Steven Kirsch: I do not know anyone who has not come away impressed

The IFR (Integral Fast Reactor) project was dead in Bill Clinton's time but many people still believe in its resurrection. The scientists and engineers from the U.S. Argonne National Laboratory insist that their IFR/AFR concept will fully satisfy the criteria required for the 21st nuclear reactor. Recently they win one more supporter, Steven Kirsch.

Steven Kirsch, a multi-millionaire and businessman, is famous as the optical mouse inventor and patent owner. He is a philanthropist awarding by the U.S. National Caring Award and he was "pretty agnostic" about nuclear power. Now he changes his opinion after he learnt more about the IFR.

"I don't know anyone with an open mind who has met with the scientists who worked on the (IFR) project who hasn't come away impressed. Even the harshest critics of the IFR admit that that they might be wrong", Kirsch writes on his website. He prepared the comprehensive summary on the IFR technology to alert the society and to remind on the great potential of the fast breeders.

"There is over $20 billion dollars in the Nuclear Waste Fund. Senator Lindsay Graham introduced legislation in April to have all of it rebated to consumers. That's a dumb idea; it would not move us closer to solving the waste problem. But taking some of that $20 billion dollars and investing it in building an IFR would be a brilliant move", says Kirsch.

What are the reasons why the U.S. businessman is supporting the fast reactors? Can the Russians and Americans cooperate in the fast reactor programs? The AtomInfo.Ru received the answers on these questions from Steven Kirsch by e-mail.

Mr. Kirsch, could you say in brief why the fast reactor technology and particularly the IFR technology is important for the United States?

The IFR is important for three reasons.

What do you think about the proliferation concerns which may follow the fast reactor technology?

Fast reactors with pyroprocessing actually reduce proliferation issues because the nuclear material is consumed for energy production. Also, plutonium is never separated out using this technique (pyroprocessing).

In your opinion, what shall be the main task of the IFR reactors in the United States - breeding of new reactor fuel or burning of plutonium recovered from the PWR/BWR spent fuel?

IFRs can be operated as breeders or burners depending on how you configure it. Since there is a lack of fissile material for starting up new IFRs, it makes the most sense to operate these reactors in breeder mode for the foreseeable future.

Today, Russia is the world leader in fast reactor technology. The US hasn't had a fast reactor since 1994. However, now the US DOE is willing to put up 50% of the funds to build an IFR demo plant, i.e., half of the $1.5B design and construction cost.

Perhaps the Russian government would be willing to put up the other half and they can share the technology that is developed?

Thank you very much for your interview for AtomInfo.Ru.

SOURCE: AtomInfo.Ru

DATE: October 25, 2009

Topics: Fast breeders, USA

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