Atomic power--saving lives.

Author:Downs, Siouxzanna
 
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THE PROBLEMS WE FACE

In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the world. These are summarized broadly as ending poverty, ensuring access to food, clean water, energy, global health and education, achieving gender equality, securing decent work for all, building resilient infrastructure, reducing income inequality, promoting urban development, sustainable consumption and production, finding climate change solutions, preserving the oceans, preventing deforestation, and implementing frameworks to reach these goals, including the creation of a global partnership for sustainable development.

There is no doubt that these are lofty goals. The question arises, however, of how the United Nations and Member States approach these issues, and how to assign relative importance to potential solutions.

I would propose that the development of small modular molten salt reactors (MSRs), including the denatured variety, would have the potential to advance several SDGs simultaneously.

ATOMIC POWER CONCEPTS

One of the seemingly unlikely solutions to these pressing problems may in fact be atomic power, although not in its current form. The key principles of nuclear power generation are based on the force that holds the parts of an atom together. If an atom is unstable, it will try to reach a more stable state by breaking apart. The atom can be naturally unstable or can be made unstable when additional neutrons are added to the nucleus.

When an atom becomes more stable and releases particles, it also releases immense amounts of energy that can be used to generate enough heat in a closed system to power a turbine. Radiation, which is often misunderstood, is largely naturally occurring. There are several types of radiation that all have different effects and uses.

Concerns with nuclear power stem from three major sources: nuclear warheads and their proliferation, core meltdowns and system failures, and nuclear waste. These are all valid points that may be addressed through a conceptual and fundamental rethinking of the way atomic power is generated.

SMALL MODULAR MOLTEN SALT REACTORS: A SOLUTION FOR OUR TIMES

MSRs were pursued in the United States largely between the 1950s and 1970s. Unlike current reactors they offered unique solutions to many challenges that conventional reactors face.

* Salts are already in a molten state, making the term "meltdown" irrelevVVant. If the system is overheating, the salts are passively drained...

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