Should the US invest aggressively in building advanced nuclear reactors?
Google spent $250M to research whether aggressive adoption of renewable energy would be sufficient to halt global warming.
Their conclusion was simple:
This means we need a power technology that can produce carbon free power on a reliable basis (24x7) that is not "renewable." There is only one option left on the table: nuclear energy.
Advanced nuclear designs such as the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) are much safer than today's nuclear: they are passively safe and use our existing nuclear waste for fuel. The small amount of waste product produced from these reactors is easily sequestered.
Unfortunately, after 30 years of flawless operation, President Clinton pulled the plug on these reactors telling Congress that the clean power from these reactors was no longer needed.
The fact remains that nuclear power is the safest form of power ever created (least number of deaths per kwH for any power technology). In the US for example, coal kills 20,000 people per year while there have been no deaths attributed to nuclear power in its entire history in the US.
So why aren't we spending billions of dollars to perfect and cost reduce these advanced reactors and supplying them to China and other emerging economies?
Fear of proliferation? Nonproliferation hawks worry about the technology but the technology doesn’t make weapons. Bad people make weapons. It’s the motivation not the means that we should be most worried about. Bad actors running countries will get nuclear weapons if they set out to do so. That genie is already out of the bottle. Iran and the DPRK show that. How many other bad actors are left to still worried about? The idea that the US forgoing advanced technology for itself makes the world safer is both egocentric and wrong.
We have no other option left on the table. If there is a better option, what is it?
When nuclear power plant shut down, emissions go up and more lives are lot. The proponents of shutting down nuclear power plants don't offer a more attractive aleternative. See Environmental and health impacts of a policy to phase out nuclear power in Sweden