Biden Is Carter

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by Karl Denninger, Market Ticker:

I am shocked at the tiny number of people who know about Carter’s biggest disaster when it comes to US policy; his banning, by Executive Order, the reprocessing of commercial nuclear fuel in the United States.

The US civilian nuclear program was always a dual-use program; the military wanted bombs, and civilians want electricity.  We abandoned the LFTR technology despite its demonstrably superior safety profile starting with the lack of a requirement for high pressure containment as a direct result of the fact that it is incompatible with dual use.  That is, the byproducts that naturally come from the use of thorium “poison” the technology’s use for atomic weapons; while this can be worked around at extreme cost nobody in their right mind would promote such a dual use methodology.  Thus the US (and in fact world-wide) adoption of the Uranium/Plutonium fuel cycle.

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That fuel cycle has multiple serious safety problems, with the most-serious long-term ones not being operational but rather with disposal of waste.  All nuclear reactors produce what are called transuranic elements in normal operation and these have extremely long half-lives in their decay chains which render them dangerous for thousands to even hundreds of thousands of years.  Needless to say no civilization on Earth has ever survived that long, so the stability of such waste is a monstrous problem.

The only sane way to deal with this material is to put it back into an operating reactor as “non-fissile” material and burn it up.  But doing this requires reprocessing spent fuel.  New fuel pins in a civilian reactor typically are 5% fissile material when manufactured with the rest being fertile (e.g. U-238) or waste.  A pin manufactured with only fertile or inert substances is not particularly dangerous until used; it requires only light shielding as in ordinary handling it does not produce much radioactive flux.  On the other hand one that is full of waste as the “secondary material” will kill you if you get anywhere near it in an unshielded environment.  This differential disappears instantly as soon as the fuel is loaded, in that once you start the reactor the fuel pins are, for all intents and purposes, equally dangerous.

Carter had nuclear experience since he went through naval school for it.  He was convinced that the US could not manage a closed fuel cycle without serious accidents that would kill huge numbers of people, and issued a ban on reprocessing for civilian nuclear power plants.  This did not kill the industry immediately but it did kill it certainly since there was no nowhere to put the spent fuel byproducts. Reagan reversed that E/O immediately on taking office but it didn’t matter; having been screwed out of their investments previously no private firm was willing to put up the cash to attempt to restart that process, and thus to this day there is no reprocessing of civilian nuclear fuel in the United States.

Carter (and Ford before him) claimed that the issue was proliferation.  That’s nonsense; nobody is diverting the product of US civilian nuclear power plants to turd-world nations trying to make bombs, and exactly nothing that we do here prevents them from running small breeder and research reactors which are plenty sufficient to make plutonium, never mind just enriching uranium itself.

Now Biden has done the same thing Carter did to the nuclear industry with Keystone in the oil and natural gas industry.

Nobody in their right mind is going to put up the sunk costs for further transport and processing infrastructure if with the stroke of a pen the President can and will destroy that investment.  This is not just about jobs, although that’s important.

It is intended to permanently crimp US energy supplies from petroleum and natural gas by destroying expansion of the most-economical and safest transport media.

The premise that we can simply make it up with “green” energy is false but Biden does not care about that.

Do not kid yourselves folks — this single act is going to lead to a very significant increase in energy costs all the way down to you in your heating, cooling and light bills say much less in transportation which impacts literally everything you buy and consume.

It will not happen overnight but it will happen with certainty down the road.

Joe Biden is, in this respect, Jimmy Carter and you will get this one up your ass.

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