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KNOXVILLE — Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Jeffrey Binder might have the answer for those higher utility bills you’ve been paying recently–nuclear power.

Binder, senior R&D program manager of nuclear technology programs at ORNL, said there has been a recent “rebirth” of interest in nuclear power. He will share his views on benefits of nuclear energy this Friday, March 10, at the University of Tennessee Science Forum in a lecture entitled “The Renaissance of Nuclear Power in the United States.”

The lecture will take place at noon in Thompson-Boling Arena dining rooms C-D.

Binder said one of the chief contributors to a growing interest in nuclear power is a continued concern about greenhouse gases and their impact on the environment. He specifically notes that increased carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions seem to be driving global climate change, and that those changes could have economic impacts.

“Nuclear is non-CO2 emitting, so if there is a strategy to lessen CO2 from human activity, nuclear has to be a part of that equation,” he said.

More than environmental applications, Binder also sees nuclear power as an alternative to continually climbing oil and gas prices. He said the cost of natural gas, which produces roughly one-third of America’s electricity, has continually risen from $2 to $3 per million British thermal units all the way to $10 per million Btu. Additionally, Binder said transporting natural gas is non-economical, due to the need for direct pipelines or expensive liquefying processes.

“That-s a very expensive operation,” he said.

Binder noted that nuclear production is available now on a large scale, while other renewable resources are not yet as developed.

“To the average person I think the benefit is the secure energy supply, a benign impact on the environment and a reliable source which will allow–from a consumer and business point of view–you to have predictable energy prices that are not subject to the fluctuations that the oil and gas markets have currently,” he said.

Binder said if people’s concern shifts away from gas prices and environmental impacts, it could slow nuclear power’s growth

“If people decide that CO2 is not a problem then I think that-s going to take away a big driver for nuclear. But I don-t think that-s going to happen–we have to do something about it.”

The UT Science Forum is a weekly, non-technical lecture and discussion designed to help others better understand research across many disciplines. It is held every Friday at noon in Thompson-Boling Arena, dining rooms C and D. Attendees may bring their own lunch or purchase it at the arena. Each presentation should last around 40 minutes followed by a question and answer session.
Additional upcoming Science Forums follow:
– “Can a Robot Have a Mind?” Friday, March 17, Bruce MacLennan, associate professor of computer science.
– “Fusion Energy Research: Status and Outlook,” Friday, March 31, Stanley Milora, director, Fusion Energy Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
– “Who Says You Can’t Microwave a Fork?–Microwaving Metals at Y-12,” Friday, April 7, Ed Ripley, nuclear metallurgist, Y-12 National Security Complex.


Jay Mayfield, media relations (865-974-9409, jay.mayfield@tennessee.edu)

Jeffery Binder, senior R&D program manager of Nuclear Technology Programs at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (865-576-3879, binderjl@ornl.gov)

Mark Littmann, forum organizer, (865-974-8156, littmann@utk.edu)