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.

Fusion, Fission, and the Future

The media was buzzing recently with news that fusion research had surmounted a technological hurdle and my inbox was soon receiving multiple inquiries about its importance. While it was exciting from a technical perspective, the celebrations were premature. It will likely be many decades – if ever – before fusion provides electricity to our grids. For readers who would like a realistic view of the still daunting challenges ahead, I highly recommend this article from the website of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

At SCGI we continue to work on advancing proven fission energy in multiple ways. As a result of ongoing dialogue with some of the world’s most experienced physicists and nuclear engineers, we are a respected source of advice about both existing and proposed nuclear power systems. We have advised members of the House and Senate, utility industry organizations, and potential investors.

As in the past, our contacts in Congress are able and willing—when circumstances warrant it—to engage with the Department of Energy armed with the information that we provide. It was this sort of intervention that led to the scuttling of the MOX plant boondoggle at Savannah River a few years ago, a project that was wildly over budget and getting more expensive all the time. The point of that project was to utilize the plutonium from the 17,000 nuclear warheads that were taken out of circulation by the START treaties. We explained the folly of that approach to a member of Congress who soon engaged with the then-Secretary of Energy, Ernie Moniz. Shortly thereafter DOE canceled the funding.

That plutonium together with our stored depleted uranium – currently about a million tons – could be used to produce vast amounts of clean electricity. The most effective use of these materials would be to convert them into metal fuel for fast reactors such as the Natrium reactor that Bill Gates’ TerraPower is planning to build in Wyoming. The need for such an often-discussed conversion facility has recently become more obvious and urgent. TerraPower announced that their project may be delayed because the fuel they were planning to use – HALEU (High Assay Low Enriched Uranium) from Russia – is no longer available due to the war with Ukraine.

SCGI plans to reinforce its promotion of the pyroprocessing technology designed at Argonne National Laboratory under the guidance of one of our founding members, Dr. Yoon Chang. A pyroprocessing plant would finally demonstrate a beneficial solution to the alleged “problem of nuclear waste”, eliminate the need for uranium mining, and enhance our energy security.

Fuel issues are critically important if we want to succeed in deploying hundreds of Cover 400 x 600reactors in the next decade and SCGI, with its many expert advisors, is uniquely positioned to promote solutions. There are a couple of novel ways of producing fuel for the world’s current light-water reactors and I’ll be writing about those in future chapters of Threshold, which will be released as they’re written, in upcoming newsletters.

As the holidays usher in the end of 2022, we’d like to thank all of you. We see many reasons for optimism, and among the most enduring is your support.

Wishing all of you a happy and prosperous new year in 2023.

Tom Blees
President, SCGI

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