The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) project: Congress Q&A

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The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) project: A critical technology for controlling climate change

Tom Blees answers a set of excellent questions posed by a congressional chief of staff

Who is pushing it and what do they stand to gain?

The IFR started to get wind in its sails with the recent publication of two books by freelance authors working independently with no ties to any of the industries involved. Prescription for the Planet by Tom Blees, and Beyond Fossil Fools by Joe Shuster, each sketch out a blueprint to virtually eliminate greenhouse gas emission by mid-century. The common thread in both is massive deployment of IFR technology, though Blees's book also employs two other little-known technologies that would work synergistically with it. Both authors simply want to save the planet, and have no financial or other connection with industry whatsoever.
Who is opposed to it?
Certainly the coal industry will oppose it, for it would completely put them out of business. Blees's plan would also eliminate the need for oil and gas, and would eliminate the casus belli for most of the wars we fight, so the entire fossil fuel industry sector and the arms merchants will hate it. Many doctrinaire antinuclear groups will likewise oppose it unless they're willing to wake up to the fact that it solves all the problems with nuclear power that they've been worried about. But major environmentalist groups that oppose nuclear have so painted themselves into a corner that they stand to lose half their membership if they now embrace anything with the word nuclear in it, and these are big businesses (notwithstanding their nonprofit status). So don't look for ideologues to come over too quickly. Individual members of some of these groups are already deserting the antinuclear stance. See Mark Lynas: the green heretic persecuted for his nuclear conversion to see what happened when a prominent British environmentalist and member of the Green Party, Mark Lynas, embraced IFRs.
Why did this project get killed in the first place?
Read chapter 12 in Blees's Prescription for the Planet. [Editor's note: while that seems like a somewhat glib answer, he's actually right. Chapter 12 is an amazing account of what transpired complete with commentary. If you want a shorter version that is online, see Plentiful Energy and the IFR Story and skip to the part that mentions Kerry. See also O'Leary Problems.pdf]
 Why it hasn't been part of the national energy discussion of the last few years?
It was suppressed by the DOE since 1994. They've been quite successful at it, and the scientists who actually worked on the project and really know it are very few.
Has private money gotten behind this?
No, the design is sitting on the shelf at GE. It costs about a billion dollars to have a reactor design certified by the NRC, and they make plenty of money with conventional reactors. Their view is what one would expect from a conventional large corporation: Why should we take on a billion dollar project that might well end up in a political fight?
Why should this be put into the stimulus next month without any
congressional deliberation, rather than have all of the issues looked at
by expert committees (like E&C) over the next several months as we draft
comprehensive climate-energy legislation?  "The sooner the better" isn't
really a convincing argument.
How about: Because it's the only actual realistic solution to stopping greenhouse gas emissions that anyone's come up with. Ask Dr. James Hansen, the world's foremost climatologist, or Klaus Lackner, the brilliant physicist at Columbia, or Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute. A month from now, ask Al Gore (once he's been briefed on it).
Why this project deserves a billion dollar earmark more than the dozens of other alternative energy technologies that have been put forward?
Because this technology alone could eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The point will be moot, though, if we can simply allocate a billion dollars from the spent nuclear fuel disposal fund, which currently has about $25 billion in it. It is a far superior solution to the nuclear waste problem than anything yet envisioned, so that would be a logical approach.
How many jobs will this create? (the primary purpose of the stimulus), etc.
If anything even approaching Blees's proposed rate of building were to be embarked upon, it would be the biggest public works project in the history of the world. Yet even at that it is totally affordable. The details are all in there.

Other answers to the same question set
IFR Q&A by George Stanford
IFR Q&A by Tom Blees
IFR Q&A by Steve Kirsch

Other documents of interest include:
O'Leary Problems.pdf (George Stanford explains why O'Leary's reasons for canceling the IFR don't make sense)
Plentiful Energy and the IFR Story: Article by Charles Till explaining the IFR (a must read)
Tell Barack Obama the Truth -- The Whole Truth (article by James Hansen on why restarting the IFR should be a priority)
Mark Lynas: the green heretic persecuted for his nuclear conversion (article by Mark Lynas)
The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) project: Q&A (summary of Q&A compiled by Steve Kirsch)

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The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) project: A critical technology for controlling climate change