"A nuclear plant with none of the conventional drawbacks"

Sounds pretty great, right?

According to Steve Kirsch:

The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) is a fourth generation nuclear design that provides a clean, inexhaustible source of power, cheap, with virtually no waste, inherently safe (if you remove the cooling, it shuts down rather than melts down), and the added benefit that it consumes the nuclear waste from other nuclear plants that we can’t figure out how to get rid of.

Advantages include:

  1. It can be fueled entirely with material recovered from today's used nuclear fuel.
  2. It consumes virtually all the long-lived radioactive isotopes that worry people who are concerned about the "nuclear waste problem," reducing the needed isolation time to less than 500 years.
  3. It could provide all the energy needed for centuries (perhaps as many as 50,000 years), feeding only on the uranium that has already been mined
  4. It uses uranium resources with 100 to 300 times the efficiency of today's reactors.
  5. It does not require enrichment of uranium.
  6. It has less proliferation potential than the reprocessing method now used in several countries.
  7. It's 24x7 baseline power
  8. It can be built anywhere there is water
  9. The power is very inexpensive (some estimates are as low as 2 cents/kWh to produce)
  10. Safe from melt down because if something goes wrong, the reactor naturally shuts down rather than blows up
  11. And, of course, it emits no greenhouse gases.

And best (or worst) of all, it was developed 25 years ago at Argonne National Laboratory. The government pulled the plug in 1994, but GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy has developed a version called the S-PRISM which is apparently "profitable" (I assume this means it can recoup its capital costs with a healthy return within a reasonable period of time) at 5 cents per KwH.

It's healthy to be skeptical of blanket panaceas for our energy and climate change issues, but this certainly seems like a promising technology.

Any questions?

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