ICYMI: The Hill - Arguments against the Versatile Test Reactor undermine America's climate future

Oped from Breakthrough Institute’s Ted Nordhaus and Dr. Adam Stein highlight deliberate misrepresentation and doublespeak about the advanced nuclear project from Ed Lyman of anti-nuclear group Union of Concerned Scientists

Berkeley, Calif. Today, The Hill published a scathing Op-Ed from Ted Nordhaus, Breakthrough Institute’s founder and executive director, and Senior Nuclear Analyst Dr. Adam Stein, setting the record straight on the Versatile Test Reactor and the Natrium nuclear power plant following recent inaccurate and misleading claims from the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Ed Lyman about these projects

Click here to read the full Op-Ed
Dr. Stein is available for comment and interviews

This summer, for background, House and Senate appropriators zeroed out the Biden administration’s funding request for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) at Idaho National Laboratories, disabling America’s ability to lead the next generation of advanced nuclear technologies if this funding is not restored.

Nordhaus and Dr. Stein take aim at an earlier Op-Ed published in The Hill — written by Ed Lyman, a senior representative of a well-known anti-nuclear interest group — calling for the VTR to be canceled, who erroneously claims in an effort to sabotage the foundation of America’s future in advanced nuclear technologies, “...the VTR will probably be obsolete before it ever generates a neutron.” The author argues, “instead, the government should convert the proposed Natrium Reactor, which is slated for development with federal support in Wyoming later this decade, ‘to serve as both a test and a demonstration reactor.’”

This is wrong on all accounts and a deliberate misrepresentation intended to create uncertainty about one of the most important nuclear energy projects for the future of the industry.

Nordhaus and Dr. Stein counter, writing how Lyman doesn’t believe a combined project is a plausible solution because he “explicitly argues elsewhere in a report published by the UCS that the Natrium reactor ‘has serious safety flaws’ and ‘would require much more mined uranium than current reactors to generate the same amount of electricity.’”

Once again, this is doublespeak from Lyman meant to cloud policymakers’ judgment about critical nuclear energy projects to regulate them out of existence.

While Lyman falsely asserts “the Natrium Reactor is… capable of having a runaway chain reaction like the one that caused the Chernobyl accident,” this is categorically false as “the basic physics of the reactor core would shut down the fission reaction long before such a chain of events could occur.”

In response to the false claim that the Natrium reactor is less fuel efficient, Nordhaus and Dr. Stein counter, “...the Natrium Reactor does not require more uranium than a conventional reactor per unit of energy it produces. It uses its fuel much more efficiently”

It’s important to note that failing to acknowledge advancements in nuclear energy technology doesn’t mean they have not happened and suggests an intensional misunderstanding of the opportunities nuclear energy has to revolutionize America’s power grid.

The piece concludes, “Like all low-carbon technology, advanced nuclear reactors, while promising, are not a panacea. But with wise investments and sensible regulation, a new era of affordable, safe and scalable advanced nuclear energy is possible. Both the VTR and the Natrium reactor are wise investments in a critical technology that we are likely going to need.”

Click here to read the full Op-Ed
Dr. Stein is available for comment and interviews