MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF ENERGYThe list of actual Blue Ribbon Commission appointees appears to be more calculated for political effect than for knowledge and wisdom. Although the Commission is charged with analyze the scientific, budgetary, economic, (and) financial issues involved in solutions to the used nuclear material problem. We have no economists on board, although Geologists Allison Macfarlane, believes herself to be an expert on nuclear costs. Macfarlane, however, appears to view the thorium fuel cycle in a considerably more positive light than she views the U-238 - reactor grade plutonium fuel cycle. Susan Eisenhower serves on the corporate advisory boards of Lightbridge (formerly Thorium Power), that might give her a significant knowledge of the thorium fuel cycle. The weight of the Blue Ribbon Commission lies heavily on the political/bureaucratic/expert of reference axis. The presence of two former congressmen on the commission suggests the Obama administration's desire to manage and even spin its eventual report toward politically acceptable conclusions. The last thing the Obama Administration wants is for a brilliant and charismatic scientist, like Richard Feynman to steal the show, by offering a dramatic demonstration of a politically embarrassing problem.
SUBJECT: Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future
Expanding our Nation’s capacity to generate clean nuclear energy is crucial to our ability to combat climate change, enhance energy security, and increase economic prosperity. My Administration is undertaking substantial steps to expand the safe, secure, and responsible use of nuclear energy. These efforts are critical to accomplishing many of my Administration’s most significant goals.
An important part of a sound, comprehensive, and long-term domestic nuclear energy strategy is a well-considered policy for managing used nuclear fuel and other aspects of the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle. Yet the Nation’s approach, developed more than 20 years ago, to managing materials derived from nuclear activities, including nuclear fuel and nuclear waste, has not proven effective. Fortunately, over the past two decades scientists and engineers in our country and abroad have learned a great deal about effective strategies for managing nuclear material. My Administration is committed to using this advanced knowledge to meet the Government’s obligation to dispose of our Nation’s used nuclear material.
Accordingly, I request that you establish a Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (Commission) and appoint its members. Those members should include recognized representatives and experts from a range of disciplines and with a range of perspectives, and may include participation of appropriate Federal officials. The Commission’s business should be conducted in an open and transparent manner.
The Commission should conduct a comprehensive review of policies for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, including all alternatives for the storage, processing, and disposal of civilian and defense used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. This review should include an evaluation of advanced fuel cycle technologies that would optimize energy recovery, resource utilization, and the minimization of materials derived from nuclear activities in a manner consistent with U.S. nonproliferation goals.
In performing its functions, the Commission should consider a broad range of technological and policy alternatives, and should analyze the scientific, environmental, budgetary, economic, financial, and management issues, among others, surrounding each alternative it considers. Where appropriate, the Commission may also identify potential statutory changes.
The Commission should provide an interim report to you within 18 months of the date of this memorandum, and that report should be made available for public comment. The Commission should provide a final report to you within 24 months of the date of this memorandum. The Department of Energy shall provide funding and administrative support for the Commission, as you determine appropriate, so that it can complete its functions within these time periods. Additionally, all executive departments and agencies shall provide such information and assistance to the Commission as you or the Commission may request for purposes of carrying out the Commission’s functions, to the extent permitted by law. Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to require the disclosure of classified, proprietary, law enforcement sensitive, or other information protected under governing law. This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations. This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
You are hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.
Thus only one real working scientist is included on the panel, that is Per Peterson. Peterson is well known to the Energy from Thorium community, and is an unabashed supporter of the use of Molten Salt nuclear technology. In addition to his expertise on Generation IV reactor design, and lowering nuclear costs, Per is also a nuclear proliferation expert, with a working knowledge of current thinking about proliferation prevention.
We know that the Yucca Mountain approach to the nuclear waste issue is off the table, and it appears quite likely that the IFR is as well. On January 15, the Defense Daily carried a story by George Lobsenz titled White House Moves To Restrict DoE Nuclear Research. That story stated:
The White House has proposed barring Energy Department research on fast reactor recycling of nuclear waste and technical support for licensing of small, modular light-water reactors, drawing protests from Energy Secretary Steven Chu that such prohibitions will have broad adverse effects, including hurting the U.S. nuclear industry's renaissance; crimping U.S. ability to influence other countries' fast reactor designs to address proliferation concerns; and taking away nuclear waste disposal options that might be considered by the administration's planned blue-ribbon panel on alternatives to the Yucca Mountain repository.The story went on to discuss what appeared to be a conflict between the Obama White House and Energy Secretary Chu over the exclusion of fast reactor research from the DoE Research program. This is very bad news for the IFR supporters, and might explain some of their recent behavior. Thus there are signs that the Blue Ribbon Commission will seriously consider Molten Salt nuclear technology, and the thorium fuel cycle as potential remedies for the fuel cycle nuclear waste issue. Above all else the panel is clearly expected to be a reliable, unimaginative, and boring extension of the Obama ego, that will reach predictable and unimaginative conclusions.