect of CO2. It is a bio-diversity issue. Loss of bio-diversity is a real existential issue (remember the 19th century potato famine?).
Never-the-less, while the supposed CO2 mediated climate catastrophe is nonsense, we need to conserve our use of fossil fuels if only because some uses (like land and air transportation) need them. Where possible we should use other energy sources like nuclear.

Nuclear Accident Deaths

It is disingenuous to say that there have been very few deaths from nuclear accidents. Here in the Scottish Borders we had a significant increase in the number of cancer cases after the Chernobyl accident (we were in the path of the radiation cloud as it dispersed northwestwards) and those resulted in many deaths as well as life-altering morbidity for others. Not as clear and dramatic as an explosion or mine collapse and dissipated over a significant area and many years but deadly for many nonetheless. I don’t know if anyone has tried to tally the total; it would be very difficult to do, I guess.

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In Search Of A President Who Will Back Nuclear Technology ?

I couldn’t help but think of Jimmy Carter, who the press told us was a very smart man, a Navy Nuclear Engineer, in fact. And his tenure in office consisted of the worst energy crisis we have seen and he called for turning down the thermostat and putting on extra sweaters.
Looking for someone to back nuclear energy? Find a billionaire who will finance a project on Mars, where the NRC has no authority.

Incredible Transition

“Overall, 83 gigawatts of coal, gas, and nuclear power generation are scheduled to be shut down over the next decade as the United States embarks on what President Biden calls the “incredible transition” to wind and solar energy.”
“Incredible” is right - Incredible that they believe this is possible.

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