This year’s first Energy 360 panel provided an overview of the domestic and international effect of safety issues on policy and future research in nuclear technology. The broad range of perspectives and experiences presented by the panelists provided a multifaceted and thorough discussion of nuclear energy.
During the discussion, the panelists generally agreed that there are certainly risks to pursuing nuclear technology, as there are with most if not all sources of energy, but the optimum way to mitigate these risks is not through the passage of a moratorium on nuclear energy in this country but instead by remaining active and involved in global research in the field.
Future technologies such as fusion and thorium present great potential, but without continued interest and investment of both financial and human resources, this potential might be left unfulfilled. Industry seems to be moving towards smaller and safer nuclear plants, and combined with a conscious effort made to address the concerns of communities, nuclear energy might one day achieve the social acceptance required to represent a major portion of U.S. energy production.
Some concerns that remain unanswered include alternate sources of cooling, such that countries with water deficiency can still pursue nuclear energy, and effective and acceptable waste management for radioactive waste produced through fission reactions.
Dr. Leonard Weiss from Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC)
- Mike Dunne – Director of Laser Inertial Fusion Energy (LIFE) at Lawrence Livermore National Lab
- Thomas Isaacs – Director for the Office of Planning and Special Studies at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and a contributor to the Blue Ribbon Commission’s report discussing proper nuclear waste management
- Alex Komoroske – Managing director for Ritchie Capital and former licensing and safety engineer for General Electric
A few notable points from the panelists:
- The best way to ensure national security and international responsibility is to be involved at the forefront of nuclear technology research
- Social acceptance of nuclear technology is possible, if the government and utilities companies are willing to reach out to the public and listen to their concerns.
- Small to medium sized reactors (SMR) do not pose as much of a safety concern, and may be a viable source of distributed power
- Fusion technology poses fewer safety risks than current fission technology, and within 1 – 5 years, we should know whether a breakthrough in this field is feasible or not.
The full panel discussion can be viewed below: