Overdue Homework for DOE

The Department of Energy has some overdue homework, and the US Senate is asking about it.

To receive testimony on the Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration on atomic energy defense activities in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2023 and the Future Years Defense Program, from 57:04 to 62:27

Here’s a transcript from the exchange between Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. Last Wednesday, Sen. Tuberville recently submitted S.4242, the Thorium Energy Security Act, to the Senate for its review and consideration. The next day, on Thursday, May 19, he sat in a hearing with Sec. Granholm and asked her about our future energy plans and the status of the Alternative Fuels report, which was requested over a year ago by Congress. This report should contain information about the value of uranium-233 to our future energy needs.

It would only be logical for the DOE to consult with Flibe Energy about the value we see in uranium-233, since we’re the only company in the United States working on using it for energy. But as of the date of this writing, I can tell you that no such request for information has been made, or even hinted at. When one considers the magnitude of the energy challenges that presently face our country, indeed the world, it would seem to be a time when absolutely every option for future energy should be afforded the maximum opportunity for success. For thorium, that’s a pretty easy proposition: just stop destroying the uranium-233. Private industry can take care of the rest from there. But only Congress can tell the DOE to stop.

TUBERVILLE: Thank you Mr. Chairman, thanks for being here today. Secretary Granholm, approximately 20% of our grid is nuclear, correct?

GRANHOLM: Correct.

TUBERVILLE: How many of our nuclear plants will reach the end of their lifespan in the next 20 years?

GRANHOLM: That’s our concern, is that a good number of them whether they reach the end of their lifespan or, there may be communities that decide that they want to go in a different direction. We want to keep our nuclear fleet afloat, which is why we just issued a civilian nuclear credit to be able to do that, and we want to make sure that we’ve got additional nuclear opportunities.

TUBERVILLE: So basically the majority of them, next twenty years…are running their lifespan, thank you. Uh, next-generation energy…so we are going to try to double our energy capacity, keep it carbon neutral, and retire 20% of the cleanest energy sources on the grid? That’s what we’re going to try to do. That’s our plan.

GRANHOLM: I wouldn’t say that we’re going to try to retire 20% of the clean, uh, we want to be able to replace those, we want to be able to add additional advanced nuclear opportunities.

TUBERVILLE: Uh, you know, many Americans are fearful of nuclear power. They have the right to be. Most of us grew up in this era. Decisions made by the Atomic Energy Commission and Congress in the 60s and 1970s prioritized economics and building nuclear weapons over safety. Wasn’t very safe. Are you familiar with the thorium molten-salt breeder reactor that Oak Ridge successfully tested in the 60s?

GRANHOLM: I’m familiar that they did, yes.

TUBERVILLE: Yeah, thank you. Alvin Weinberg, who was the director of Oak Ridge and worked on the original Manhattan Project, called the thorium reactor “only a little less important than the discovery of fission.” That’s pretty important. It is one of the safest designs ever tested. In fact, a molten-salt breeder reactor based on a thorium cycle cannot melt down. It’s not like the reactors we use nowadays. And actually consumes…consumes nuclear waste. At its heart, this reactor contains uranium-233. We have the world’s largest supply of uranium-233, right in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, I think you’re familiar with this, but your department was tasked to irreversibly destroy our supply of U-233. Is that correct?

GRANHOLM: Yes, we are diluting and disposing of it.

TUBERVILLE: Downblending it, yeah, thank you very much. So, we’re spending fifty million a year to downblend and destroy this resource when in fact, in 2008, the Department of Energy issued reports cautioning that we should not destroy uranium-233. Have you read these reports? Are you familiar with them?

GRANHOLM: I’ve not read that one from 2008.

TUBERVILLE: In fact, in 2008, the report calls U-233 an irreplaceable natural resource. Congress has asked for answers on this, are you familiar with that? We’ve asked for answers. Okay. The appropriations bill in ’21 required the DOE to inform Congress about the potential of 233. Do you know when this report was due, Ms. Granholm?

GRANHOLM: When was it due?

TUBERVILLE: 2021. I do not know why but this report is still not finished. And to me, it’s a very important report. If we’re going to do away with gas and we’re going to try to cut back on our oil supply, we have got to find some way to generate more power in this country. Clean power. We’re all for that. My colleague, Senator Warren, and I do not see eye to eye on a lot of things, but we do agree on how egregious the mismanagement and disregard for civilian oversight is within our Department of Energy. We have got to pay attention to facts, and these are facts that our scientists (we all want to follow science) this is facts that scientists have come up with. We have a national treasure that could solve our nation’s clean energy problems and also have been proven invaluable in the fight against cancer and we’re destroying it. And it’s by our own admission, the Department of Energy says destroying U-233 is a terrible, terrible mistake, and we just seem to be overlooking that. Yesterday Senator Marshall and I introduced a bill to save U-233 called the “Thorium Energy Security Act” and I hope and pray that this body will halt the Department of Energy from downblending this to give us an option to making clean energy, for our kids’ future, our grandkids’ future, and all of us in the future. Because we see what’s happening as we speak with all the problems that we’re having with cutting off our energy supply, and oil supply, all at one time. We have to have a plan to make amends for that that we’re not using. Thank you very much, thank Mr. Chairman.

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