Dr. Hannum retired after more than 40 years in nuclear power development, stretching from design and analysis of the Shippingport reactor to the Integral Fast Reactor.  He earned his BA in physics at Princeton and his MS and PhD in nuclear physics at Yale.  He has held key management positions with the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE),  in reactor physics , reactor safety, and as Deputy Manager of the Idaho Operations Office.  He served as Deputy Director General of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, Paris, France; Chairman of the TVA Nuclear Safety Review Boards, and Director of the West Valley (high level nuclear waste processing and D&D) Demonstration Project.  Dr. Hannum is a fellow of the American Nuclear Society, and has served as a consultant to the National Academy of Engineering on nuclear proliferation issues.

by William Hannum

With the change in administration, we can look forward to a different view on energy, and on the prospects for moving forward with nuclear power and with nuclear recycling.  The new administration will certainly be interested in a robust energy economy.  Natural gas should be plentiful (fracking and pipelines).  Likewise oil,  a long as the Middle-east is relatively stable.  Wind and solar will be less aggressively subsidized, and I suspect conventional nuclear will be acceptable.  Anti-nukes will do their thing, but governmental bottlenecks should be fewer.  So, for conventional nuclear power, opportunity, but not a tremendous government push.

 Reopening of Yucca Mountain seems likely, particularly with Harry Reid retiring.  Consolidated storage may go forward, but will have the usual interference by environmentalists.  This combination gives the government some breathing room on the used-fuel problem, but does not resolve it.

I see a clear opportunity to make the case for recycling to the new administration.  Given that SRL has botched the MOX program for excess PU, and the government’s failure to accept used fuel is an embarrassment, there would seem to be a case to be made for IFR for PU denaturing in the near term, used-fuel recycling in the mid-term, and PU management in the long term.

This will have to be sold both to the Congress and to DOE.  As for DOE, it seems clear that Moniz will not be around, particularly given his visibility in the Iran nuclear deal.  I don’t see that his replacement will be another academic; academics are not likely to be popular with the new administration.  I would expect to see someone with energy infrastructure experience, but probably no particular nuclear background.  So a push from the Congressional side would be useful.

Presented as a pragmatic solution, with modest costs (relative to the alternatives), I can see a project featuring an IFR for denaturing and a full-scale used-fuel-recycle demonstration as being of interest to the new administration, as a way to make the used-fuel and excess PU problems go away.  Such a program would not appear to be objectionable to the Democrats other than the committed anti-nukes.

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