The Gordian Knot of the 21st Century

Why Nuclear Power has been a Flop

Jack Devanney; CTX Press 2020

This book focuses on the Gordian knot of our time, the closely coupled problems of electricity poverty for billions of humans, and global warming for all humans. The central thesis of the book is that nuclear power is not only the only solution, it is a highly desirable solution, cheaper, safer, less intrusive on nature than all the alternatives.

Just about everybody, including most pro-nuclear folks, accept the fact that nuclear electricity is inherently expensive. Thanks to its remarkable energy density,
nuclear power is not inherently expensive. It is inherently cheap. This book argues that conventional nuclear power should cost less than three cents per kilowatt hour.

But nuclear power is expensive, prohibitively so in most parts of the planet. The reason why nuclear power is so expensive is a regulatory regime which by design is mandated to increase costs to the point where nuclear power is at least as expensive as coal. In such a system, any technological improvement which should lower cost simply provides regulators with more room to drive costs up. This same regime does an excellent job of stifling competition and technological progress by erecting multiple layers of barriers to entry.

Our goal is not just to make nuclear electricity as cheap as coal or gas fired electricity. The goal is to keep pushing the cost of nuclear power down and down, allowing us to replace fossil fuels almost everywhere. Imagine what we could do with 2 cents per kWh power in electrifying transportation and producing carbon neutral synfuels. This can only be done in a harshly competitive environment. We must force the providers of nuclear power to compete with everybody.

If nuclear power is to be allowed to cleave the Gordian knot of electricity poverty and global warming,then we must completely change the way we regulate nuclear electricity. This book makes the case for this change and outlines what the replacement system needs to look like.

The author is the Chief Designer for ThorCon which is developing a molten salt reactor based nuclear power plant. Although the book makes no mention of ThorCon, he has a horse in this race and an obvious conflict of interest.

The book may be downloaded for free under the Creative Commons Share Alike license (CC BY-SA 4.0).

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    The Gold Standard and ALARA

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