Statement of Bertram Wolfe
MR. WOLFE: Thank you, Paul. It is a pleasure to be here. I'd like to give a perspective, as I see it, which might help this meeting. Some of my friends here would disagree. But, I would start out by making the point that we dropped the atom bomb in 1945, and the war ended shortly afterwards. I would then make the point that no nuclear work, except military work, was then done until 1954. In 1954, President Eisenhower gave a talk describing what bothered him. There were some twenty countries working to develop bomb technology and make bombs, or have the ability to make bombs. He concluded his talk by noting that maybe all countries will have bombs. To get around that, he came up with the peaceful nuclear energy program. The peaceful nuclear energy program was such that we agreed to provide peaceful nuclear technology to any country that agreed not to make bombs. The Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT, was developed and some hundred and seventy countries have signed the NPT. We really reduced the problem of nuclear weapons. But we have seen Pakistan and India with nuclear weapons, and we worry about Iran and Iraq. Nevertheless, I think that Eisenhower looking down would probably say, I helped you to reduce the nuclear weapon's problem.
Now, I'd make the point that, after 1954, when we started building nuclear plants in this country, there was a tremendous need for energy here. We were rapidly expanding energy in the late sixties and early seventies; we were doubling energy use every ten years. And, so, there were tremendous orders for both coal and nuclear plants. We were selling thirty to forty nuclear plants a year, and we expected to have over a thousand nuclear plants operating by the end of the century.
Now, what happened was that we had the Arab oil boycott of 1973. As a result of the boycott, energy prices went up. Energy growth went down. Instead of it doubling every ten years, the growth went down to below two percent a year, doubling every thirty-five years. So, since 1973, we've had a surplus of capacity in this country.
Let me make the point that, before 1973, the Sierra Club was in favor of nuclear power. And the Sierra Club was one of the main reasons why Diablo Canyon was built. But after 1973, there was no need for any additional plants in this country. And the Sierra Club and the environmental movement became anti-nuclear, anti-coal, anti-gas, anti-oil, anti-dams, anti-geothermal developments. The only thing that the Sierra Club, and the environmental movement, support are solar power and wind 1. power. And, Amery Lovins just talked to you about them. I wish, one day, he could sell me some solar and wind power at a few cents per kilowatt-hour.
The point I'm making is that, up until now (since 1973), there hasn't been a need for new power. But, suddenly, in my state of California, we're in terrible trouble. We're having blackouts. And, that's presumed to go to other parts of the country during the rest of the year as the summer comes and we need air conditioning.
So, for the first time since 1973, we need new power in this country, and I think that's a serious situation.
Now, I'd make the other point that after 1954, when we started nuclear in this country, we became the world leaders. After nineteen seventy-three, we stopped ordering and building new nuclear plants. But we built sixty new nuclear plants after 1973 that were ordered before 1973. Nuclear power now has twenty percent of the capacity in this country. It actually produces more electricity today than we used totally in 1954 when nuclear power just started.
I make the point that what is happening here, and what is happening in the world, is we've got a need for new power. The Third World is growing. It's estimated that, in the next half century, world population will increase to ten billion people---and, if they use a third of the energy per person that we use now in the US, then energy use worldwide will triple. And, I'll make the point that it's hard to see any way to produce that energy with oil and gas being depleted this century, and coal the next century. The only solution is a major worldwide expansion of nuclear power.
To answer Paul's question on nuclear power, I would make the point that we haven't really had reprocessing in this country. They do it in France. But, I would agree with Paul that it's not necessary when we have light water reactors.
On the other hand, we're apt to run out of uranium in the world in the next fifty years, as nuclear power grows. And, the only solution to that is the fast reactor. So, Paul, I would make the argument to you that the Nuclear Control Institute should be looking ahead and looking at the ways in which we could develop the necessary fast reactors in twenty to forty years, and do it in away that would not allow proliferation. There were already programs at Argonne National Laboratory and General Electric, working on the fast reactor, developing technologies such that plutonium does not get separated out of the reactor. It keeps recycling. So, there appear ways, and I believe that the Nuclear Control Institute should be examining them, to develop the necessary fast reactors in the next thirty to forty years, and stay away from proliferation.
So, that's my suggestion. Now, I think you can wait thirty years and not bother, Paul, just like California has waited until now until they decided that they needed more power. But clearly this could be a future devastating situation.