Much concern has arisen over contamination of the Pacific Ocean with radioactive material from Fukashima, Japan. One recent article reports that effects on Pacific Northwest fisheries from the earthquake-triggered nuclear catastrophe in March 2011 will be negligible; howbeit, the author of that article mentions those fisheries are a large and lucrative industry as a reason to believe government and news reports that no risk is posed by eating fish caught in the Pacific Northwest.
The author appears optimistic in deducing that unbiased investigative reporting is probable, let alone possible, while the viability of those fisheries can be threatened if studies showing that eating the fish poses a danger to consumers were released. In any case, the disaster at Fukashima is tragic and deserves in depth analysis to prevent any future repetitions of similar events.
In the latter half of the nineteen sixties, scientists and engineers at Oak Ridge National Labs began developing a nuclear reactor technology that could be utilized to propel a bomber aircraft with a payload of nuclear warheads for extended flights around the world. Unconscionably creepy, and thankfully, so far as the public record shows that initiative never literally took off, yet it was a successful program in one sense: a new, molten salt reactor (MSR), using thorium rather than uranium as fuel, was developed and it operated without incident from 1965-1969.
The design of the reactor, its relatively abundant and stable fuel source, and safety precautions make it drastically more viable for a civilian energy technology and rather impotent as a mechanism of war. These features are in juxtaposition to the fast-breeder water-cooled reactor (FBWCR), which the Department of Defense preferred to continue funding, thus it instead of the other was commercialized, leading to the proliferation of FBWCR nuclear reactors, atomic weaponry using materials derived therefrom, and nuclear disasters at Hanford, Chernobyl, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fukashima, among many less extensive incidents.
In his book Thorium: energy cheaper than coal Robert Hargraves (2012) gives a thorough explanation of the MSR technology and examines the economic climate which makes MSR not only a viable technology to replace the nations aging nuclear power infrastructure, he shows why we (the United States) must transition to even reserve a seat at table in the global energy market. Transatomic, is developing an MSR that is small enough to ship by rail, and it will be able to burn nuclear waste. TerraPower, the energy company chaired by Bill Gates, is also researching MSR technology.
As Portland sits downriver from Hanford nuclear site, we ought to have an awareness that nuclear technology can have serious ramifications, and we have a greener than average reputation to advance. Also, we cannot justify the uncritical approval or dismissal of new nuclear technologies upon the successes and failures of those they may replace. In any case, I hope readers will get informed about this topic and anticipate seeing this technology being in widespread use within a few decades.