Friday, 5 March 93 Washington, DC
1. CLINTON ECONOMIC PLAN KILLS THE INTEGRAL FAST REACTOR PROGRAM!
At a facility near Amarillo, Texas, the tons of Pu-239 recovered
from dismantled nuclear weapons continues to accumulate
Jan 93). The Administration has no plan for dealing with it; the
half-life is 24,000 years. The only safe means of disposal is to
consume it in a nuclear reactor. But conventional power reactors
make a mess of it; the spent fuel is laced with long-lived waste
products, including unburned plutonium isotopes. Fortunately, a
technology to deal with the problem is at hand. The Integral Fast
Reactor (IFR), identified as the nation's highest priority option
for reactor development by a recent National Academy of Sciences
study, recycles and burns its own actinides safely and without
long-lived waste. It is only three years away from demonstration.
The Clinton plan eliminates the program, reflecting "a change in
priorities away from nuclear power." But what about the Pu-239?
2. INDUSTRY GROUP IS SURVEYED CONCERNING THE MISSION OF THE NSF.
The Industrial Research Institute is an association of 260 major
industrial companies which account for 80% of the industrial R&D
in the US. Why not ask them what NSF should be doing? That is
just what IRI did. What did they learn? Industry does little
basic research, but depends instead on academic research for new
knowledge, as well as for trained scientists. What they want is
what NSF does now. Sound familiar? It should, every panel that
has examined the question, arrived at the same conclusion: PCAST
(WN 25 Dec 92); Commission on the Future of NSF (WN 20 Nov 92);
Carnegie Commission on Science Technology and Government; and the
Government-University-Industry Roundtable's Working Group on the
Academic Research Enterprise. Representatives of all these groups
testified before the House Science Subcommittee on Wednesday. All
agreed that technology transfer to industry is not a problem; it
occurs through the graduates that take positions in industry.
3. RIFT BETWEEN GOLDIN AND NASA OLD GUARD GOES ON PUBLIC DISPLAY.
Officials of NASA's space station program went before the House
Space Subcommittee on Tuesday to explain huge cost overruns, only
to learn that Ralph Hall (D-TX), chair of the subcommittee, had
just received a letter from their boss questioning the validity
of the estimates they were about to present. In his letter, NASA
Administrator Daniel Goldin said he had ordered an independent
audit. Goldin, who is referred to as "Captain Crazy" by some of
the old guard, has been frustrated by the reluctance of senior
officials to carry out his policies. The hearing did not go well.
One Hill staffer remarked that it was the first time the Space
Subcommittee had been critical of the station program. NASA is
thought to be considering two alternatives to Freedom: a human-
tended microgravity facility and a joint program with Russia on
an upgraded Mir. Meanwhile, influential Senator John Warner
(R-Va), who had previously supported the program, is now the
cosponsor of a bill (S. 462) to terminate the troubled station.