Leonard Koch

A retired, "Pioneer", Leonard is probably the oldest continuing supporter and participant in the development of the original concept of nuclear power. This concept was conceived by Enrico Fermi and his brilliant colleagues in the late 1940's and provided the basis for the original "scientific concept" for nuclear power: the need to use fast neutrons and to recycle the fuel. From the beginning he was directly involved in establishing the feasibility of meeting those requirements.

He joined Argonne National Laboratory in early 1948 and participated in the development, design, construction and early operation of EBR-l as the Associate Project Engineer.

He was responsible for the development, design and construction of the EBR-ll as the Project Manager. He wrote the book, "EBR-ll", published by the American Nuclear Soceity, which describes that activity.

Leonard received his B.S in M.E. from Illinois Institute of Technology and his MBA from the University of Chicago.

Twenty five years after ending his employment as Vice President of Illinois Power Company he continues to believe that Fast Breeder Reactors with Fuel Recycle are the energy source of the future.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society. He received the Walter H. Zinn Award from the Power Division of the ANS and the Global Energy International Prize from Russia.


Fri, May 15, 2015

Our dear friend Len Koch passed away this morning at 5 AM. He had been living in Tucson, Arizona for the past several years, and had recently celebrated his 95th birthday. It happened that my wife Nicole and I were going to be passing through Tucson at the end of April and we made plans to have a slightly belated celebratory birthday lunch with Len and Mimi and Bill Sacks. When we showed up at the retirement home where Len lived to pick him up, we were told that he had fallen in his apartment and hit his head and was in the emergency room at the nearby hospital. As he was being put into the ambulance he kept telling the employee there to contact us; he was sorely disappointed to be letting us down.

So we drove over to the hospital and Len was quite alert. He'd bled some but mainly because it was a scalp wound, and not really a big one. The bleeding had stopped and they were going to do a CAT scan to see if there was any intracranial bleeding. We were only allowed to go in to visit with him one at a time, so after Bill sorted out the situation I went in and Len and I had a good talk about the latest developments in our IFR efforts, including my recent activities in New York, Washington, and Moscow. Len, as many of you know, was one of the early laureates of Russia's Global Energy Prize, and as a member of the selection committee I had just participated in deciding this year's winner. I'd brought Len a small bottle of Armenian cognac from Moscow, courtesy of the Energy Prize organization, and Len slipped it into his pocket, intending to enjoy it later. I'm sure someone—either hospital staff or a family member—found it later and probably wondered about it. Len expected that the doctor would give his noggin a few stitches and that he'd be heading back home shortly.

The CAT scan revealed a bit of intracranial bleeding, so they decided to keep him overnight for observation. By the next morning the bleeding had worsened and they decided to operate. By that time Len was unresponsive, and according to Mimi's email tonight, Len never regained consciousness after the surgery to treat the subdural hematoma. It would seem that he didn't suffer in the process, since he was feeling fine when I saw him and apparently slipped gradually into unconsciousness during the night.

We'd had a chance to talk with a lady friend of Len's who's spent a lot of time with him lately, and she said that Len had told her he was ready to go when the time came. He had been suffering from breathing difficulty (emphysema?) that necessitated the use of an oxygen tank.

These past several years Len got re-involved with nuclear power and our efforts to get IFRs finally built and online. It seemed to give him a new lease on life after several years of being somewhat out of that loop, and we were all able to enjoy his comments and observations, and even his attendance at various conferences around the country. It's great to know that Len stayed sharp to the end, involved in the endeavor which he'd pursued all these decades.

Tom Blees

Nuclear energy can contribute to the solution of global energy problems

Leonard J. Koch, winner of the 2004 Global Energy International Prize. Originally presented at the Programme of International Symposium “Science and Society”, March 13, 2005, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Energy has become a dominant, if not the dominant, field of science impacting society. In the last century, man’s use of energy increased more than it did in the entire previous history of civilization. It has resulted in the highest standard of living in history, but it has also created a global dependence on energy that may become very difficult to meet. That is the primary global energy problem. More specifically, it is the growing recognition that the increasing global demand for petroleum will exceed the supply.

Ref. Wall Street Journal June 2, 2010, Pages A1 and A18.

Ms. Rebecca Smith wrote about Atomic Waste describing the problem accurately and in great detail. She recognizes that "after 3 decades and more than $10 Billion in expenditures the Energy Department was giving up on it's only candidate for permanent storage", Yucca Mountain. She very accurately describes how utilities have solved this problem temporarily by using casks but there are already 14,000 metric tons of "waste" in such storage and 49,000 metric tons being readied for such storage. Unfortunately, this is the "stuff" we were going to store for thousands of years while we "hope" that these casks will be acceptable for 60 years (they are approved for 20 years now).

She fails to mention that this "stuff" has energy value, the equivalent of several thousand barrels of oil PER POUND!

William Tucker (WSJ FEB. 28, 2010 PAGE A15) is "RIGHT ON" except that he stopped short.
He properly described that the revival of the outdated arguments of the "anti-nucs" has
been refuted, but he omitted the much more important next phase which is now receiving timely International attention.

The world hasn't even begun to use "real nuclear power". A pound of uranium contains
the energy equivalent of 5000 barrels of oil (at $75 a barrel that is equivalent to $375,000 worth of    energy per pound. At the present, time the world is extracting about 1% of it, BUT we know what we must do to extract the rest of it. The discoverers of nuclear power, Enrico Fermi and his colleagues told the world it would be necessary to recycle uranium in a fast neutron reactor
(about 60 years ago). The U.S. listened and responded.

Nuclear News, February, 1977

The author presses for an expeditious development of fuel cycle technology, especially with respect to reprocessing and the recovery of a precious energy resource, plutonium. The present U.S. posture concerning reprocessing is seriously questioned.

Plutonium is an energy resource

Plutonium has become a household word, but all too often those discussing it lose sight of its primary attribute: as an energy resource. It is, in fact, the most abundant energy resource on Earth that we have the technical and productive capability to use now. Since a pound of plutonium is equivalent to more than 5000 barrels of oil, and since we have "known reserves" of plutonium (uranium-238 convertible into plutonium) of about 250,000 tons already mined, simple arithmetic reveals that this energy resource is virtually inexhaustible. We already have the equivalent of some 2.5 trillion barrels of oil "in storage." Therefore, availability or depletion of this energy resource is not a concern. There are other concerns, however, and these will be discussed, but primarily within the perspective of plutonium as an energy resource.

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