Meltdown or Mother Lode (3 Nuclear Technologies and Why You Should Be Excited)
This piece was adapted from Tomorrowland: Our Journey from Science Fiction to Science Fact by Steven Kotler.
We use a lot of energy. A lot of energy. Thus, if you want to talk safety and security, you have to start with the options available. Can solar and wind even satisfy our needs? Can green techs ever handle base load demands? Will better energy storage systems soon come online? Hard to say. As a result of this uncertainty, most experts frame the discussion as coal versus nukes. “Nukes win every time,” says retired Argonne National Laboratory nuclear physicist, George Stanford. “Fifty-six people died outright at Chernobyl. We could have three or four of those a year and not do the damage coal does.”
New York Times journalist and author of Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Power, Gwyneth Cravens, explains further: “If an American got all his or her lifetime electricity solely from nuclear power, that person’s share of waste would fit into one soda can. If an American got all his or her electricity from coal, that person’s waste would weigh 68.5 tons and fit into six 12-ton railroad cars. And their share of carbon dioxide coal emissions would come to 77 tons.” Nukes, meanwhile, have virtually no carbon footprint.
Settling this debate may take some time–and since time is the one luxury both sides agree we don’t have–there are heated arguments about the best way forward. Many smart scientists claim that nuclear energy is the only way through future crises. Plenty disagree. But lost in all this fuss is a four-decade revolution in the science that promises a next wave of nuclear power: cleaner, safer and less vulnerable to terrorist attack or natural disaster.
Integral Fast Reactor (IFR)