Dr. Jacques Bouchard lectured here at the University of California, Berkeley on Nuclear Power as a Solution to Climate Change. He was the senior scientific person in bringing France into its current preeminent position in atomic power production. He was introduced with short lectures by Dan Kammen, the Nobel Prize winner for his part in the IPCC report, and by the former United States Assistant Secretary of Defense Harold Palmer Smith Jr. The audience was only about thirty people most of whom looked like old atomic scientists. This was about as high a level of a conference of inside-people as you are going to see anywhere in the world—ever.
The lecture was an excellent PowerPoint presentation primarily focused on the current and future use of atomic reactors for electrical power production. Dr. Bouchard said that safety was obviously of great concern but even with the older reactors, with which the French now have had some 10,000 user years of experience, there have been no significant accidents. The newer reactors now being created consume their own waste products and eliminate even more risks and are much safer than the 100% accident free ones. The greatest problem with reactors from Bouchard’s point of view was the initial cost of manufacture and the ten year construction period before the low cost electricity can begin to be produced. He spoke reassuringly of the long term supply of uranium and other supply stock materials but even his own optimistic views extended only a hundred years into the future and possibly three hundred years with the mining of currently overly expensive materials. By then the future fusion processes will eliminate the need for mining. He mentioned the standard atomic energy in-joke of the last ten years, “Fusion is the energy source of the future and always will be.”
The questions from the audience were mostly technical about how to improve safety, until mine… Considering the long term possibility of war between reactor possessing states and the high value of reactors as targets for destruction, how serious are the problems with these reactors going to be? He gave quite a long answer and there was considerable interaction from the audience but I think it is fair to say that his answer was that the bomb falling on the reactor and its direct and indirect results would be more of a problem than contamination from the reactor itself.
After the lecture I spoke to Dr. Bouchard and Harold Smith individually for several minutes about the subject of intentional attack upon the reactors and then with both of them individually I got to my real question: After a major war what are the back-up plans for the restoration of civilization? Each of these prominent individuals seemed to be taken aback a bit by the audacity of the question, even though I asked it in a dispassionate and courteous way and in context of our ongoing conversation.
If there is anyone in the world who should be involved in post attack response or at least know the policy makers who have responsibility for these events these people should be the ones. But the gist of both of their comments was, if a major war happens between major atomic bomb possessing powers it’s game over for the whole world. Thus they may worry about the problem personally but neither of these fully informed people have been exposed to any workable Doomsday back-up plan, neither for modern civilization nor humanity itself.
This leads me to the unfortunate conclusion that the Earthark Project and its sibling the LifeHaven Project are the only hope for long term survival of humanity and most others species. As forlorn as those efforts might appear to be they must be given some real support.