Nuclear power — dangerous, right? And there's nowhere to put the nuclear waste, right? Eric Loewen is the evangelist of the sodium fast reactor, which burns nuclear waste, emits no CO2, and might just save the world.

By John H. Richardson


A month after plunging into the file, Loewen began meeting with officials from the U. S. Department of Energy and other veterans of the project, from the original project manager to the man who built the test reactor's electromagnetic pump. "He looked at me as a new greenhorn guy, a month on the job, and said, 'If you're serious about building this, go save that pump. And oh, by the way, they're knocking the building down in three months.' "

Gradually, he put the story together. The first glimmer of the fast-reactor concept began at the federal government's Argonne National Laboratory in 1951, when the sodium-cooled Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1 powered four lightbulbs and proved that nuclear power was a real thing. In 1965, Argonne put into service Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 2, a demonstration project that ran successfully for thirty years. In 1971, Richard Nixon launched the Clinch River Breeder Reactor Project, putting together thousands of government and industry scientists in an effort to come up with a commercial prototype, but after twelve years, a mixture of technical problems, procurement scandals, and the relentless opposition of environmentalists finally led the Senate to kill it.

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