• 7 hours Iraq Begins To Rebuild Largest Refinery
  • 11 hours Canadian Producers Struggle To Find Transport Oil Cargo
  • 13 hours Venezuela’s PDVSA Makes $539M Interest Payments On Bonds
  • 15 hours China's CNPC Considers Taking Over South Pars Gas Field
  • 16 hours BP To Invest $200 Million In Solar
  • 17 hours Tesla Opens New Showroom In NYC
  • 18 hours Petrobras CEO Hints At New Partner In Oil-Rich Campos Basin
  • 20 hours Venezuela Sells Oil Refinery Stake To Cuba
  • 1 day Tesla Is “Headed For A Brick Wall”
  • 1 day Norwegian Pension Fund Set to Divest From Oil Sands and Coal Ventures
  • 1 day IEA: “2018 Might Not Be Quite So Happy For OPEC Producers”
  • 2 days Goldman Bullish On Oil Markets
  • 2 days OPEC Member Nigeria To Issue Africa’s First Sovereign Green Bond
  • 2 days Nigeria To Spend $1B Of Oil Money Fighting Boko Haram
  • 2 days Syria Aims To Begin Offshore Gas Exploration In 2019
  • 2 days Australian Watchdog Blocks BP Fuel Station Acquisition
  • 2 days Colombia Boosts Oil & Gas Investment
  • 2 days Environmentalists Rev Up Anti-Keystone XL Angst Amongst Landowners
  • 2 days Venezuelan Default Swap Bonds At 19.25 Cents On The Dollar
  • 3 days Aramco On The Hunt For IPO Global Coordinators
  • 3 days ADNOC Distribution Jumps 16% At Market Debut In UAE
  • 3 days India Feels the Pinch As Oil Prices Rise
  • 3 days Aramco Announces $40 Billion Investment Program
  • 3 days Top Insurer Axa To Exit Oil Sands
  • 4 days API Reports Huge Crude Draw
  • 4 days Venezuela “Can’t Even Write A Check For $21.5M Dollars.”
  • 4 days EIA Lowers 2018 Oil Demand Growth Estimates By 40,000 Bpd
  • 4 days Trump Set To Open Atlantic Coast To Oil, Gas Drilling
  • 4 days Norway’s Oil And Gas Investment To Drop For Fourth Consecutive Year
  • 4 days Saudis Plan To Hike Gasoline Prices By 80% In January
  • 4 days Exxon To Start Reporting On Climate Change Effect
  • 4 days US Geological Survey To Reevaluate Bakken Oil Reserves
  • 4 days Brazil Cuts Local Content Requirements to Attract Oil Investors
  • 5 days Forties Pipeline Could Remain Shuttered For Weeks
  • 5 days Desjardins Ends Energy Loan Moratorium
  • 5 days ADNOC Distribution IPO Valuation Could Be Lesson For Aramco
  • 5 days Russia May Turn To Cryptocurrencies For Oil Trade
  • 5 days Iraq-Iran Oil Swap Deal To Run For 1 Year
  • 7 days Venezuelan Crude Exports To U.S. Fall To 15-year Lows
  • 7 days Mexico Blames Brazil For Failing Auction

Breaking News:

Iraq Begins To Rebuild Largest Refinery

Alt Text

Is This The End Of Nuclear Power In The UK?

The UK has been planning…

Alt Text

The Boy Genius Tackling Energy’s Toughest Problem

This 23-year old nuclear physicist…

Breakthrough Institute

Breakthrough Institute

The Breakthrough Institute is a paradigm-shifting think tank committed to modernizing liberal thought for the 21st Century. Our core values are integrity, imagination and audacity.…

More Info

The Key to Advancing Nuclear Energy

The Key to Advancing Nuclear Energy

The last few years have seen a growing number of liberal and environmental heavyweights publicly call for more nuclear energy to deal with climate change. Today, the pro-nuclear ranks include Bill Gates, Al Franken, Richard Branson, and Barack Obama. Also on the list are superstar economist Jeffrey Sachs, the novelist Ian McEwan, Google chairman Eric Schmidt, and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. There are former environmental leaders, including former Greenpeace Executive Director Stephen Tindale, and former Friends of the Earth trustee Hugh Montefiore. And there are prominent scientists including Gaia hypothesis ecologist James Lovelock, former NASA climate scientist James Hansen, much-cited climate scientist Tom Wigley, and MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel.

Many of these individuals recognize that one of nuclear's chief challenges is to become much cheaper, so that new nuclear plants can replace fossil fuels. In service of this goal, Breakthrough Institute has analyzed the factors that drive the cost of new nuclear plants, and has proposed a way to deal with them. The key is innovation. In particular, developing, demonstrating and deploying advanced, or what are called Generation IV, nuclear technologies. Already Breakthrough's new report, How to Make Nuclear Cheap, has received positive notices from Time, SmartPlanet, and IEEE Spectrum (a leading high-tech science magazine), and was received positively by both Republicans and Democrats at a standing-room only briefing on Capital Hill last week.

Safety is critical to the economics of nuclear, but it is not the only factor. Advanced reactors that are able to operate at ambient pressures, and with fuels that are much more resistant to melting, require fewer redundant safety systems and less substantial containment. Molten metal and salt coolants promise not only greater safety, but also allow reactors to operate at higher temperatures, making them more efficient. Smaller reactors, produced modularly, or in many cases manufactured entirely off-site, promise to eliminate the rising costs and delays that have plagued large, customized reactor builds.  Reactor designs that can deliver these benefits while utilizing as much of the present light-water supply chain can be commercialized fastest and most cheaply.

Oilprice.com Premium: Get the same inside information as the CEOs of Exxon, Chevron and BP - as fast as they get it, often before they get it

Advanced nuclear designs are not new. Many alternative designs were demonstrated by the US Department of Energy in the sixties, seventies, and eighties. Unfortunately, the antinuclear movement succeeded in halting most advanced nuclear research and demonstration projects in the early 1990s. The new documentary film, Pandora's Promise, documents the most notorious of these episodes, when Democrats in the US Senate, working with environmentalists and the Clinton White House, halted the development of the integral fast reactor, which used liquid sodium, a metal, as a coolant.

The question is not whether the world will pursue advanced nuclear reactors but rather whether the United States will. The United States developed virtually every advanced reactor design under consideration today, and we still lead the world in the technical expertise to build them. But while China, India, and South Korea are all building advanced reactors, the United States has no plan to build even a demonstration-scale plant.

That may change. A majority of Americans (57 percent) told Gallup last year they support nuclear energy — a number that rose from 46 percent in 2001 and was unchanged by Fukushima. Where liberal baby boomers grew up fearing nuclear war and power, liberal millennials born well after Three Mile Island grew up fearing climate change. The MIT and UC Berkeley nuclear engineering programs have been revitalized in recent years by climate concerned directors, Richard Lester and Per Peterson respectively, and have attracted millennial graduate students to their programs. MIT has already spun off advanced nuclear start-ups, including Transatomic, profiled last month in the New Yorker, which designed a reactor made to burn waste as fuel. UC Berkeley is working with China to demonstrate an advanced design. Meanwhile, in Washington, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced legislation that promises to finally resolve the dispute over waste storage.

Oilprice.com Premium: Find out first about the latest technology and technology investments being made by energy industry insiders

America's environmental movement, of course, remains stubbornly antinuclear, but it's not obvious how much that matters. Climate scientists have increasingly stepped up to act as a counterweight to antinuclear greens. In his new book, Kerry Emanuel writes, "Environmentalists must accept some measure of responsibility for today’s most critical environmental problem." Wrote Hansen, "The danger is that the minority of vehement antinuclear ‘environmentalists’ could cause development of advanced safe nuclear power to be slowed." As support for advanced nuclear as a climate solution grows, green leaders will have an increasingly hard time claiming that global warming demands continued subsidies for deploying wind and solar but not modest investments in developing and deploying advanced nuclear technologies.

By. Michael Shellenberger & Ted Nordhaus

Back to homepage

Leave a comment
  • Victor Gilinsky on July 25 2013 said:
    Al Franken, Richard Branson, Barack Obama, Jeffrey Sachs, Ian McEwan, Eric Schmidt, and Paul Allen--does any one of them know anything about commercial nuclear energy? Bill Gates may know something about the futuristic project he's involved himself with, but he hasn't shown much good sense in his choice of nuclear technology. All this name dropping is completely irrelevant to the issues.
  • SA Kiteman on July 25 2013 said:
    OMG, it seems that someone finally is getting the message about Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (molten sat reactors with thorium fuel). LFTRs truly do promise to provide lean, clean, green energy.
  • J.Gordon on August 15 2013 said:
    Once again the overriding concern is the price. That is absurd. The overriding concern is actually our inability to deal with nuclear leakage. The issue about this is that the effects of the contamination cannot be reversed and last for a long time. In addition, nuclear effects are cumulative. As if they have a memory.

Leave a comment

Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News