Creative writing prompt #29 – If I could change something…

English: Experimental Breeder Reactor II and t...

Experimental Breeder Reactor II and the Fuel Conditioning Facility (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I had the power to change something, I would change the way that US politicians voted when they decided to shut down EBR-II.  Just so you know, the video below is 20 minutes long and contains incredibly cheesy and annoying music, but the story and the old timers talking about their experience are worth it.

In short, what these pioneering scientists and engineers did was find ways of maximising the amount of energy that could be harvested from nuclear fuels and reduce the amount of waste.  Not only that, they reduced the amount of time that the waste they did produce would take before it stabilised; centuries instead of thousands of years.  Lastly, their design was such that the reactor would shut down before it could overheat.  Just to add to the awesomeness, they did this in the sixties.

The EBR-II was the predecessor to the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR), the programme of which was shut down by US Congress in 1994; why the hell they did this when this programme could have supplied cheap, relatively safe power to the US for centuries baffles me.

Seriously, even if a conspiracy nut took off their armadillo helmet and peeled off their tin-foil skull-cap for long enough to scratch their heads and think about it, I doubt that they could come up with a viable enough reason, even if they were to blurt out ‘vested interests’ before taking a second to think about how short-sighted and stupid that would make the politicians.  Except that, short-sighted and stupid though that idea would be, they would probably be right for once.

Those who had invested enough money in the less efficient nuclear reactors and in dealing with the dangerous nuclear waste they produced would certainly not welcome a cleaner, safer, virtually 100% more efficient rival to their business model.  So they may well have done what any vested interest would have done and simply bought the votes of the politicians, threatened to withdraw campaign funds etc.  It’s not so far-fetched; make a buck today, fuck tomorrow.

Well, it hasn’t stopped anybody from wanting to make more efficient nuclear reactors; China is pursuing the potential of thorium, and India are also planning on building thorium reactors.  The IFR could have extracted nearly all of the energy from thorium, if the Wikipedia article is to be believed.

Why am I talking about thorium?  Because it could be a panacea for our rapidly increasing energy needs, and it can’t easily be made into weapons grade material for nukes which short-sighted politicians could use to wipe out vast swathes of life on our planet on a mere whim.  There’s a veritable abundance of the stuff, and you only need a handful to power London for a week.

When I say that shutting down EBR-II was a short-sighted and stupid idea, I hope that now you can see why.  We’ve all been set back decades by that decision, scientifically, economically and environmentally.

Change something?  I would change that.

Based on a prompt from

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About TheImaginator

35 year old sciolist living in Tokyo. I like swing dancing, Twitter word games, writing, using, reading, and watching movies. I write stuff on my blog occasionally.
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