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Suggested Citation:"TO SUPPLY ENERGY: BREEDER REACTORS." National Research Council. 1980. Energy Choices in a Democratic Society: The Report of the Consumption, Location, and Occupational Patterns Resource Group, Synthesis Panel of the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, National Research Council.. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18632.
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Suggested Citation:"TO SUPPLY ENERGY: BREEDER REACTORS." National Research Council. 1980. Energy Choices in a Democratic Society: The Report of the Consumption, Location, and Occupational Patterns Resource Group, Synthesis Panel of the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, National Research Council.. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18632.
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Suggested Citation:"TO SUPPLY ENERGY: BREEDER REACTORS." National Research Council. 1980. Energy Choices in a Democratic Society: The Report of the Consumption, Location, and Occupational Patterns Resource Group, Synthesis Panel of the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, National Research Council.. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18632.
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Suggested Citation:"TO SUPPLY ENERGY: BREEDER REACTORS." National Research Council. 1980. Energy Choices in a Democratic Society: The Report of the Consumption, Location, and Occupational Patterns Resource Group, Synthesis Panel of the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, National Research Council.. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18632.
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Suggested Citation:"TO SUPPLY ENERGY: BREEDER REACTORS." National Research Council. 1980. Energy Choices in a Democratic Society: The Report of the Consumption, Location, and Occupational Patterns Resource Group, Synthesis Panel of the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, National Research Council.. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18632.
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Suggested Citation:"TO SUPPLY ENERGY: BREEDER REACTORS." National Research Council. 1980. Energy Choices in a Democratic Society: The Report of the Consumption, Location, and Occupational Patterns Resource Group, Synthesis Panel of the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, National Research Council.. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18632.
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Suggested Citation:"TO SUPPLY ENERGY: BREEDER REACTORS." National Research Council. 1980. Energy Choices in a Democratic Society: The Report of the Consumption, Location, and Occupational Patterns Resource Group, Synthesis Panel of the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, National Research Council.. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18632.
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Suggested Citation:"TO SUPPLY ENERGY: BREEDER REACTORS." National Research Council. 1980. Energy Choices in a Democratic Society: The Report of the Consumption, Location, and Occupational Patterns Resource Group, Synthesis Panel of the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, National Research Council.. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18632.
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Suggested Citation:"TO SUPPLY ENERGY: BREEDER REACTORS." National Research Council. 1980. Energy Choices in a Democratic Society: The Report of the Consumption, Location, and Occupational Patterns Resource Group, Synthesis Panel of the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, National Research Council.. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18632.
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Suggested Citation:"TO SUPPLY ENERGY: BREEDER REACTORS." National Research Council. 1980. Energy Choices in a Democratic Society: The Report of the Consumption, Location, and Occupational Patterns Resource Group, Synthesis Panel of the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, National Research Council.. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18632.
×
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Suggested Citation:"TO SUPPLY ENERGY: BREEDER REACTORS." National Research Council. 1980. Energy Choices in a Democratic Society: The Report of the Consumption, Location, and Occupational Patterns Resource Group, Synthesis Panel of the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, National Research Council.. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18632.
×
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Suggested Citation:"TO SUPPLY ENERGY: BREEDER REACTORS." National Research Council. 1980. Energy Choices in a Democratic Society: The Report of the Consumption, Location, and Occupational Patterns Resource Group, Synthesis Panel of the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, National Research Council.. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18632.
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Suggested Citation:"TO SUPPLY ENERGY: BREEDER REACTORS." National Research Council. 1980. Energy Choices in a Democratic Society: The Report of the Consumption, Location, and Occupational Patterns Resource Group, Synthesis Panel of the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, National Research Council.. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18632.
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Suggested Citation:"TO SUPPLY ENERGY: BREEDER REACTORS." National Research Council. 1980. Energy Choices in a Democratic Society: The Report of the Consumption, Location, and Occupational Patterns Resource Group, Synthesis Panel of the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, National Research Council.. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18632.
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Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

3 TO SUPPLY ENERGY: BREEDER REACTORS This chapter and the following one ring another set of changes on the central theme of this book: that decisions about energy cannot rest solely on economic considerations but must rather be made in the context of cultural values. In these chapters we focus on issues of energy supply. Our speculations about the future emphasize matters of technology, of institutional factors, and of the kind of society in which we might want to live. In setting this emphasis, we do not mean to ignore cost considerations. We recognize, though, that cost-estimation techniques are so deficient in many situations that it is simply not meaningful to suggest that decisions among many technologies can be realistically based on cost. Cost estimates for new technologies are inevitably opti- mistic, for new technologies in prototype are always expensive, and imaginative engineers can always see routes to dramatic cost reduction. Sometimes these occur, as happened with transistors. But sometimes costs do not drop. The French and British experience with the SST illustrates this, as does experience in all nations with costs of nuclear systems. Present estimates of the costs of delivering electricity from coal and nuclear systems are extraordinarily close. For our part, no cost numbers are credible—at least not within a range that would let us decide clearly and unambiguously between solar and nuclear systems. If societal costs could be included, it is possible that they might shift the balance. In any case, we believe that the decisions facing our society as we move from the fossil-fuel era to the era of renewable resources transcend cost considerations. Far more important are the impli- cations of our choice of an energy system for the availability of energy, social stability, individual freedom, and relations of the 23

24 United States with developing nations.3 It is to these issues rather than to cost which we urge the reader to address his or her attention. ENERGY SOURCES: THE ALTERNATIVES We must look to alternative sources of energy because we assume that global reserves of oil and natural gas are finite and that the end of the oil and gas era is close at hand. Precisely when oil and gas pro- duction will reach their peak on a global basis depends on exploration rates, the total global resource base, and the rate of growth in world demand (Figs. 1 and 2). Such analyses have been carried out by various groups, of which the early work of Hubbert (1974) and the recent analy- sis by the Workshop on Alternative Energy Strategies (1976) provide a good overview and examination of the potential consequences for the world. We assume that the transition from increasing to decreasing our reliance on oil and natural gas will take place in this century or early in the next. If the United States decides to lower its demand for energy, as in either the 72-quad or the 53-quad scenario described in this report, it will extend the time in which we must begin the transition to renew- able energy forms. This timing is of course affected by actions through- out the world, but if the United States were to lead the way by basing its economic system on energy resources that will be available over the long term, other nations might choose similarly, just as other nations have followed the United States's lead in developing nuclear power. The important symbolic nature of the United States's choice is not amenable to technical analysis. Major investments will be required by our society so that we can avoid substantial dislocations as we move to other energy forms. Coal and nonbreeder nuclear power are the prime candidates usually considered for bridging the gap. Unfortunately, both entail major environmental and capital difficulties. In spite of this, these technologies play significant roles in the views of many of the planners who are now advis- ing our political leadership. In the longer term there are few choices open. Coal could provide us with perhaps a century of respite but new technologies for reducing coal's environmental impacts will be needed if coal is to be our main energy source. Reliance on coal also presupposes that we find some way to abate coal's potential for modifying global climatic conditions by its emissions of carbon dioxide. Limitations on the supply of uranium place corresponding limits on its application for nonbreeder nuclear systems. Fusion-energy systems currently present formidable technological difficulties that may forever prevent their operating. Should such systems become a reality, their a For a guide to citizen participation in decision making see Nader and Abbotts (1977). For a discussion of science and the determination of safety, see Lowrance (1976). For a discussion of world energy strate- gies, see Lovins (1976b).

25 2,000 r- 1,500 Ill DC OC m o 1,000 CO 00 500 Undiscovered recoverable resources in 1973 (1,084 billion barrels) Proven reserves (623 billion barrels) Produced to 1973 (293 billion barrels) 1973-2000 Cumulative oil production at 7.5% growth rate 1973-2000 per year Cumulative oil 1973-2000 production at 5% Cumulative growth rate oil production per year at 2.5% growth rate per year Produced to 1973 Produced to 1973 Produced to 1973 Reserves and Production to 1973 Predicted Production of Oil at Alternative World Oil Growth Rates to 2000: Figure 1 Cumulative world oil production to 2000 (Moody and Geiger)

26 5.0 r- LU 4.0 oc LU 0. co LU 01 oc m LL O co CD 3.0 2.0 1.0 Actual Cumulative Production through 1974" 123 Billion Barrels 0 1920 Figure 2 Projected With Enhanced Recovery Alaskan North Slope Oil Remaining Recoverable after 1974 = 142 Billion Barrels +40 Billion Barrels with Enhanced Recovery 182 Billion Barrels, Total I I 12 10 1940 1960 1980 2000 2020 YEAR < O DC tr < u. O co O Projected production of domestic oil, including crude oil and natural-gas liquids (U.S. Energy Research and Development, 1975) environmental and social problems may well prove comparable with those of conventional nuclear-reactor systems. We have excluded discussion of both kinds of system. Breeder reactors are, according to many, the most promising long- term choice. Other long-term approaches are geothermal and solar energy. Of these, solar technologies appear closer to reality as sources of large amounts of energy. From among these numerous possibilities, we have chosen to examine solar-energy systems and breeder-reactor systems. We emphasize these energy-supply mixes because they illustrate fundamentally different directions in which our society might move. Both are for practical pur- poses unlimited in the amounts of energy that they can supply. Both appear capable of supplying energy over limitless periods of time. Both technologically and institutionally, however, they are at opposite extremes. In this chapter, we examine some of the social effects likely to follow a major commitment to nuclear breeder reactors. Chapter 4 focuses on ways in which alternative value systems might lead to an energy-supply system that is based on renewable resources and is capable, if necessary, of meeting high-energy requirements but uses predominantly solar-energy technologies.

27 THE NUCLEAR-BREEDER PATH Capital Intensity Breeder reactors have useful lives of about 30 years. Each spent hulk must be maintained and guarded. It appears likely that each new reac- tor requires an entirely new site, but there is no current research to lead to an informed conclusion. These costs of installation, of con- tinuing maintenance, of security and custodial care, and of fuel and waste processing make the breeder reactor even more capital intensive than other forms of nuclear-power production, which are extremely cap- ital intensive. In terms of national policy, perhaps the most important consequence of installing breeder reactors to provide more than a small fraction of our energy is that a commitment to a breeder-reactor system is an unbreak- able commitment. Once vast amounts of capital have been invested in breeder power plants, fuel-reprocessing plants, fuel-enrichment plants, and so on, a retreat from this energy system while the breeder fuel lasts will be difficult economically, no matter what the considerations of health, safety, environment, and social effects turn out to be. This point cannot be stressed enough: investing in a national breeder-reactor system is a major investment, and changing our minds will be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. The vast sums of capital necessary to build, keep building, maintain, care for, and guard such systems must be raised somehow. The inflation- ary effects of huge simultaneous bond issues, federally appropriated moneys, private loans, projected rising fuel costs, and proliferating custodial and police costs will give a major and perhaps unwelcome jolt to the economy. Capital-intensive systems are usually lightly manned. Therefore fewer people will probably be directly employed in energy-producing areas with nuclear power than with technologies, such as coal, that are more labor intensive. However, many more people will be employed in the security forces necessary to guard breeder-reactor systems. This pattern of few working and many policing can be expected to produce growing resentment in an economy in which there is serious unemployment in industries that consume large amounts of energy. A final effect of the need for massive capitalization is that many social-service programs may be eliminated or severely curtailed. If too much of the available money in the economy is preempted to construct nuclear power plants and related facilities, cutbacks of considerable magnitude can be expected in Social Security, Medicare, veterans' bene- fits, food programs, FHA loans and insurance, and so on. People who depend on these social buffers for survival will justifiably feel that they are being deprived so that others who are already wealthy may profit.

28 Centralization: The Bureaucracy Nuclear power is heavily regulated and controlled by the federal gov- ernment. The huge amounts of federal capital necessary for the estab- lishment of a large-scale nuclear-power system will increase federal involvement even more. Meeting the safety requirements of a nuclear system in addition will generate unprecedented federal regulations and control. That a federal regulatory agency will dominate a national breeder-reactor system is taken for granted by all planners. The size of such an agency would have to be immense. It is well known that, up to a certain point, the bigger a system is, the more economically it can produce a given unit of its product, be that product electricity or administrative supervision. Beyond a certain limit, for physical facilities as well as for human organizations, an increase in size actually makes a unit of the same product more expen- sive. The point of diminishing returns may not yet have been reached for reactors. Bigger reactors may yet produce electricity more cheaply. However, it is quite clear that the point of diminishing returns for bureaucratic structures has been passed. The federal government con- tains many agencies that spend so much time and money on internal com- munication, internal accounting, and internal administration that they find it increasingly expensive to attend to the external duties that are their reasons for existence. The nuclear regulatory agency that a national commitment to breeder- reactor power would require would unquestionably be large and unwieldly. It would also be expensive; this expense is a cost not often considered in discussions of nuclear power. Finally, the administrative mission of such an agency would be inherently contradictory. On the one hand, capital and safety considerations, as well as the need to reconcile regional differences about the assets and liabilities of nuclear power, would demand a single centralized agency. On the other hand, regional and local differences in power needs and costs, safety considerations, and other matters could only with great difficulty be handled by a single agency with a single set of policies. Attempts to manage such contra- dictions are likely to exacerbate internal communication problems, and, in time, to increase the agency's size. Another matter of considerable concern to students of politics is the possibility of an "internal OPEC," consisting of a consortium of private nuclear-power companies and their allies in a hopelessly ineffi- cient and/or co-opted regulatory agency. Given the long-established practice of recruiting the members of regulatory commissions from, and returning them to, top-level jobs in the industries they are designated to regulate, this concern is genuine. Such an alliance would be able to raise energy prices almost at will and perhaps even to deny energy to political or commercial opponents. Faced by the present giant bureaucracy, many individuals already believe that they have practically no influence on energy prices or policy. A new and surpassingly large agency, particularly one with as

29 much authority to regulate as would be possessed by a national energy commission, could lead citizens to believe the agency was in collusion with the power companies. The very real complaint of citizens' lack of local authority, or even influence, in decisions that affect their lives would proceed through suspicions of citizens' being exploited, to a final conviction that the people in charge of a national nuclear-power establishment are personally corrupt. Public acceptance of such a large governmental structure could no doubt be enforced, but it is highly ques- tionable that acceptance would be more than a cynical acknowledgment that there is nothing to be done about it. Centralization: Technological Vulnerability and Site Proliferation A system of nuclear breeder reactors would probably be constructed by clustering the units to take advantage of economies of scale and to facilitate security. Breeder power would thus involve large plants serving larger areas than those now accommodated by our national power grid. To construct a nuclear system otherwise would aggravate the already staggering construction costs. (See Lovins, 1976a, for deeper consideration of these issues.) Such centralization of power supply, or even the interlocking of small supply units, increases the vulnerability of large areas to a failure anywhere in the system, as the Northeastern blackouts demon- strated. The Northeastern blackout of 1965 was resolved within a matter of hours; the blackout of 1977 was more prolonged. But the usual sort of reactor accident requires closing the plant for an extended period, perhaps permanently. Because of the large size of nuclear grids, even more people would be affected than were concerned in the Northeast. Such an accident could also occur during the winter. Technological vul- nerability may seem too high a price to pay for breeder reactors when we realize that a reactor accident might deprive us of electric power at the very moment when several million people would need to be evacuated from the area in which the accident had taken place. The 30-year life of a breeder necessitates the continuing construc- tion of new reactors and the care and guarding of the spent hulks. A natural reluctance to build new reactors in as-yet-uncontaminated areas might lead to new plants' being built at some minimum safe distance from recently abandoned ones. A number of constantly enlarging "nuclear bad- lands" would thus be created, expanding perhaps dangerously close to the major population centers that the centralized generating facilities are designed to serve. Legal Effects of Safety Considerations Much recent discussion has centered on the effect of nuclear safety con- siderations on the civil rights and civil liberties of individuals. The dangers of theft from, or sabotage of, a plutonium facility are so great

30 that drastic invasions of individual freedom will be required, according to an extensive review by Ayres (1975), who sees the issue as stretching from incursions into the civil liberties of a few thousand reactor em- ployees, who are subject to wiretap, covert surveillance, lie detector tests, and so on as a condition of holding their jobs, to the warrant- less search, imprisonment, and perhaps brutal interrogation of virtually unlimited numbers of people living in the vicinity of a plutonium theft or of a threat of sabotage. Ayres is somewhat conservative. He does not consider, for instance, the security measures that would be necessary along roads carrying trucks transporting plutonium. Nor does he give much attention to the likelihood of greatly expanded powers for private police forces employed by the privately owned reactor companies, who would enjoy a status for which the legal avenues of responsibility are rather unclear, given the joint federal and private character of their work. One is chilled by the specter of a double line of armed men stand- ing shoulder to shoulder along both sides of a highway for several hundred miles, protecting a truck carrying plutonium-bearing fuel rods. And yet, given the fact that plutonium need not be made into a bomb to accomplish mass destruction but can simply be dispersed into the atmos- phere by a single high-explosive charge, such as a mortar shell, without the attacker's ever touching the object of his assault, such an imagined scene is not unrealistic. Safety considerations, so vital in dealing with breeder-produced plutonium, would undoubtedly have the following consequences: (1) re- strictive laws dealing with all aspects of behavior in the vicinity of facilities that produce, store, process, and transport plutonium; (2) a large increase in the number of police throughout the country, or alter- natively, a vastly increased civilian role for the army; (3) police use of plutonium safety considerations to justify extraordinary investiga- tive, arrest, and regulatory measures for suspected nonnuclear crimes and disapproved behavior; and (4) some increase in central, federal direction of local law enforcement, although not necessarily with an equal increase in federal accountability by local levels of those authorities. Future Generations Both the assets and the liabilities of a breeder-reactor system will fall more heavily on future generations than on anyone living today (Speth, Tamplin, and Cochran, 1974). Others have discussed in great detail the dangers to our children's health and to the natural environ- ment that would follow a decision to build breeder reactors. But something deserves to be said about the social environment that chil- dren in a society relying on nuclear fuel will inherit. A society using a large-scale breeder system as its primary energy source will be more centralized, more regimented, and more elitist than the American society of today. Trends in this direction have been noticeable for a long time in American life and show no sign of abating. They may in fact be inev- itable to some extent. Nevertheless, the degree to which these trends

31 will be accelerated by a plutonium economy seems to be nearly without precedent. The difference in degree may be such that it will rapidly result in a difference in kind. It is not impossible that America will find her children growing up in a society so stratified and regimented that it more nearly resembles fifteenth-century Peru or nineteenth- century Prussia than the twentieth-century United States. International Effects A decision by the United States to eschew nuclear power would probably not stimulate similar decisions by other nations; nor would it slow the proliferation of nuclear bombs. However, a strong commitment by the United States to rely on nuclear power could accelerate the accumula- tion of, and experimentation with, fissionable material by other nations, particularly those of the Third World. No advantage at all is to be gained in maintaining one's country as a nuclear-free zone when unlim- ited amounts of fissionable material are being produced on the same planet. Only when the total amount of fissionable material everywhere is relatively limited can a country persuade itself that, at least for the moment, it is safer to avoid the whole issue of nuclear fission. Energy and Social Structure Anthropologists have observed that those who control scarce but neces- sary resources control the society that depends on those resources. Nonfood energy has been a necessity in our society since the industrial revolution. The centralized and capital-intensive nature of breeder- reactor technology implies that the relatively few people who will con- trol energy production will in roughly equal measure come to dominate the political scene. Current aspirations to grass-roots control will be frustrated, and access to real political power will be limited to a very few. An analogy from recent United States history underscores the point. From around the turn of the nineteenth century and until somewhat later, railroads completely dominated large-scale transportation in this coun- try. The owners of railroad companies also dominated political life to an extraordinary degree. At the grass-roots level there was a distrust and outright hatred of the railroad companies and their owners, which brought our country closer perhaps than we have ever been to class war- fare. Nevertheless, building railroads had to be done through capital- intensive means and under highly centralized control. No alternative measures could have succeeded, for the railroads were expensive for their time. The power of the railroads was in time diminished, not only by federal regulation, but also by the rise of a viable alternative in motor vehicles and public roads. Private trucks and cars broke the monopoly of a small segment of the population on the scarce resource of long-distance transportation. No one any longer hates the railroads as Frank Norris (1901) did, nor does anyone hate the several dozen

32 medium-sized trucking companies that distribute a large share of our national freight. The parallel with breeder reactors and other energy technologies is limited, however, for we shall not be able to build anything comparable with the system of public roads if our new railroads create the sorts of social problems that the old ones did. The capital that a breeder system will siphon away from other areas will reduce our monetary resources to such an extent that we shall not be able to afford alternatives. Aware of the system's terrible vulnerability, people might come to hate the breeders and their managers so much that they would be willing to suffer any cost to remove them. Who Will Watch the Watchers? The question of centralization—of hardware, of bureaucracy, of political and economic power—may ultimately be the most important energy policy issue. The commitment to a national breeder-reactor energy system would entail not only the exercise of greater and more centralized power by the government, but also the assumption of a much greater share of that power by the scientists, technicians, and administrators who would man the system. This prospect may be particularly attractive to the scientists who, in a country that has traditionally given its intellectuals influ- ence and prestige but not power, suddenly find themselves confronted with the giddy possibility of attaining a sizable amount of real power. It would be only human for them to assume that the social consequences of choosing a breeder system would be as beneficial as, or at least would enhance, the technical consequences. They would, of course, reach such a conclusion convinced of the purity of their own motives and of the opportunities for improving the common good that would thus be offered to people of their talents and good will in positions of real power. It would be foolish in the extreme to assume that nuclear scientists are power-hungry monsters. It would be equally foolish to assume that they are able to make a dispassionate assessment of a situation in which they stand to gain or lose a great deal. The sociopolitical consequences of a commitment to a breeder-reactor system are an area in which the advice of the experts must be accepted with more than one grain of salt (Holdren, 1976). An informed political judgment in this area can come only from the advice of the broadest possible cross section of the pop- ulation, and that advice can be meaningful only if it is based on a full appreciation of the likely sociopolitical impacts of the breeder reactor. BREEDER REACTORS AND SOLAR-ENERGY SYSTEMS: SOME CONTRASTS Breeder reactors appear particularly well suited to the production of electricity. Under certain circumstances they could provide industrial process heat, but the large size of proposed breeder systems makes it unlikely that there will be more than a limited number of nonelectric applications.

33 Solar-energy systems are extremely well suited for providing process heat, particularly for industrial processes requiring low temperatures. The solar-energy systems that we consider are best suited to provide cli- mate conditioning, low-temperature process heat, and hot water. Elec- trical energy produced from solar sources will, without major advances, remain considerably more expensive than energy produced by using other applications of solar energy. According to the CONAES Solar Resource Group (National Research Council, 1979a) and the Demand and Conservation Panel (National Research Council, 1979b), solar systems for domestic and industrial heating could, before the end of the century, become economically competitive (within the context of the quadrupled-energy-price assumptions of the Demand and Conservation Panel). The cost of breeder-produced electricity is also expected to become competitive with those of other electricity sources, according to the estimates of the CONAES Supply and Delivery Panel (National Research Council, 1979c). The two systems differ markedly in terms of the institutional prob- lems associated with their implementation and operation. Solar systems make use of simple technology, widely distributed. The breeder tech- nologies are exceedingly complex and contain many elements (e.g., the reactor itself, the fuel-supply chain, fuel transport and reprocessing, and radioactive-waste storage), all of which must operate in unison if the overall system is to operate safely. The solar technologies can be installed and maintained by workers of modest skill. The breeder systems will require highly trained workers and an institutional structure capa- ble of operating flawlessly for generations. It is possible to imagine a steady-state society operating on long- term energy forms in which electrical energy is produced by breeder reac- tors while virtually all other forms of energy derive from solar systems. However, the institutional and technical aspects of breeder and of solar- energy systems are so different that it is not at all clear whether the two types of system could coexist. Whether institutional mechanisms that would permit this could be developed is a matter of conjecture. A variety of considerations could move the emphasis of the debate concerning the nation's energy system away from the economics of massive new technologies, such as coal gasification and nuclear power. A deci- sion to move toward renewable resources could be viewed as the nation's rational response to the end of the era of oil and gas. Such a national commitment might be viewed as comparable with the decision made in the Middle Ages to build cathedrals, the decision made by the United States in the 1960's to put a man on the moon, or the decisions to defend the nation in the First and Second World Wars. The pressures that will be imposed on the nation as a result of the depletion of oil and gas have few historic analogs. But if a national commitment develops, it can lead to major investments of national resources to accomplish objectives viewed by the nation at large as important national goals.

34 SUMMARY As we said earlier, those who control scarce but necessary resources control the society that depends on those resources. In the case of the breeder, control extends well into the future, and along with other vul- nerable technologies may generate hazardous conditions that are not easily reversible. To summarize: 1. Once set in motion, a national breeder-reactor system would be difficult to dismantle because of the great amount of capital invested in building and maintaining it. 2. Intergenerational injustices of an essentially irreversible decision should be a primary concern. 3. Large-scale bureaucratic centralization and proliferation would be an inevitable product of a national breeder system. 4. A centralization of political power, attendant on the central- ized capitalization and operation of facilities, custodial care, and guarding of spent hulks and fuel and waste systems may well result in massive political disaffection at the grass-roots level. 5. Technological centralization would also result, thereby increas- ing vulnerability to accident and sabotage. 6. Safety considerations would compel drastic reductions in civil rights, with a general increase in numbers and power of police. The total number of reactors will not affect this general pattern. 7. Breeder sites may be unavailable for renewal, and this feature could involve the need to guard thousands of acres of dead land. 8. The nature of this technology can have marked effects on govern- ment organization and civil rights. Political disaffection may combine with extreme centralization and elitism to produce a society unlike the America of today and repugnant to the political ideals of this country to date. 9. There is a possibility of an "internal OPEC" of nuclear energy producers that would wield unprecedented power. 10. There is an even stronger likelihood that people will believe that such an internal OPEC exists, even if it does not. 11. The capital for a breeder-reactor system may have to come from the social-service sector of the economy, which, many believe, is already undersupported. 12. More public debate is needed.

35 REFERENCES Ayres, R. 1975. Policing Plutonium: The Civil Liberties Fallout. Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 10(2):369-443. Holdren, J. 1976. The Nuclear Controversy and the Limitation of Decision Making by Experts. Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 32(3):20-22. Hubbert, M. 1974. U.S. Energy Resources: A Review as of 1972, Pt. 1. In A National Fuels and Energy Policy Study. U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Serial No. 93-40 (92-75). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. Lovins, A. 1976a. Scale, Centralization and Electrification in Energy Systems. In Future Strategies for Energy Development: A Question of Scale. Oak Ridge, Tenn.: Oak Ridge Associated Universities. Lovins, A. 1976b. World Energy Strategies. Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger. Lowrance, W. W. 1976. Of Acceptable Risk. Los Altos, Calif.: William Kaufman. Moody, J. D., and R. E. Geiger. 1975. Petroleum Resources: How Much Oil and Where. Technology Review 77(5)(March/April):38-45. Nader, R., and J. Abbotts. 1977. The Menace of Atomic Energy. New York: W. W. Norton. National Research Council. 1979a. Domestic Potential of Solar and Other Renewable Energy Sources. Solar Resource Group, Supply and Delivery Panel, Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems. Supporting Paper 6. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences. National Research Council. 1979b. Alternative Energy Demand Futures to 2010. Demand and Conservation Panel, Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences. National Research Council. 1979c. U.S. Energy Supply Prospects to 2010. Supply and Delivery Panel, Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences. Norris, F. 1901. The Octopus: Story of California. Garden City, N.Y.: Sun Dial Press. Speth, J. G., A. R. Tamplin, and T. B. Cochran. 1974. Plutonium Recycle, the Fateful Step. Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 30(9):15-22.

36 U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration. 1975. A National Plan for Energy Research, Development, and Demonstration: Creating Energy Choices for the Future. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office (ERDA-48). Workshop on Alternative Energy Strategies. 1976. Energy Demand Studies: Major Consuming Countries. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

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