- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 6, 2006

Does it not seem strange that Iran, with excessive supplies of petroleum, should be desperately seeking to create electrical energy by atomic power, while America, having abandoned atomic power, is desperately seeking additional sources for petroleum? How is it that France, Japan, Russia, China, and India can exploit the advantages of atomic power while the United States cannot?

Just before his assassination, President John F. Kennedy announced that America would put a man on the moon and bring him back before the end of the decade. After his assassination, that goal became “sacred” and could not be challenged.

Just before Watergate, Richard Nixon announced America’s most important goal was energy independence and atomic power was the way to achieve it. After his political assassination, that goal became expendable. Our policies seem determined by emotion, rather than logic.

America is on the wrong path. There is no way to get the massive amounts of energy for future prosperity without intelligent use of atomic power. We need to review this important option. If we do, we will discover most if not all its reputed disadvantages have been overcome.

Although dangerous, atomic power has the best safety record of any U.S. industry. That is because we have from the beginning designed each such power plant with triple redundant safety features. The biggest problem we have had is the safe and efficient disposal of the spent fuel. However that problem was solved over 12 years ago at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago.

Their final design, called the Integral Fast Reactor, essentially burns up the portion of the spent fuel elements that require permanent storage. It not only eliminates almost all its own long storage waste, it can efficiently extract power from existing waste fuel produced by the current generation of pressurized water cooled nuclear reactors.

In addition to solving the fuel storage problem, the IFR introduces passive safety features such that under any conceivable circumstance, even with a total loss of electrical power and a total disablement of the reactor operators, the reactor will safely shut itself down.

In 1994, just before Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America” took over, the Democratic Congress, led by Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, refused to provide the funds and thus finally killed our best hope for energy independence. So far, neither the Democratic nor the Republican strategists seem to have the technical knowledge to really understand the situation. But anyone with a computer can verify these facts by simply typing “Integral Fast Reactor” into their Google search engine. You do not have to be a nuclear scientist to understand the situation.

CARL E. OCKERT

Retired nuclear engineer. Working for General Electric, Mr. Ockert designed nuclear reactor components for the U.S. Navy submarine programs, and working for the Atomic Energy Commission and the Energy Department, he managed technical design and development of components for the Fast Breeder Project.

Vienna, Virginia.

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