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Guest: Dr. Robert (Bob) Zubrin; Topics: Bob talked about his new book, "The Case For Nukes: How we can Beat Global Warming and Crate a Free, Open, and Magnificent Future," nuclear power and why, invention and progress, SSP, nuclear propulsion and much more.
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Please read the review of Bob's book written by Dr. Greg Autry in Forbes on March 26, 2023. You can find the review at www.forbes.com/sites/gregautry/2023/03/26/2023-space-reading-list-the-case-for-nuke/?sh=5cff09a511a4. In addition, I suggest you check out the Amazon reviews for the book, https://www.amazon.com/Case-Nukes-Global-Warming-Magnificent/dp/1736386069/ref=sr_1_2?crid=15LDMAHCE1SE3&keywords=Robert+Zubrin&qid=1682184591&sprefix=robert+zubrin%2Caps%2C144&sr=8-2. As we started the program with Bob, he stressed that nuclear power was progress and human history was a history of progress. Bob then talked history with us, something he did off and on during this interview. He mentioned bronze, iron, then aluminum, and of course uranium. He had much to say about each one and how we got to the other. He then said that uranium was fission but fusion was quite different and safer. He talked about the amount of energy from small amounts and what that energy equaled in terms of sources of energy today. His history included quite a bit about Enrique Fermi, the usefulness of cooling water, and much more. Bob, in his book and on the show, the issue of nuclear waste which he said was handled in new reactors though it was still a major objection by opponents of using nuclear power generation on Earth and elsewhere.
As in previous Space Show programs, I call your attention to the Tags because they do accurately reflect many of the topics discussed by Dr. Zubrin and in the order discussed. Thus, I will as usual, repeat the tags below. However, despite my relying on the tags for a major part of this summary, I want to call out some of what Bob said, often in response to a caller, because those segments seemed important to me.
Tags: Dr. Robert Zubrin, The Case For Nukes: How we can Beat Global Warming and Crate a Free, Open, and Magnificent Future, nuclear power and progress, bronze, iron, aluminum, uranium, granite, fission, fusion, inventions, nuclear energy, Enrico Fermi, nuclear waste concern, nuclear power for space, small modular nuclear reactors (SMR), made in factories, markets for the SMR, economies of scale, molten salt thorium reactors, NY Worlds Fair, Vietnam War, Generation 4 reactors, Kraft Ehricke, Nuclear Thermal propulsion compared to Nuclear Electric Propulsion, Mars Direct, Bob's solutions, low enriched uranium, highly enriched uranium, Public Private Partnerships, computers and microprocessors, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, U.S. nuclear power timeline, Third Wave movement, CO2 in the oceans, NetZero, space solar power, boutique power, Malthusian movement.
Key shoutouts to Bob started with his being asked about Small Modular Reactors (SMR) and their progress toward becoming operational. Much was said in support of the SMR, including the market for it, manufacturing in factories on an assembly line, getting a complete, operational SMR to am end use site rather than having to permit and build it the old fashioned way, economies of scale from the manufacturing process and more. Later in the program, a caller asked Bob for his preferred type of nuclear power. While his answer was on the complex side dealing with people's emotions, TRL levels, fusion, and more, he eventually said the SMR because it nearly operational, could be put to use quickly plus other fast development attributes. Bob's commentary about the SMR highlighted its advantages in a way that was different from earlier Space Show programs when a caller or guest might just mention it in passing. Listen carefully to all of what Bob had to say about the SMR throughout this program. We might just see it coming to fruition and putting power into our somewhat dysfunctional and improvement needed grid for electrical power.
I want to call out another topic introduced by email from Todd. Todd simply asked Dr. Zubrin for his opinion on what turned the country (the U.S.) to go dark as mentioned earlier in the show when Bob talked about the need to invent, advance, progress, and avoid enabling the negative culture of the opposite. Bob made it clear that the negative culture was very detrimental not just to the U.S. but to humanity around the world. Todd asked him for the turning point. Bob first talked about the dreams for a new world as put forth by the 1964 New York Worlds Fair. In fact, Bob spent much time on his being at the fair as a young kid. I also was at that event and thought exactly the same about our future as Bob did back then. However, soon after the Worlds Fair, progress started to be discredited and Bob focused on the Vietnam War as a major cause. I shared my own views with him and the listeners in that I too have thought the Vietnam war was the turning point going dark in culture, innovation, science, all of which has gotten much worse over the years. That to me Viet Nam seemed the starting point of going dark, to use the words of Todd in his email. Bob suggested the same but provided facts and examples. Don't miss this part of the program which was near the end of the show.
Another part of our discussion was the call from Ajay who repeated one of Bob's stories from the book regarding Enrique Fermi, his wife and going to the 1938 Nobel Prizes, then getting out and coming to the U.S. Ajay introduced Generation 4 reactors to us and asked Bob to provide more info that he got from Kraft Ehricke regarding NTP over NEP. Don't miss this Zubrin story. Following Ajay, Sally sent in a note wanting Bob's solutions to the problems he had been highlighting for us and asking if his book had solutions in it. Once again, a great question and a must listen to part of our discussion.
David from Austin called to ask Bob about low enriched uranium as compared to highly enriched uranium for power and more. This topic has been addressed on the show but don't miss what Bob said about low enriched uranium. Bob was then asked if the private companies could develop nuclear on their own. Bob said it would take a partnership with government and urged the use of Public Private Partnerships. A few calls later, Ft. Worth John called to ask Bob if he was still of the opinion SSP was not economically up to the job of providing base load power. Bob said he still had that opinion but went through the economics with us which was an important part of our discussion. After hearing what Bob said, post your thoughts on SSP on our blog in light of Bob's information and analysis. John also asked Bob if he thought AI was a threat to humanity. You will have to listen to what Bob said in order to get his response.
As we were nearing the end of the program, Tim from Huntsville called to comment on the Malthusian perspective and the grasp it has here in America and around the world on culture, education and such. Bob had much to say, including lots on our culture and the destructiveness of what Tim was talking about. This is the part of the discussion I mentioned near the front end of this summary.
Please post your comments/questions for Dr. Zubrin. You can reach Bob through me or the Mars Society website.