Tom Blees is the author of Prescription for the Planet - The Painless Remedy for Our Energy & Environmental Crises. Tom is also the president of the Science Council for Global Initiatives. Many of the goals of SCGI, and the methods to achieve them, are elucidated in the pages of Blees's book. He is a member of the selection committee for the Global Energy Prize, considered Russia's equivalent of the Nobel Prize for energy research. His work has generated considerable interest among scientists and political figures around the world. Tom has been a consultant and advisor on energy technologies on the local, state, national, and international levels.
The country of South Africa faces serious problems, many arising out of decades of apartheid and the extreme disparities of wealth it engendered. The first post-apartheid president, Nelson Mandela, was able to begin the transition process to racial political equality while avoiding the sort of wrenching and destructive upheaval that occurred in neighboring Zimbabwe. But frustration at persistent poverty and unemployment makes South Africa’s domestic tranquility a fragile situation.
The critical water shortage from which Californians got a brief respite thanks to a major El Niño last winter is the result of a relatively rare multi-year severe drought. But even the unlikely possibility that such a drought will not happen again soon won’t come close to solving the state’s future problems, for the population of California is expected to reach 60 million by mid-century, about double its 1990 population. Desperate for the water that the state water project was unable to provide the past few years, farmers were drilling deep wells and pumping ever deeper, draining aquifers around the state even more dramatically than they have in the past. Even prior to the severe recent conditions, pumping has caused the ground to subside over twenty-five feet in some areas of the state. As that ground sinks, the subsurface areas that were once saturated with water become compressed, effectively assuring that the water to recharge such aquifers will be far less able to do so, even in good years with plenty of water.
Until December's COP21 international climate conference in Paris, previous rounds of these conferences had consistently excluded environmentalists who were in favor of nuclear power as a tool to combat climate change. SCGI teamed up with filmmaker Robert Stone a year before COP21 and began planning to crash the anti-nuclear party in Paris. We coordinated our efforts through Energy for Humanity, an NGO that spun off from Robert's pro-nuclear documentary, Pandora's Promise. James Hansen and other SCGI members helped pull together a number of activities that brought a convincing pro-nuclear message to the conference and generated a substantial presence in international press outlets. Here's a link to a summary of our activities at COP21.
Efforts like this are possible because of the generosity of SCGI's supporters. Thank you for your support in 2015.
by Tom Blees
2015 has been a fast paced year for SCGI. Since my last annual report, I have traveled to meetings in Singapore, New York, Washington D.C., Russia, California, Florida, London, Brussels, South Africa and Arizona. We are also involved in projects underway in South Korea, China, Japan, Indonesia and Australia. Around the world, there is increasing awareness of the role of advanced technologies in responding to problems ranging from climate change and ocean acidification to water scarcity and poverty. SCGI has been promoting a number of these solutions since our inception and it has been an exciting and gratifying time to be president of this organization. Here are some of the year's highlights.
The majority of our focus continues to be on nuclear power. The need for massive amounts of safe, affordable and clean energy has led to renewed interest in a variety of designs for nuclear power plants. This past year I spoke on this topic to groups in university lecture halls in South Africa, government policy meetings in Washington DC, Bloomberg's Future of Energy conference in NYC, and Global Energy Prize events in Moscow and Singapore. We continue to be a strong voice for nuclear technology in general and the Integral Fast Reactor in particular. A major step in the advancement of the IFR this year was completion of the design for a 100 ton-per-year pyroprocessing unit - the key step in recycling "nuclear waste" into fuel for fast reactors. This 2 year project at Argonne National Laboratory was promoted and facilitated by SCGI. The work was led by Dr. Yoon Chang, a charter member of SCGI and early leader in the development of the IFR.
In the early days of nuclear energy, enthusiasts talked about “breeder reactors” that could produce more fuel than they consumed, thereby offering mankind a virtually limitless supply of energy.
Breeders have been tried numerous times in the Western nations but have now been more or less put on indefinite postponement. The developing world is still giving it a try and may succeed in leapfrogging over the West in the development of the technology. Either way, it is still a long road ahead and it may be decades before they become common. The theoretical possibilities haven’t gone away but they still have a futuristic quality.
Tom Blees is the major exponent of fast reactors in this country.
by Tom Blees
The past year has been busy and productive. The nature of our work at SCGI often doesn’t allow us to be entirely forthcoming because it often involves consultations with companies and/or governments that are in the midst of negotiations. But I’d like to convey at least a general idea of the progress that’s being made and the promise that the future holds for our goal of promoting an energy-rich planet while addressing the pressing environmental challenges of our time.
For the past few years we’ve been advising the UK government regarding their plutonium disposition issue. With the world largest inventory of plutonium (about 140 tons), SCGI suggested to the British Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) that building PRISM fast reactors would be the best solution to their problem. GE-Hitachi then stepped in and offered to build a pair of those reactors and it currently appears to be highly likely that the NDA will choose the PRISM option. If so, it would mean the first commercial-scale metal-fueled fast reactors may well end up being built in England. We continue to encourage cooperation between the US, the UK, and other countries that are interested in this project. 2015 will probably see a final decision being made on this issue.
The new 'fast' plants could provide enough low-carbon electricity to power the UK for more than 500 years
Duncan Clark, guardian.co.uk, Thursday 2 February 2012 07.56 EST
A new generation of nuclear reactors could consume Britain's radioactive waste.
Photograph: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty images
A generation of "fast" nuclear reactors could consume Britain's radioactive waste stockpile as fuel, providing enough low-carbon electricity to power the country for more than 500 years, according to figures confirmed by the chief scientific adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc).
Britain's large stockpile of nuclear waste includes more than 100 tonnes of plutonium and 35,000 tonnes of depleted uranium. The plutonium in particular presents a security risk as a potential target for terrorists and will cost billions to dispose of safely. The government is currently considering options for disposing of or managing it.
Late last year, Tom Blees, I and a few other people from the International Award Committee of the Global Energy Prize answered reader’s energy questions on The Guardian’s Facebook page. The questions and answers were reproduced on BNC here. Now we’re at it again, this time for the website Eco-Business.com (tagline: Asia Pacific’s sustainable business community). My section is hosted here (Part I), and Tom’s here (part III).
Part II, which I don’t reprint, answered by Iceland’s Thorsteinn Sigfusson, covered the relationship between large-hydro and climate change, and why solar conversion isn’t used more extensively.
Meteorological Technology International, April, 2011
How meteorology is helping to map the future of power production
Nuclear Power and Climate Change, What Now?
With a focus on events in Japan, a group of meteorological academics have put forward a major case supporting the next generation of Fast Nuclear Reactors.
Nuclear Townhall, September 8, 2010
Tom Blees is living proof that you don’t have to be overly degree credentialed to make an impact in the technology world. He spent the first twenty years of his working life as captain of a fishing boat on the Bering Sea. Then along with his wife, he founded a charitable organization to provide safe water supplies to villagers in Central America.
Response to a consultation on the management of the UK’s plutonium stocks
In the 1950s, following World War II, the United Kingdom and a handful of other nations developed a nuclear weapons arsenal. This required the production of plutonium metal (or highly enriched uranium) purpose-built facilities. ‘Civil’ plutonium was also produced, since the facilities for separation existed and it was thought that this fissile material would prove useful in further nuclear power development. Fifty years on, the question of what to do with the UK’s separated plutonium stocks is an important one.
by Tom Blees, 7 November, 2009
Following up on Barry’s article the other day about Spain’s drastic turnabout in solar subsidization and the ripple effects it’s having on the solar industry worldwide, I thought I’d mention some similar news from Germany. I ran across an article from Die Zeit, a prominent German publication. I asked a German friend of mine to translate a couple of the pertinent paragraphs:
Published by http://www.eco-business.com on Thursday, December 1st, 2011
Written by Tom Blees
The dilemma of providing abundant energy to humanity while avoiding the seemingly inescapable environmental, social, economic and political pitfalls associated with energy production and distribution is arguably one of the most vexing problems of modern times. In order to encourage advancements in energy research and recognise potentially revolutionary energy advancements, a group of Russian scientists, politicians and leaders of industry established the Global Energy Prize in 2002. Widely seen as an energy research equivalent of a Nobel Prize, it has been awarded to deserving researchers annually since 2003.
Last month Bobby Kennedy Jr., a tireless advocate for the environment, gave a talk in New York City to a packed house. He spoke about the devastation wrought by coal mining and argued that we must get away from fossil fuels if we’re to deal with climate change. He also, to my chagrin (since I know he’s got my book), threw in some tired clichés about how bad nuclear power is. He then waxed enthusiastic about wind and solar power, asserting that if we build a smart grid and pour enough resources into building a lot of wind and solar production, we can have “free energy forever.” The crowd ate it up. Bobby’s a very good speaker, he’s definitely got the Kennedy knack for that.
In late September of 2008, after nearly a decade of research, an investigative author named Tom Blees published a book entitled Prescription for the Planet - The Painless Remedy for Our Energy and Environmental Crises. It proposed a global energy revolution that could ameliorate or eliminate some of the most difficult problems now faced by mankind. Prescription made its entry about a month before American politics entered the Obama era.
Tom Blees and Evgeny Velikhov confer at the 2009 International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Meanwhile, many people around the world were anticipating what such a political sea change could mean. One of these was a prominent Russian physicist named Evgeny Velikhov, one of that country's most prominent scientists and thinkers who is also very politically involved. Dr. Velikhov had been contemplating how the ascendancy of Obama and Medvedev at this crucial time might enable their two countries, and the rest of the world, to begin to cooperate on global issues at a whole new level compared to what we'd seen in the past. Up to this point totally unknown to each other, Velikhov and Blees were nevertheless on the same wavelength. The two soon found out about each other. At a December meeting the Russian physicist had arranged between a small group of the two country's scientists, an idea was hatched. It was to form an international organization capable of both educating the public and policymakers and formulating policy recommendations to lead the way out of many of the crises of our time. Thus was born the Science Council for Global Initiatives.
As you explore the SCGI web site you will see references to Tom's book which, since it was written for the general public, provides an introduction to many of the concepts that the scientists and other contributors to SCGI will flesh out. Tom is sometimes referred to as a futurist, but he is determined to lose that appellation by working actively with governments and scientists around the world to make that future a present-day reality.