Re: [asa] Nuclear energy

From: Iain Strachan <>
Date: Thu Aug 27 2009 - 08:47:59 EDT


I'm definitely pro-nuclear and spent over 20 years working for the UK
nuclear industry.

Yet I'm puzzled by Ian's claim below that nuclear energy is sustainable for
thousands of years. As I understand it this is not the case with
conventional thermal reactors - world supplies of U235 are not sufficient,
as I understand it, to last more than 50 years or so.

A greater degree of sustainability would be via fast reactor technology
which breeds an alternative fissile material Pu239 from the U238 which
comprises 99.3% of natural Uranium ore.

Long term, nuclear fusion is probably sustainable for millions of years.

However, neither fast reactors nor fusion have been sufficiently developed
to be available in large amounts in the near future. Virtually all nuclear
power currently is from thermal PWR reactors, using U235 as the energy

I don't know how long the timescale would be to develop large numbers of
Fast reactors, though it wouldn't be anything like as long as for fusion.
(Current estimates indicate a date of around 2050? for the first commercial
fusion reactor).

I would be interested to know if Ian has some more optimistic projections
for the future of the nuclear industry.


On Thu, Aug 27, 2009 at 1:32 PM, Randy Isaac <> wrote:

> Rich:
> Ian, if you could wave a magic wand, what policies, regulations, or
> legislation would you change in order to maximize nuclear energy in the
> U.S.?
> Ian:
> In short, give nuclear energy the same tax credits and other incentives
> that are given to other carbon-free energy. Nuclear does not need big
> federal subsidies to compete economically. In fact the federal aid to
> nuclear over the past 25 years has been less even than that to fossil
> energy, in the form of various tax credits etc. Actually the 2005 Energy
> Policy Act does most of what is needed for nuclear, but so far the
> provisions have not been fully funded by congress and DOE has been very slow
> to put the regulations in place to implement them.
> An example of what is being done wrong, is that the carbon trading scheme
> that Congress has been discussing (although has not passed I think) is being
> combined with a "renewable energy" mandate that requires a certain fraction
> of electricity generation to be by "renewable" sources. That sounds good
> until you find out that nuclear is specifically excluded from that mandate.
> It does not count as "renewable". That's crazy. What ought to count is not
> some nominal "renewable" rating but __sustainability__. Nuclear is
> sustainable for thousands of years. Much "renewable" energy is not in fact
> sustainable. For example much biomass energy is not sustainable;
> specifically bio-ethanol is definitely not sustainable, and probably uses
> more energy than it generates, yet it would be included. Trouble is that
> quite a number of now powerful politicians have made it their mission to
> stop nuclear energy or nuclear waste disposal for so long that they can't
> bring themselves to reevaluate whether the new situation ought to dictate a
> different view.
> Peace,
> Ian Hutchinson
> **<>

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Received on Thu Aug 27 08:49:00 2009

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