The January 2014 meeting of the Chicago Local Section of the American Nuclear Society featured keynote speaker, David Blee, Executive Director of the United States Nuclear Infrastructure Council. The council is an industry-driven nonprofit organization that advocates for new nuclear energy build in the United States and deployment of the U.S. nuclear supply chain globally. Currently, the council is advocating for U.S. industry involvement in the decontamination and decommissioning of Fukushima Daichi in Japan, along with the swift negotiation of 123 Agreements and reformation of U.S. nuclear export control procedures.
David Blee notes that it is "the best of times, and the worst of times" for the U.S. nuclear energy industry. One one hand, natural gas is extremely cheap, diminishing the financial case for nuclear power, and the U.S. is not getting international contracts to build reactors. On the other hand, we still have the largest and safest fleet of nuclear reactors in the world and other countries want U.S. technology. Right now is truly a tipping point for the nuclear industry, as compared to the popular documentary, Waiting for 'Superman'. The industry can either start to phase out, or we can have that nuclear renaissance we were hoping for.
At the end of the meeting, White House Chronicle host Llewellyn King inspired the Chicago ANS Section members by saying that the nuclear field has lost the excitement we once had. People used to be thrilled about what the new nuclear technology could do for mankind. The industry needs to have that excitement again to excite the public and policymakers.
I slightly disagree with Mr. King in that I think the younger generation in nuclear is very excited. We see the potential of nuclear energy and other nuclear technologies, such as medicine, to solve our energy needs and enhance our lives. Now we just have to tell everyone else how excited we are!
What nuclear technology gets you the most excited? I'm most intrigued by small battery-type reactors that could power remote areas. I also think radiation therapy for cancer treatment is pretty awesome.