Climate change

October 20, 2010

IFR FaD 8 – Two TV documentaries and a new film on the Integral Fast Reactor

Filed under: IFR (Integral Fast Reactor) Nuclear Power, Nuclear Energy — buildeco @ 11:26 am

by Barry Brook

Want to know more about the Integral Fast Reactor technology from the comfort of your lounge room chair? Then these two fascinating videos, recently transcoded and uploaded by Steve Kirsch to the “” website, are for you. You can watch online, or download in .MP4 format (choose the format and then the download link below) for offline viewing.

First, we have: Advanced Liquid Metal Reactor Actinide Recycle System, ”Energy for the 21st Century”

It is about 8 minutes long and cost the ALMR team about $40,000 to make in 1990 (according to Chuck Boardman).

This video was also highlighted on Atom Insights blog by fellow IFRG member Rod Adams. Rod said:

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 included language directing research and development of the Advanced Liquid Metal Reactor (ALMR) with Actinide Recycle System. The above video is an explanatory (some might use the word “promotional”) production that explains the program and its goals from the perspective of the mid 1990s.

As many nuclear energy insiders know, the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) demonstration was part of the ALMR program. That program was cancelled by the Clinton Administration when its energy program decision makers decided to zero out all research on advanced nuclear energy systems. The reactor design that the video describes – the PRISM – is still on GE’s drawing board. It still has its advocates. Jack Fuller, Chairman of the Board, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy presented the reactor design and described its history to the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Energy Future.

This video provides more evidence of an energy opportunity that America has not been pursuing. Knowing just how important an abundant, clean, reliable energy source can be to a country’s prosperity, one has to wonder why there was so much opposition to the concept during the 1990s and why that opposition still exists today.

Second, we have “The New Explorers: Atoms for Peace”

This 54 minute TV documentary is a history of nuclear energy in America, broadcast in 1996 on the national PBS network. The show focuses on Argonne’s efforts to develop the Integral Fast Reactor, an inherently safe nuclear power plant killed by Congress and the Clinton Administration. From Argonne NL website:

[Film-maker] Bill Kurtis hosts the exploration of nuclear energy from its beginnings under the Stagg Field grandstands at the University of Chicago, through the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program and the development of the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR).

“Argonne National Laboratory holds a very special place in the 50-year-long journey to turn nuclear power into unlimited energy for the world,” according to Tom Olson of the “New Explorers” Chicago Production Center.

Several Argonne researchers will be featured as “new explorers,” including Walter Zinn and Charles Till. Zinn was Argonne’s first director and leader of the project responsible for producing the world’s first nuclear electricity (from Experimental Breeder Reactor-I, in 1951). Charles Till, associate laboratory director for engineering research, will explain the concepts behind the IFR.

You can also read a review of this documentary by Walter Goodman, published in 1996 in the New York Times.

There is also a multi-part YouTube version (in 14 minute chunks) that’s been posted by one of my commenters Scott, here (thanks for the tip).

After watching these, you’ve really got to ask yourselves — how did we let the last 15 years slip by with no action on this? Still, there’s no point crying over spilt milk. It’s time to get sustainable nuclear energy firmly back on the public agenda. With that motivation in mind, environmental documentary maker Robert Stone is about to embark on a new project, called “Pandora’s Promise“. You can read more about it here, including a multi-page treatment. It’s still in the early stages of development and finalising funding. The synopsis:

PANDORA’S PROMISE will be a feature-length documentary about nuclear power and how mankind’s most feared and controversial technological discovery may ultimately hold the key to its very survival. Built around a number of in-depth interviews with several of the world’s leading environmentalists, scientists and energy experts, many of whom (like me) have undergone a metamorphosis in their thinking about nuclear power, the film will be brought to life through a wealth of incredible archival footage and original filming across the globe. Operating as history, cultural meditation and contemporary exploration, PANDORA’S PROMISE aims to inspire a serious and realistic debate over what is without question the most important issue of our time: how we continue to power modern civilization without destroying it.

I shared a car trip with Robert when travelling from Sacremento to Berkeley the other month, which gave us a good chance to chat about the movie. The previous evening, Robert had joined me, Steve Kirsch and others from SCGI (Ron Gester, Susan von Borstel etc.) for dinner at the Blees’ house, where I was staying. He’s a very nice guy, and makes excellent movies. One of his previous ones was a real love letter to the environmental movement, and includes interviews with Hunter Lovins etc., so if anyone is going to make THE definitive picture on nuclear energy for environmentalists, it’s Robert!

People, we CAN solve the climate and energy crunches of the 21st century, IF we have the will and the knowledge. These old and new video productions could go a long way towards inspiring and educating today’s generation of citizens on the great potential of fission energy as the natural, sustainable successor to fossil fuels. We just have to get people engaged and aware. Help spread the message, push ahead with a ‘can do’ positive attitude, and things may yet change faster than you could ever imagine…

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