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Energy in Transition, 1985-2010: Final Report of the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems
the resolution of specific issues.16 The technical and scientific community is itself divided, and debates among experts have heightened public awareness of the uncertainty surrounding many of the technical issues bearing on nuclear power. Very briefly, the principal issues for nuclear power as an intermediate-term energy source are as follows.
The future role of nuclear energy, in general, and the relative roles of different nuclear options, in particular, depend on the extent of domestic and worldwide uranium resources, and on the rates at which these resources could be produced at reasonable levels of cost.
The choice between a breeder reactor and an advanced converter reactor and the timing of development and introduction depend on a complicated integration of a number of technical factors. Most prominent among these are the rate of growth of electricity use, the supply of fuel, and the relative capital costs of advanced converters and breeders. Relatively low electricity growth rates and large supplies of low-cost uranium would generally favor the advanced converter.* It should not be forgotten, however, that the breeder and its fuel cycle are probably in a more advanced state of development worldwide than any high-conversion-ratio converter alternative, and that moderate to high electricity growth rates and/or rather limited supplies of uranium would favor the breeder alternative.
There is a need for early action on a workable program of nuclear waste management, which has until very recently been neglected by the federal government. Adequate technical solutions can probably be found, but some particularly difficult political and institutional problems will have to be solved.
Public appraisal of nuclear power is of vital importance. Among the most important public concerns are the potential connection of commercial nuclear power with international proliferation of nuclear weapons, the safety of the nuclear fuel cycle (a concern heightened by the recent nuclear reactor accident near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), and the question of nuclear waste treatment and disposal.
According to the CONAES Supply and Delivery Panel’s Uranium Resource Group,17 only those uranium deposits considered, technically, “reserves” or “probable additional resources” should be taken as a basis for prudent planning. They further state that the availability of uranium ore at
Statement 1–26, by R.H.Cannon, Jr.: Both low electricity growth rates and large supplies of low-cost uranium are highly uncertain, as noted later.