Friday, May 19, 2006

Why the 'i' in iNuclear?

We like the name iNuclear because it evokes a different way of thinking about nuclear power.

The nuclear power of the past was, to be honest, closely associated with the post-WWII era. Even though it was called “Nukes for Peace” it was still an outgrowth of the military buildup of nuclear power and unfortunately associated with nuclear weapons. More specifically, much of the civilian nuclear industry was based on Nuclear Navy designs.

This is not any disparagement of the military or the Navy. Not at all. These organizations had, and still have, a huge positive effect on the nuclear world.

However, that first wave effectively ended in the mid-1970s, when the great slowdown in nuclear power construction occurred. From a practical perspective, and from a cultural or political perspective, it is extremely convenient to consider that time to be an “era” which ended. Therefore the nuclear renaissance, which we are now witnessing, can only be considered a different nuclear era.

For an earlier take on this idea, see our discussion of Nuclear Crossing the Chasm.

For this new era, we decided to have some fun and give it a name: iNuclear. This is the iNuclear Era.

Why "i"?

The “i” is a shorthand way of saying “we want to be viewed the same way as the iPod, Apple Computer, the internet, nanotech, biotech, and all the other cool new technologies.”

We think that nuclear power is the right and most appropriate power source for the technology future which is expanding so rapidly in front of us. This technology-friendly culture spans the world…travel to India, Scotland, China, Southern France, or even to Saudi Arabia, and you will see handsome young people chatting on their cellphones or sending email to each other. It’s a global phenomenon, the 4th great technology revolution of the human race.

And as we all know, all this technology takes electricity. A lot of electricity. Baseload electricity. And that electricity is best provided by nuclear power. Certainly not by coal, an energy source which belongs in the Victorian era, not today.

The “i” in iNuclear can also serve as a reminder. It is incumbent on us, as proponents of this next nuclear era, to do it differently. We need nuclear power to really be peaceful, and to eliminate any residual ties to the military world. That means we need create a nuclear industry that is in every way designed for peace, from top to bottom: in fuel design, reactors, reprocessing, waste disposal, financing, insurance, and international relations. Even more, we need to divorce our own minds utterly from the military mindset, and think only and forever about nuclear power as a peace-based technology.

A great example of this is the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership recently announced by the Bush administration.

Again, we're not criticizing the military world, simply recognizing that a complete separation is not only healthy, but the natural next step.


At 9:31 PM, Blogger Kirk Sorensen said...

I agree with you that we need new and better nuclear technologies--I advocate thorium-fueled liquid fluoride reactors:

At 5:49 PM, Blogger Tom Benson said...

Thanks Kirk, fascinating stuff. I came away with the realization that we have essentially an infinite amount of energy available to us, if we just take a few steps to get it. Honestly we don't really "need" fusion power. Various forms of fission are quite sufficient.

At 6:56 PM, Blogger Kirk Sorensen said...

Hi Tom,

I've thought the same thing--it is as though we are starving even though the table is set with food right before us...we just need to realize we can reach out and take it.

Human history has been punctuated with the realization that a new source of energy unlocked new opportunities, whether it was organized agriculture, organized human labor (in the form of civilization), wood, coal, steam, and now petroleum.

I can see future generations looking back on this time and saying "That was when they learned how to use thorium, and they realized they had all the energy they would ever need."


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