William Hannum

Dr. Hannum retired after more than 40 years in nuclear power development, stretching from design and analysis of the Shippingport reactor to the Integral Fast Reactor.  He earned his BA in physics at Princeton and his MS and PhD in nuclear physics at Yale.  He has held key management positions with the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE),  in reactor physics , reactor safety, and as Deputy Manager of the Idaho Operations Office.  He served as Deputy Director General of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, Paris, France; Chairman of the TVA Nuclear Safety Review Boards, and Director of the West Valley (high level nuclear waste processing and D&D) Demonstration Project.  Dr. Hannum is a fellow of the American Nuclear Society, and has served as a consultant to the National Academy of Engineering on nuclear proliferation issues.

Governor Perry:

As Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE), you will be taking on an awesome responsibility.  You will now be responsible both for the policy direction of this department, and for managing a number of functions of the department.

Having been involved in nucleImage result for rick perryar power development, and associated energy policy in the US and in several other countries, and having served in several management positions within DOE and its predecessor agencies, may I offer some comments and suggestions.

With the change in administration, we can look forward to a different view on energy, and on the prospects for moving forward with nuclear power and with nuclear recycling.  The new administration will certainly be interested in a robust energy economy.  Natural gas should be plentiful (fracking and pipelines).  Likewise oil,  a long as the Middle-east is relatively stable.  Wind and solar will be less aggressively subsidized, and I suspect conventional nuclear will be acceptable.  Anti-nukes will do their thing, but governmental bottlenecks should be fewer.  So, for conventional nuclear power, opportunity, but not a tremendous government push.

22 March 2011
On 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake hit Japan.  The six reactors at Fukushima-Dai-ichi suffered ground accelerations somewhat in excess of design specification.  It appears that all of the critical plant equipment survived the earthquake without serious damage, and safety systems performed as designed.  The following tsunami, however, carried the fuel tanks for the emergency diesels out to sea, and compromised the battery backup systems.  All off-site power was lost, and power sufficient operate the pumps that provide cooling of the reactors and the used-fuel pools remained unavailable for over a week.  Heroic efforts by the TEPCo operators limited the radiological release.  A massive recovery operation will begin as soon as they succeed in restoring the shutdown cooling systems.

by William H. Hannum

Abstract and Summary

The purpose of this essay is to compare the safeguards challenges presented by two nuclear recycle approaches, relative to the current U. S. approach of a once-through fuel cycle.  If these nuclear fuel cycles are evaluated solely on the basis of the safeguards needed, one finds the following:

PUREX recycle offers no safeguarding advantage over the once-through fuel cycle.  Beyond that, this approach presents a significant concern over handling of separated plutonium in the power plant environment.  Since chemically pure Pu is inherent in the PUREX process, safeguards inspections must be highly intrusive.

Canadian Nuclear Society
29th Annual Conference
2 June 2008


Sensible recycling of used nuclear fuel will allow nuclear power to satisfy the early dream of environmentally responsible, essentially unlimited energy at a reasonable cost. This will require a multiple-pass nuclear fuel cycle.  Technologies for recycling used nuclear fuel are available that will resolve the most challenging nuclear waste issues and will significantly simplify the task of controlling the potential for weapons proliferation.   A major effort is needed to build prototype facilities for processing used fuel from today’s nuclear power plants, to recover material for use in fast reactors.  As these technologies are being developed and implemented, many additional nuclear power plants based on today's single-pass nuclear fuel cycle will be needed to meet near term demands for energy.

Preaching to the Choir


This paper presents no new science; the science behind what I have to say is all available.  This is not a paid promotion of any specific product or design, but an appeal for all of us in the nuclear community to recognize that we need to get on with the practical matter of addressing immediate needs, and put aside the thrill of searching for something that is different, and perhaps a little more sexy.  Members of the Choir: We need to be singing from the same song book.

The context of my remarks is that we need additional electrical capacity in this country and around the world, to support a healthy, growing economy. The energy needs of the U.S., or of the wider world, will not be met without nuclear power, and lots of it, and we need it now.  That means we need to get on with building standardized light-water cooled reactors (LWRs).

If we are going to have lots of LWRs, we need to have a plan for the used fuel.

That, in turn, means a Yucca Mountain type repository - or - recycle.