Dan Rather interviewed Dr. Ernest Moniz as part of an in-depth look at nuclear energy, its future prospects in the United States and its current technological position. Dr. Moniz is a professor at MIT, was one of the co-chairs of the study group that produced MIT’s recent report titled The Future of Natural Gas and serves on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Energy Future.
Dr. Moniz has a pragmatic, measured approach towards the development of nuclear energy production systems. I agree with his advocacy of above ground, dry cask storage as a reasonable, inexpensive approach that is perfectly safe and keeps all options open. I also agree with developing commercially competitive alternatives, but I am pretty sure that my interpretation of that word is a bit different from his.
I believe that the real challenges are in refining the manufacturing, construction and operations aspect of technologies like the IFR or LFTR and that there is very little science remaining to be developed. Please do not get me wrong; I believe that those challenges are going to take some time to solve and prove, but you simply cannot get better at technology without using that technology. Evolution requires the day to day trials and learning associated with that activity.
As Dr. Moniz points out, the United States went through a long period that discouraged some of the smartest students in the country from studying the topics that would be useful to them in becoming nuclear specialists. However, my view is that those minds are no more lost to nuclear energy than is the material stored in those dry casks. We can attract the brilliant engineers who have been designing computers, automobiles, wind turbines and space shuttles for the past 30 years and teach them what they need to know about nuclear in less time than it takes to license the first new units.
Human minds can be recycled and repurposed; all that needs to happen is for projects to move forward and begin hiring. If there are jobs, the people will come.