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A solution Now.


I would like to share what really "made my weekend" last week.  The confinement in which we live has led me to Netflix😔.   I was a little bit less reluctant to go since it complied with the European Commission's injunctions by reducing its bandwidth by 25%!  It’s insane to imagine that Netflix accounts for 15% of the global downlink traffic according to the data of the American network specialist, Sandvine…  
But on Netflix, I discovered a magnificent triptych: Inside Bill's Brain 🙌.  The third part is more specifically about the search for climate change solutions.  
The search for climate change solutions requires passion, ressources and sense of urgency

I discover something really exciting: a solution design exists today and is ready for prototype construction program.  It's nuclear, and it's called "Travelling Wave Reactor®" , engineered by TerraPower.

For decades, there hasn't been any innovation in this field, and in 2006, Bill Gates got the guts to disrupt that field. Nuclear power is a kind of monster that everyone prefers asleep, and that has maintained peace in our world for 75 years through its deterrent effect. Throughout that years, it has been a subject of complex and polarized contentious disagreements by proponents and critics. it all boils down to the question: "Is the low carbonized energy supply from nuclear power plants, with the inherent costs, flaws and risks, worth the risk ?".

Let's put few numbers on the table, to enlarge our perspective, before coming back on the Travelling Wave Reactor benefits claimed by Terra Power.         

I looked up some figures on the United Nations website, more precisely, UNSCEAR.ORG (United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation) to assess more exactly the “nuclear risk."

There have been three major civilian nuclear accidents to date.  

The First one was Three Mile Island nuclear power station accident on March 28, 1979. A series of equipment and instrument malfunctions, human errors and mistaken decision led to a serious loss of water coolant from the reactor core.  According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, very few radioactive gases escaped into the atmosphere, and they did not constitute a threat to the surrounding population.  Everything went back to normal the next days. No victim.  

The second one was Chernobyl that occurred on 26 April 1986. This one was the most serious accident ever to occur in the nuclear power industry. According to UNSCEAR, the accident caused the deaths, within a few weeks, of 30 workers and radiation injuries to over a hundred others.   Among the residents of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, there had been up to the year 2005 more than 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer reported in children and adolescents who were exposed at the time of the accident, and more cases can be expected during the next decades.
Apart from this increase, there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure two decades after the accident. There is no scientific evidence of increases in overall cancer incidence or mortality rates or in rates of non-malignant disorders that could be related to radiation exposure.  The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was a tragic event for its victims and huge psychological choc for the entire world.  Even if the cause was a human error during an experimental test of the electrical control system, the nuclear monster had frightened of humanity.

The Third one is Fukushima. On 11 March 2011, the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered major damage from the failure of equipment after the magnitude 9.0 great east-Japan earthquake and subsequent tsunami.    

When the tsunami cut off the power supply to the plant, the diesel generators that were located below the tsunami wave level became inoperable. As a result, the reactor could not be cooled down, overheated and eventually exploded.  

Coal kills 800,000 people a year. Nuclear has killed about a few thousand persons (still too many). According to a study conduct by more than 100 scientists,  W.H.O. concluded that a total of up to 4000 deaths could eventually die of radiation exposure from Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and as of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to that disaster. Sill according to W.H.O, Fukushima and Three Miles Island did not cause casualties.

All these accidents happened for clear and identified reasons. For Chernobyl, it was human errors coupled with design flaws inherited from old reactor design - late 40's-. Same for Three Miles Island. For Fukushima, it came from misconception of emergency circuits and same design inherent risks from generation 2 (pressurized water vessels) reactors.

Death toll in case of nuclear accident is one of the main argument used by the critics to claim divestment in nuclear energy research and ultimately decommissioning of all nuclear power plants. Many others exists such as high capital costs (445 $/MWh actual costs for nuclear plant compare to 65$/MWh for solar plant according to Project Drawdown), long time to deploy, uranium mine-tailing pollution, nuclear waste disposal for hindered of thousands years, risks of fissile materials trafficking and dirty bomb terrorism, ... Speaking about associated risks and costs is fascinating but would take an entire book to detail.

Let me comes back to the discovery i made while listening to Bill Gates story: can TerraPower and it's "advanced nuclear generation 4" Travelling Wave Reactor concept address all these critics? It was designed with all the intelligence and electronics we have to date. Their main claims: it reuses available nuclear wastes as primary source of energy, it does not use water for cooling (passive heat removal without operator intervention or electrical requirements) and extends considerably fuel reprocessing cycles, hens reducing design and operations risks,  it sharply lower the total cost of ownership, and accelerate the construction phase, .. and, the reactor is "walk-away safety" designed (quick and safe shut down with no one attendance).

It this "the" solution to help us to pass the energy transition more smoothly and help us to control the climate? The potential is huge: just with the 700,000 T stockpile of depleted uranium wastes in Paducah, Kentucky, TerraPower calculated that, based on its reactors simulations, it could provide 125 years of electricity in the USA without producing CO2.

Renewable energy will not be enough to get us out of fossil fuel. In 2018, renewable energy sources accounted for about 11% of total U.S. energy consumption and about 17% of electricity generation. (US Energy Information Administration). Some countries (like China and India) continue to build nuclear power plants, others (like Germany) have decided to replace nuclear based energy production by ... coal based energy production! It is non-understandable.  The cure looks much worse than the pain 😳...

Ah, and if you're wondering where TerraPower stands. Here are a few words of explanation.
In 2015, Bill Gates and Xi Jiping signed a contract with Bill in Seattle for the development of TerraPower. This brought the world closer to the drawdown point.  
In 2016, the USA elected a new president, and history comes to an abrupt end.  
Manufacturing program of the first 600MW reactor prototype is frozen.

So it's incredible to know that a solution exists here and (almost) now. 
And what if what afraid us the most,  could save us ? 

In the "solutions" page  and in further posts,  we'll continue to provides you with information about the other solutions identified to win the climate change  .. available today                 

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