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Posts Tagged ‘Frank Von Hippel’


Thursday, March 24th, 2011

March 24, 2011
Nuclear Townhall
From the Editors

“Never let a crisis go to waste” is becoming the watchword of all policy wonks and longtime nuclear critic Frank Von Hippel puts it to use this morning in a New York Times op-ed ominously entitled “It Could Happen Here.” 

 â€¨“Nuclear power is a textbook example of the problem of `regulatory capture’ ­ in which an industry gains control of an agency meant to regulate it,” writes the Princeton professor, not seeming to acknowledge that regulatory agencies can be captured by opponents of a technology as well. “Regulatory capture can be countered only by vigorous public scrutiny and Congressional oversight, but in the 32 years since Three Mile Island, interest in nuclear regulation has declined precipitously.” 

Von Hippel criticizes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for not requiring a filtering mechanism on auxiliary buildings that would remove some radioactive particles in case of an accidental steam release. “Even before Three Mile Island, a group of nuclear engineers had proposed that filtered vents be attached to buildings around reactors, which are intended to contain the gases released from overheated fuel,” he writes. “If the pressure inside these containment buildings increased dangerously ­ as has happened repeatedly at Fukushima ­ the vents would release these gases after the filters greatly reduced their radioactivity.”

Midway through the article, however, he switches gears and announces that an equally important reason for calling a halt to the advance of nuclear technology is to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. “Most notably, over the past 50 years the developed world has spent some $100 billion in a failed effort to commercialize plutonium breeder reactors. Such reactors would use uranium more efficiently, but would also require the separation of plutonium, a key component in nuclear weapons.”  He also criticizes General Electric’s development of using laser technology to enrich uranium on the grounds that it will make it easier for other countries to build bombs.

 â€¨Von Hippel’s solution is a One-World approach, where all nuclear technology would be put under the control of some international body. “Doing so would make it more difficult for countries like Iran to justify building national enrichment plants that could be used to produce nuclear weapons materials [emphasis added]."

But what if Iran didn’t feel the need to justify its enrichment effort and just went ahead and did it anyway?  One way or another, that’s pretty far afield from overheating reactors at Fukushima.

Read more about it at the New York Times