November 19, 2012
After the most significant earthquake ever recorded in Japan and the ensuing tsunami, Japan is in the midst of a historic crisis. Our sympathies are with the people of Japan as they assess the damage and begin to recover their homes, businesses and critical infrastructure throughout the country. IV, which has an office in Tokyo, is concerned for all of our colleagues in Japan. We are staying in touch with our counterparts at Intellectual Ventures Japan and have been relieved to know that currently all of our team members are safe.
This is a serious situation, which we are watching closely. The Japanese government appears to be acting appropriately to protect the public’s health and safety.
Among the damaged facilities is the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Events in Japan are still unfolding, but we understand that a total loss of power at the plant shut down the cooling systems that protect its reactors.
Our work brings us into close collaboration with some of the foremost experts in the nuclear energy arena. We are working to advance future designs, so we’re not directly involved. We are, however, getting first-hand accounts about how the global nuclear industry is working together to resolve the situation.
Because of the natural disaster and fast-changing circumstances at the plants, we won’t speculate on problems encountered at the facilities. The organizations actively involved in the emergency response operation are better suited to address questions on this topic.
In response to inquiries concerning TerraPower’s technology, the traveling wave technology is unlike any design built today. Comparing our design with the reactors at the center of the crisis in Japan is like comparing a Ford Model T with a Volvo S80. It’s important to remember Japan’s troubled reactors were designed in the 1960s. However, even though the earthquake and tsunami exceeded their design basis, the reactors remain essentially intact.
Our design uses fast reactor technology, not the light water technology used at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The TerraPower design requires no spent fuel pools and uses cooling systems that require no power to function. These two features alone would avoid the major problems encountered with light water technology. The key innovation in our Traveling Wave Reactor is its ability to sustain a fission reaction in a new, contained way with a reactor vessel that is sealed for 40 years or longer.
Safety is our top priority and we remain committed to defining a simple fuel cycle that ensures our plants operate safely no matter the conditions. As economists predict greater pressure on energy prices as a result of this crisis, inventing solutions to the issues that challenge nuclear energy will be paramount to Japan’s – and the world’s – recovery.