Back in May, I published a critique of an MIT report on the future of the nuclear fuel cycle (MIT FNFC), on behalf of Yoon Chang and the Science Council for Global Initiatives.
Since that time, SCGI member Steve Kirsch (a MIT alumnus and benefactor) has been trying to get MIT to engage with their critics, to little avail. Some recent details were posted on Rod Adam’s blog ‘Atomic Insights‘, here: Fast reactor advocates throw down gauntlet to MIT authors.
As you’ll note from Rod’s post, the reaction from MIT has been to (i) ignore us, then (ii) try to divert the debate to other matters (“Fukushima is now the only thing that is worth discussing” — or words to that effect), or (iii) to change the debate topic to make it so broad that no one will end up concluding anything. So Steve, like the bulldog he is, has sent another letter to the MIT nuclear guys, outlining our case for having an open and public discussion on this, will all the facts on the table and experts in the chairs. I reproduce an edited version of the letter below. Steve also gives an interesting take on the implications of Fukushima Daiichi, which I’m sure you’ll find interesting — and probably want to discuss in the comments below.
Steve Kirsch’s letter to Head of MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering
I’m confident that MIT is capable of telling the Fukushima story without our help.
Personally, here are some of the lessons I learned:
1) The world is in serious trouble with carbon emissions. We need to be deploying every form of clean power we can as fast as we can. Fukushima doesn’t change that goal or strategy one bit.
2) We now can update our statistics on public deaths due to nuclear power over the last 50 years by adding 0 deaths affecting the public. As we expected, nuclear is still by far the safest way to generate power (fewest deaths per MWh generated). It is important that we tell the world that they should be shutting down the most dangerous forms of power generation first. It makes no sense whatsoever to be shutting down the safest form of power generation first.
3) We learned it is a bad idea to put generators in the basement of a plant near a large body of water subject to tsunamis. But their design spec was a smaller tsunami. So we learned that sometimes, accidents happen that are beyond our design center and people will get killed. Does that mean we should spend huge additional sums to over-design everything we build to account for the worst possible disaster? Probably not. I think Haiti is a good example of setting your standards too low. But I don’t think that is the case here. I think the lesson of Fukushima is that natural disasters cause deaths that we can’t always avoid.
4) We learned that 40 years ago, people didn’t design reactors as safely as we do today.