The Integral Fast Reactor

“In the decade from 1984 to 1994, scientists at Argonne National Laboratory developed an advanced technology that promised safe nuclear power unlimited by fuel supplies, with a waste product sharply reduced both in radioactive lifetime and amount. The program, called the IFR, was cancelled suddenly in 1994, before the technology could be perfected in every detail. Its story is not widely known, nor are its implications widely appreciated. It is a story well worth telling, and this series of articles does precisely that.”

— excerpt from Plentiful Energy and the IFR story by Charles Till, former Associate Director, Argonne National Laboratory.

In my view the IFR was one of the greatest missed opportunities of our time. Had it be developed the world would now have a clean source of energy that could provide nearly endless electricity. Instead we have a world dependent on fossil fuels with all the subsequent problems that entails.

Steve Kirsh explains the Integral Fast Reactor and has a plan for action.:

Congress should add a provision to the climate bills to authorize $3B to have DOE work with industry to build a demonstration Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) plant in order to jump-start this critical clean energy technology.
A successful IFR demonstration can lead to the following important benefits:

  1. The only technology we have with a realistic potential to save the planet. The IFR is the first viable solution to how to eliminate CO2 emissions from coal plants because it can do that without increasing costs. Eliminating emissions from coal plants is required to prevent a climate catastrophe. But using carbon capture adds cost and may not be practical or viable. The IFR, on the other hand, can replace the burner in an existing coal plant while reducing operating costs. This is why the IFR is one of Jim Hansen’s top five priorities for saving the planet.
  2. Solves the nuclear waste problem and opens the door for the expansion of nuclear power in the US. The IFR uses today’s nuclear waste as fuel. The waste product from the IFR is minimal and short-lived. Solving the waste problem is required if we are to expand nuclear power in the US. The IFR does this.
  3. Opportunity to become the world leader in clean energy. The IFR is the state-of-the-art nuclear technology that everyone wants. It is better in every dimension than any of today’s nuclear reactors. If we make a strategic bet on this technology and heavily invest in it, the US has the opportunity to become the undisputed world leader in clean electric power generation. Nuclear is the elephant of clean power technologies and the IFR was determined to be the best nuclear power technology by an extensive comparative study DOE. It is arguably the most powerful clean power technology on the planet.
  4. Creates enormous economic value. It turns our existing nuclear waste into an asset worth over $30 trillion dollars. That is a fantastic return on investment for a one-time $3B investment to jump-start the technology. Nothing else comes close.
  5. Unlimited clean power. The IFR allows us to power the entire US electricity needs for the next 1,500 years without doing any additional mining of uranium; just using the “waste” we have on-hand that nobody wants. The power is carbon free. If we mine, we can power the power needs of the entire planet forever.

 More here.


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