fossil fuel than coal, there is wide agreement that use of fossil fuels must be sharply reduced, at least for electricity production, in order to decrease their unfavorable impact on the environment, especially their release of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere. Nuclear energy has potential for significant expansion in order to alleviate CO2 emission. Based upon longstanding U.S. national policy (Chu 2011): “Nuclear power will continue to be an important part of our energy mix, both in the United States and around the world. Its role grows more valuable as we confront a changing climate, increasing energy demand, and a struggling global economy.” It is this committee’s judgment that expertise in nuclear and radiochemistry is essential to ensuring that safe nuclear energy can remain part of the robust group of alternative energy sources for the United States.
The development of nuclear power is not a frontier fundamental research area of nuclear and radiochemistry, with the exception of chemical separations and some radiation chemistry topics, none of which appeared of general interest. However, the “back end” of the nuclear fuel cycle has many fundamental challenges. Box 5-1 represents the heart of the DOE Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) “Materials Science of Actinides,” one of 46 EFRCs initiated in 2010 after intense competition, thorough peer review, and evaluation by DOE management. It describes beautiful molecular clusters that are truly novel and that may be relevant to colloidal transport of radionuclides in repositories. The work shows how radiochemistry overlaps with colloid chemistry and nanochemistry. Other basic-research radio/nuclear chemistry areas related to nuclear power (novel chemical separations for closed fuel cycles, nuclear fission cross-sections, etc.) are far less comprehensible to non-specialists.
An exciting milestone toward utilizing nuclear energy occurred on December 20, 1951, when Argonne National Laboratory’s reactor EBR-1 produced the first few kilowatts of nuclear electric power (Figure 5-3). In 1953, 8 years after the end of World War II, President Eisenhower spoke to the United Nations about peaceful uses of atomic energy. Five years later he opened the first atomic power station at Shippingport, Pennsylvania. In 1969, the first large-scale commercial nuclear power plant began operations in New Jersey.
The Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in New Jersey was the first large-scale commercial nuclear power plant in the United States. It remains in commission as the oldest operating nuclear plant in the United States, having run since December 1969; its operator, Exelon Nuclear, plans to