Our country's dependence on others for energy sources is an urgent national security issue and this problem needs to be immediately and aggressively addressed! In fact, the U.S. needs to quickly develop both new transportation-based (for cars, trains, buses, planes, etc.) and fixed-based (for electricity used in homes, businesses and industry) energy sources to prevent US and global economic chaos.
The HT3R Facility will help place the US in a strong position to lead the world in these advanced nuclear technologies that operate at temperatures between 850 and 1000 Celsius. These high temperatures will allow electricity to be generated at up to 1.8 times the efficiencies of the world's current generating plants, plus fuel development of new industrial processes to economically create Hydrogen from water and synfuels from coal, refinery wastes, and other organic compounds.
The countries in the world that generate electricity using nuclear power formed a working group named GIF (Generation IV International Forum) in 2000 that was tasked to determine the 'ideal operational characteristics' of the world's 'next generation' nuclear reactors they called the 'Gen IV' (Generation IV). The DOE then examined the various technologies that meet the GIF requirements and determined that the reactor concept called the VHTR (Very High-Temperature Reactor) would be the best candidate for the U.S. to obtain these Gen IV characteristics and be operating as fully functioning nuclear power plants by 2030. In meeting this 2030 deadline, it was determined that a DOE Technology Demonstration plant, called the NGNP (Next Generation Nuclear Plant), should be constructed by 2021 at the Idaho National Laboratory. This Demonstration Plant is currently estimated to cost $2 billion and is planned to actually generate ~300 MWe (Megawatts electric) plus have enough 1000 C process heat to economically generate considerable amounts of hydrogen from water.
This high-temperature gas-cooled nuclear reactor is the only available technology that can address both problems by creating new electricity generating capability with a significant increase in efficiency (from 30 to 33% up to 50% and above), plus economically generate hydrogen from water and "synthetic" fuels (commonly called "synfuels") from coal and other hydrocarbons. However, other industrial nations, including Japan, China, South Korea, and South Africa, are rapidly moving ahead with these technologies. Without a new national vision and renewed research and education, the US will easily lose its ability to choose nuclear energy as a Twenty-First Century solution to its pending energy requirements.
Japan and China have recently started new high-temperature reactor research programs. Unfortunately, the last operating high-temperature gas-cooled reactor in the US was decommissioned in 1989 and only minor research has taken place on the subject within the DOE structure since then. However, the privately held defense contractor, General Atomics, has maintained a small competent staff developing new technologies for high-temperature gas-cooled reactors since 1989. In fact they are currently a recognized leader in the nuclear industry since they developed many of the technologies that are present in this proposed VHTTR and they are currently intimately involved in the preliminary design of the NGNP.