Richard L. Garwin
IBM Fellow Emeritus
Thomas J. Watson Research Center
P.O. Box 218
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598-0218
FAX: (914) 945-4419
INTERNET: RLG2 at us.ibm.com
June 16, 2006
(Via Email to dennis.spurgeon at nuclear.energy.gov)
(Via USPS Priority Mail)
Mr. Dennis R. Spurgeon
Assistant Secretary of Energy (Nuclear Energy)
U.S. Department of Energy Forrestal Building,
NE-1 1000 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20585
Dear Secretary Spurgeon,
First, congratulations on your appointment and confirmation as Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy. This is a big responsibility and an opportunity at a time when the potential contribution of nuclear energy is more widely recognized than it has been.
It is also a time of problems and controversy, and it is not easy to decide what is the right thing to do and how to get it done. I don't know whether you are familiar with my book with Georges Charpak, "Megawatts and Megatons," as listed below. In order to save you time and trouble, I am sending you a copy of the paperback version (University of Chicago Press, 2002). The book has been very substantially expanded and updated in its September 2005 publication, which would be useless to you unless you are fluent in French.
You may know that I testified April 6, 2006 to the Energy Subcommittee of the House Science Committee on the topic of GNEP. My prepared testimony is available on my website: www.fas.org/RLG/. I have been in frequent contact with the experts at Argonne National Laboratory and with Vic Reis before and after. Vic writes me that you are personally rethinking GNEP, which I think is a very good thing to do. I have reviewed the spent fuel reprocessing update of May 2006 on the DOE site and am really very concerned that this construes GNEP far more narrowly than it should be interpreted and that as it stands, GNEP may well inhibit the expansion of nuclear power rather than to facilitate it.
In brief, I strongly support an initiative by the United States to provide ("lease") LEU fuel for foreign nuclear reactors and to join in an international enterprise that would take back spent fuel for disposition, without committing either to reprocessing or to direct disposal in a mined geologic repository.
What is missing very much from GNEP, as I indicate in my testimony, is leadership in changing the rules so that competitive, commercial mined geologic repositories under IAEA regulation and supervision could be created in any number of countries, and thus ease the plight of the nuclear industry in the disposal of spent fuel. It could also ease U.S. dependence on Yucca Mountain. I have my own criticisms of the interpretations that are being made of GNEP by observers and proponents, but I don't want to put that into this brief letter.
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss with you my views on GNEP and nuclear energy in the United States and in the world.
Very best regards, and best wishes for your work as Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy.
Richard L. Garwin Encl:
- Book by R.L. Garwin and G. Charpak, "Megawatts and Megatons: The Future of Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons," The University of Chicago Press, January 2003.