NewEnergyNews: GOOD NUCLEAR?

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  • The World’s New Energy Right Now

    Saturday, July 29, 2006

    GOOD NUCLEAR?

    And now for something NOT carbon:
    The Best Nuclear Option
    The U.S. Energy Department's fuel-recycling initiative could be a distraction from a more achievable goal: reviving today's nuclear industry and averting some carbon emissions in the short term.
    Matthew L. Wald, July 20, 2006 (Technology Review, An MIT Enterprise)

    - Imagine a nuclear industry that can power America for decades using its own radioactive garbage, burning up the parts of today's reactor wastes that are the hardest to dispose of. Add technology that takes nuclear chaff, uranium that was mined and processed but was mostly unusable, and converts it to still more fuel. Then add a global business model that makes it much less likely that reactor by-products such as plutonium will find their way into nuclear weapons in countries like Iran, even as economical nuclear-power technology becomes available to the whole world.
    Does that sound good? Well, here's the wake-up call:
    - That is the alluring triple play the Bush administration hopes to turn with the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) it unveiled earlier this year, a proposed long-term research and development program almost as audacious as the Manhattan Project. The basic fuel-reprocessing concepts at its heart have been kicking around for the better part of a half-century. Now they are being touted anew as a way to provide plentiful carbon-free fuel for an energy-hungry world threatened by human-induced climate change...
    - In practice, though, in the best scenario GNEP would take decades to develop, and in the worst it might produce nothing; it could turn out to be a nonstarter on technical grounds, or the technology could be economically uncompetitive with other carbon-free sources of electricity. And the program could undermine a more modest and achievable goal: resuscitating a nuclear industry that hasn't launched a successful reactor project since 1974...
    But this might be the punchline:

    - If the Energy Department wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by promoting the promised revival of nuclear energy, it will have to hurry before power companies fill the market with conventional coal plants that could last 50 years...
    Or maybe THIS is the punchline:
    - It's easy to see why the research community is delighted about GNEP. It represents a huge source of funds...But GNEP is not relevant to a revival of nuclear power...What nuclear power needs is to get up and running soon, supplanting carbon-dioxide-emitting sources in an economical and boring way. Without that, nothing will follow.

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