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Sustainable, Full-Scope Nuclear Fission Energy at Planetary Scale

Author

Listed:
  • Robert Petroski

    () (Nuclear Innovation Engineer, TerraPower LLC, 330 120th Avenue NE, Suite 100, Bellevue, WA 98005, USA)

  • Lowell Wood

    () (Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA)

Abstract

A nuclear fission-based energy system is described that is capable of supplying the energy needs of all of human civilization for a full range of human energy use scenarios, including both very high rates of energy use and strikingly-large amounts of total energy-utilized. To achieve such “planetary scale sustainability”, this nuclear energy system integrates three nascent technologies: uranium extraction from seawater, manifestly safe breeder reactors, and deep borehole disposal of nuclear waste. In addition to these technological components, it also possesses the sociopolitical quality of manifest safety, which involves engineering to a very high degree of safety in a straightforward manner, while concurrently making the safety characteristics of the resulting nuclear systems continually manifest to society as a whole. Near-term aspects of this nuclear system are outlined, and representative parameters given for a system of global scale capable of supplying energy to a planetary population of 10 billion people at a per capita level enjoyed by contemporary Americans, i.e ., of a type which might be seen a half-century hence. In addition to being sustainable from a resource standpoint, the described nuclear system is also sustainable with respect to environmental and human health impacts, including those resulting from severe accidents.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Petroski & Lowell Wood, 2012. "Sustainable, Full-Scope Nuclear Fission Energy at Planetary Scale," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(11), pages 1-36, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:4:y:2012:i:11:p:3088-3123:d:21440
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Sovacool, Benjamin K., 2008. "Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 2940-2953, August.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    nuclear fission energy; breeder reactor; traveling wave reactor; manifest safety; seawater uranium extraction; deep borehole nuclear waste disposal; nuclear process heat; nuclear transportation;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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