While the US "Angsts" Over Nuclear Energy...Russia Scores Major Victory

Imagine the headlines.  U.S. Company to Construct 4 Nuclear Plants in Jordan. Imagine the jobs and income that would accrue to the U.S. economy for years to come. Imagine the increases in international influence that would follow.  Imagine!  However, today’s reality tells me not to waste my dreams on seeing America benefit from its scientific preeminence. U.S. domestic energy policy consists of gibberish and shenanigans, waste and political corruption- not leadership. When and if the U.S. bumbles out of our own energy crisis, we might still be relevant internationally. Maybe.  

The headline should read Russia Routs US 4 - 0.  That’s how it would read if more Americans were awake to what is happening. The actual headlines tell the story.  “Jordan receives a reactor offer” from Russia.  The tally: four reactors, plus, possibly another reactor on a separate bid. The deal is worth around $20 billion.  Jordan is going nuclear with five reactors on tap.  

I am competitive.  As an American teenager, I should know better. I often heard the nouveau psychology designed to quell exceptionalism: “we are ALL winners,” or, the converse, “there are no losers.”  I still yearn for national ~ regional ~ state ~ city ~ and personal excellence.  I read the article about Jordan receiving a reactor offer.  But, let me be honest.  It’s Russian.  The Cold War was over before I was born; I should not cringe at the success of Russia, right?  Wrong!  Students my age desperately need to understand science, but we also need to appreciate history. You know what they say:  If we do not learn from history, we are destined to repeat it.  Energy is more than light to read by, more than gas for the cars and trucks. Energy is national security.  Russian reactors. Let that sink in. The headline should cause a collective, national groan. Not a sigh. Not an “eh, whaddya know?”  Not even a “yeah - good for Jordan.”  

Thirty-two years ago, Americans across the planet shouted in unison when they won a hockey game against the Soviet Union - the “Miracle on Ice” of the 1980 Winter Olympics. But when we lose industrial superiority in the world - not a peep anywhere. Maybe I am just too young to get it.  The U.S. already owns the best nuclear energy technology in the world. ICE. “Integrated Contemporary Energy” refers to the energy plan envisioned and endorsed by over 300 prominent scientists in 2010.  ICE includes three key ingredients: 1) the integral fast reactor, 2) light water reactors and 3) medical radioisotopes to improve human health by screening and treating diseases. Today, the Integral Fast Reactor blueprints gather dust on a U.S. corporate shelf, while Russia, China, and others move forward. American energy needs its Herb Brooks from The Miracle on Ice, a tough coach who will work American assets in the right direction based on its incredible, existing, real potential. Instead, we have Stephen Chu, with a political administration that promotes utterly failing battery powered cars one day, and chants, “Algae!  Algae!” the next day. Is that the best we can do? And, by the way, where does the battery-car-promoting administration in Washington think the electricity is going to come from for those batteries?

Regardless of outdated laments over the grand concept of American exceptionalism, practical concerns arise from a Russian - Jordan energy alliance.  Jordan will double its energy output, and then be able to export its oil.  Russia is doing the same at home. Whoever controls the energy supply buys the most international influence.  While this situation is nothing new, I would advise Americans not to blink.  These developments have significance.

It is 2012.  The world leader ship has sailed. Whether that ship is flagged under Russia, China, India, France or South Korea, only time will tell. The U.S. needs a backup plan to maximize its global scientific predominance.  If the U.S focuses on the best U.S. energy policy, one with a three-part focus on integral fast reactors, light water nuclear reactors, and production of nuclear medical isotopes, then it will break the bondage to foreign energy and isotopes.

With public support, the U.S. could recover lost ground. We could achieve a “Miracle with ICE.” The scoreboard is lit. Jordan scores 5 working reactors by 2020.  I challenge the United States:  Build 25 by 2020.  20 LWRs and 5 IFRs is a good start on a plan B worthy of the incredible American science and technology achievements and excellence of the last 50 years.  

“Great moments are born from great opportunity.  And that's what you have here, boys.  I’m sick and tired of hearing what a great team the Soviets are.  This is your time. Now go out there and take it!"

Go USA!  Go Nuclear!