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Former DEA Nuclear Security Official Says Wyoming Reactor Not Safe

the sodium reactor planned for Kemmerer has a high degree of potential for explosive accidents and proliferation of nuclear weapons material.

Sodium reacts with water and air, which Tallen said poses a huge risk for accidents.

Cowboy State Daily, By Kevin Killough, State Energy Reporter
Kevin@CowboyStateDaily.com  January 25, 2023January 25, 2023 

When TerraPower and PacifiCorp announced in November 2021 that they had selected Kemmerer as the location of its Natrium reactor demonstration project, many welcomed the opportunity as a path to a diverse energy economy for Wyoming.  

In the next few months, TerraPower plans to break ground on a sodium testing project for the larger demonstration project. If the reactor design is proven, it would provide lots of carbon-free energy and provide a viable replacement for retiring coal plants in the state, TerraPower said. 

Wapiti resident Bill Tallen had a 20-year career with the Department of Energy that was focused on the threat posed by terrorists who sought ways to create improvised nuclear devices.

Tallen argues that the sodium reactor planned for Kemmerer has a high degree of potential for explosive accidents and proliferation of nuclear weapons material. Henry Sokoloski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), which is based in Washington D.C., has a lot of the same concerns.  

Jeff Navin, director of external affairs with TerraPower, says these concerns have been considered and addressed as much as reasonably possible in the project’s design and development.  

Not Opposed To Nuclear 

Tallen said he’s not ideologically opposed to nuclear power. He said he rubbed elbows with that crowd years ago, but it’s not where he stands today.  

“The distrust of nuclear power is one of the major ideological tenets of left-wing, anti-establishment politics,” Tallen said. “I had to say to them, I can’t agree with you on many of your basic assumptions. I’m just saying that this particular [Natrium] technology pursued the way it is right now – I don’t think it’s a good idea.”  

Reaction Risk  

The Natrium reactor being built in Kemmerer uses sodium instead of water as a heat sink for the reactor core. That heat will then be transferred to water, which will produce steam to turn turbines.  

Sodium reacts with water and air, which Tallen said poses a huge risk for accidents.  

“There’s never been a sodium reactor that has actually met its promises. They’ve all had leaks and fires and explosions and toxic releases,” Tallen said. “Granted, in America we haven’t had big problems, but the past is not always prologue. The risk is still there.”  ……………………

Plutonium And Proliferation 

Sokolski with NPEC said these reactors produce plutonium during the fission process.  

“The plutonium produced in these machines isn’t just weapons usable. It isn’t even weapons grade. It’s super weapons grade,” Sokolski said.  

The Natrium reactors run on high-assay low-enriched uranium, known commonly as HALEU. It’s currently produced only in Russia, and due to the invasion of Ukraine, supplies of the material are scarce. This has led to a delay in the Kemmerer project.   

Tallen said that as these reactors grow and more HALEU is produced, it’s just inviting a nation like Iran to find sources of the material, which can be enriched to weapons-grade with the right facilities.  

“These are parties that do in fact have, or can construct, enrichment capabilities and will not be concerned by U.S. export restrictions,” Tallen said.  ………………………..  https://cowboystatedaily.com/2023/01/25/former-dea-nuclear-security-official-says-wyoming-reactor-not-safe/

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January 25, 2023 - Posted by | safety, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA

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