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Integral Fast Reactor Fact Sheet

The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) is a fourth-generation fast nuclear reactor design that offers more efficiency and safety, while generating 1,000 times less waste than current light-water reactors, the predominant designs used in the US. It uses existing nuclear waste for fuel. The energy needs of the US can be supplied for over 1,000 years just using the existing nuclear waste now in storage.

1. Proven to be reliable and safe over almost 50 years of operational experience

  1. Ran for 30 years in the USA without any mishaps

  2. Chernobyl and TMI scenarios were tested on the IFR: the IFR reactor shut itself down w/o human intervention or active safety systems.

  3. Russians have been running commercially for 30 years without problem (BN-600)

  4. Passively safe (guaranteed by the physics). Does not require electricity, operator intervention, or active safety systems to shut down if it overheats.

2. The waste has 1,000 times less long-term radioactivity per unit of power than LWR (waste meaning what is no longer usable in the reactor).

3. Uses existing nuclear waste (DU, decommissioned bombs) for fuel. A variety of fuels can be used (any actinide), not just uranium.

4. Meltdown extremely unlikely because the coolant isn’t under pressure and because fast reactors stop working when the fuel heats up whereas LWRs run away. Worst scenario is power plant is wrecked. In most all standard disaster scenarios, nothing happens. In the worst possible scenario, radiation contamination would be limited to the site.

5. Because it is so efficient, it can generate power until the end of time (until the Sun goes super nova) using resources we’ve already identified at very low price (comparable to coal), independent of the cost of uranium.

6. Recycles the radioactive actinides in the reactor. The minimal amount of waste that is left over is safe (natural levels) after only 500 years (this is several orders of magnitude less time than for conventional LWR reactors). A 1GWe reactor will produce about 1 ton of waste (fission products) per year which is two milk crates if compacted. By contrast, a coal plant of the same electrical output produces 150,000 times as much waste by weight as well as 9 million metric tons per year of CO2.

7. Public overwhelmingly in favor when facts are explained (audience shifted from 25% pro nuclear to 75% after the Pandora’s Promise film at Sundance which is a predominately anti-nuclear audience).

8. Can be built very quickly… most of the nuclear reactors in the US (which provide 20% of our power) were built over a 10 year period decades ago. Imagine what a focused sustained effort (not subject to constantly changing politics) could accomplish today.

9. Doesn’t increase proliferation risk because it never separates out pure plutonium from other actinides which makes the fuel very unattractive for building bombs. There are well known and easier ways to make a bomb than to use material from a fast reactor. Fast reactors arguably make us safer because they allow us to get rid of the fissile material in decommissioned nuclear bombs.

10. In 2001, as part of the Generation IV roadmap, the DOE tasked a 242 person team of scientists from DOE, UC Berkeley, MIT, Stanford, ANL, LLNL, Toshiba, Westinghouse, Duke, EPRI, and other institutions to evaluate 19 of the best reactor designs on 27 different criteria. The IFR ranked #1 in their study which was released April 9, 2002

11. Invented and built Designed by the top nuclear scientists of the US Government at Argonne

12. Existing nuclear waste (bombs, DU, and other actinide waste products) can power the US for 1,000 years without any new additional mining of uranium.

13. Using fast reactors, there is more energy in the trace uranium in the coal than we get from burning the coal.  Extracting uranium from coal ash is on the verge of being economically competitive.

This information was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Yoon Chang.


Why Obama Should Meet Till

Steve Kirsch of SCGI is like the Energizer Bunny — he never runs out of energy in trying to get something meaningful done on the carbon emission mitigation problem. Below is his open letter to the U.S. President’s energy and climate policy staffer. His aim: to get Chuck Till an invitation to the White House!

Read the letter


Fast reactor advocates throw down gauntlet to MIT authors

Rod Adams
Atomic Insights


Near the end of 2010, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology released a summary of a report titled The Future of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle as part of its MIT Energy Initiative. The complete report was released a few months ago. The conclusions published that report initiated a virtual firestorm of reaction among the members of the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) Study group who strongly disagreed with the authors.

Steve Kirsh, an IFR group member challenges, "I have an all-star team of people I can assemble to debate your position on the urgency of fast reactors (top DOE brass, nuclear industry, environmental leaders, etc). You pick the place and time."

Though there are a number of specific recommendations provided in the report, the following quote from the “Study Context” provides a good summary of why the fast reactor advocates were so dismayed by the report.

For decades, the discussion about future nuclear fuel cycles has been dominated by the expectation that a closed fuel cycle based on plutonium startup of fast reactors would eventually be deployed. However, this expectation is rooted in an out-of-date understanding about uranium scarcity. Our reexamination of fuel cycles suggests that there are many more viable fuel cycle options and that the optimum choice among them faces great uncertainty—some economic, such as the cost of advanced reactors, some technical such as implications for waste management, and some societal, such as the scale of nuclear power deployment and the management of nuclear proliferation risks. Greater clarity should emerge over the next few decades, assuming that the needed research is carried out for technological alternatives and that the global response to climate change risk mitigation comes together. A key message from our work is that we can and should preserve our options for fuel cycle choices by continuing with the open fuel cycle, implementing a system for managed LWR spent fuel storage, developing a geological repository, and researching technology alternatives appropriate to a range of nuclear energy futures.

The group of fast reactor supporters includes some notable scientists and engineers whose list of professional accomplishments is at least as long as those of the people who produced the MIT report. In addition, it includes people like Charles Till and Yoon Chang who were intimately involved in the US’s multi-decade long fast reactor development and demonstration program that resulted in demonstrating a passively safe, sodium cooled reactor and an integral recycling system based on metallic fuel and pyroprocessing.

That effort, known as the Integral Fast Reactor, was not just based on an out-dated concept of uranium availability, but also on the keen recognition that the public wants a clear solution to “the nuclear waste issue” that does not look like a decision to “kick the can down the road.”

Read more about Fast Reactor advocates' MIT challenge


The Integral Fast Reactor

by Steve Kirsch

"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

Why it matters

To prevent a climate disaster, we must eliminate virtually all coal plant emissions worldwide in 25 years. The best way and, for all practical purposes, the only way to get all countries off of coal is not with coercion; it is to make them want to replace their coal burners by giving them a plug-compatible technology that is less expensive. The IFR can do this. It is plug-compatible with the burners in a coal plant (see Nuclear Power: Going Fast). No other technology can upgrade a coal plant so it is greenhouse gas free while reducing operating costs at the same time.

Read more...


IPCC Chair Says 350ppm is the Number

Huffington Post, August 26, 2009

Yesterday, on August 25, 2009, the UN's top climate scientist has, for the first time, backed ambitious goals for slashing greenhouse gas emissions that many climate negotiators say are beyond reach.

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC, said clearly and unequivocally that 350 is the number.

Read more...

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Steve Kirsch

Steve Kirsch invented and owns a patent on an early version of the optical mouse. After bringing multiple successful startup companies through IPO and corporate buy-out, he set up a $75M charitable fund and became a philanthropist. In 2003, Hillary Clinton presented Kirsch with a National Caring Award from the Caring Institute in Washington DC.

Mr. Kirsch founded Mouse Systems Corporation in 1982. After he left the company, he co-founded Frame Technology Corp. in 1986 to market the FrameMaker publishing software. After Frame was acquired by Adobe Systems, he founded a Web portal company, Infoseek Corporation, in 1994. After Infoseek was acquired by Disney, he founded Propel Software Corporation in 1999. As of 2007, he was leading Abaca Technology Corp., which makes a spam filter that is reported to achieve very high levels of accuracy.

Steve has written much about the Integral Fast Reactor and its ability to solve the world's dire problems.

Steve's Article on the IFR