by James Burgess
July 21, 2012 (TSR) – Richard Branson sent a letter to the US government propounding the benefits of integral fast reactors (IFR), a next generation nuclear technology, and requesting a meeting with President Barack Obama and the US energy secretary Steven Chu. The letter was co-signed by Eric Loewen, the president of the American Nuclear Society and chief engineer for GE-Hitachi’s Prism Reactor (an IFR once combined with fuel recycling facilities).
The Prism and other IFR’s use plutonium and uranium waste produced in traditional nuclear reactors to create clean, safe energy, at the same time as disposing of the dangerous radioactive substances.
The White House declined the meeting, but Branson remains determined to continue promoting IFR’s. “Obviously we urgently need to come up with a clean effective way of supplying our energy since not only are the dirty ways like oil running out but we need to do so to help avoid the world heating up,” he told The Guardian.
The letter stated that “unlike today’s nuclear reactor, the IFR can generate unlimited amounts of inexpensive clean power for hundreds of thousands of years. It provides an excellent solution for what to do with our nuclear waste because it can use our existing nuclear waste for fuel and it is significantly more proliferation-resistant than other methods of dealing with nuclear waste.”
“The IFR is also inherently safe. In an emergency, unlike today’s reactors, it shuts down without human intervention and without requiring electric power … Hundreds of nuclear scientists believe this technology has the ability to generate carbon-free power at a cost per kW less than coal.”
At the moment Branson is only promoting the technology, and has no financial interest. “At present my principle interest is in pushing for the technology,” he said. However that does not mean to say he won’t invest if serious interest is shown in the technology.
Bill Gates is also backing a next generation nuclear technology called the travelling wave reactor (TWR). It will be interesting to see whose reactor, Branson’s IFR, or Gate’s TWR, manages to win the race to become a widely used nuclear power source.