Dr. Hannum retired after more than 40 years in nuclear power development, stretching from design and analysis of the Shippingport reactor to the Integral Fast Reactor.  He earned his BA in physics at Princeton and his MS and PhD in nuclear physics at Yale.  He has held key management positions with the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE),  in reactor physics , reactor safety, and as Deputy Manager of the Idaho Operations Office.  He served as Deputy Director General of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, Paris, France; Chairman of the TVA Nuclear Safety Review Boards, and Director of the West Valley (high level nuclear waste processing and D&D) Demonstration Project.  Dr. Hannum is a fellow of the American Nuclear Society, and has served as a consultant to the National Academy of Engineering on nuclear proliferation issues.


Various people have brought to my attention the National Academy's recently established Expert Panel on the Merits and Viability of Different Nuclear Fuel Cycles and Technology Options and the Waste Aspects of Advanced Nuclear Reactors. These are highly important topics, and deserving of an expert review. I have spent almost my entire career studying advanced nuclear fuel cycles and nuclear waste handling and disposal. There are several key points that I believe should be addressed by the panel:

1. The viability of different fuel cycles in the context of this study must include economic as well as technical viability.

2. It will be important to differentiate between technical and political considerations.

3. This topic can only be discussed in a world context, not a national context.

4. There is great uncertainty in the characterization of the risks of radiation.

5. Discussing the waste aspects of advanced nuclear reactors without addressing other nuclear wastes destined for disposal is meaningless.

I have attached a brief statement on the situation as I see it. I would appreciate your forwarding these comments and the attached paper to the Panel.

William H. Hannum, Ph.D., fellow of the American Nuclear Society

Click to read the statement

by William Hannum

Governor Perry:

As Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE), you will be taking on an awesome responsibility.  You will now be responsible both for the policy direction of this department, and for managing a number of functions of the department.

Having been involved in nuclear power development, and associated energy policy in the US and in several other countries, and having served in several management positions within DOE and its predecessor agencies, may I offer some comments and suggestions.

by William Hannum

With the change in administration, we can look forward to a different view on energy, and on the prospects for moving forward with nuclear power and with nuclear recycling.  The new administration will certainly be interested in a robust energy economy.  Natural gas should be plentiful (fracking and pipelines).  Likewise oil,  a long as the Middle-east is relatively stable.  Wind and solar will be less aggressively subsidized, and I suspect conventional nuclear will be acceptable.  Anti-nukes will do their thing, but governmental bottlenecks should be fewer.  So, for conventional nuclear power, opportunity, but not a tremendous government push.

by William Hannum, 22 March 2011

On 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake hit Japan.  The six reactors at Fukushima-Dai-ichi suffered ground accelerations somewhat in excess of design specification.  It appears that all of the critical plant equipment survived the earthquake without serious damage, and safety systems performed as designed.  The following tsunami, however, carried the fuel tanks for the emergency diesels out to sea, and compromised the battery backup systems.  All off-site power was lost, and power sufficient operate the pumps that provide cooling of the reactors and the used-fuel pools remained unavailable for over a week.  Heroic efforts by the TEPCo operators limited the radiological release.  A massive recovery operation will begin as soon as they succeed in restoring the shutdown cooling systems.

by William H. Hannum

Abstract and Summary

The purpose of this essay is to compare the safeguards challenges presented by two nuclear recycle approaches, relative to the current U. S. approach of a once-through fuel cycle.  If these nuclear fuel cycles are evaluated solely on the basis of the safeguards needed, one finds the following:

PUREX recycle offers no safeguarding advantage over the once-through fuel cycle.  Beyond that, this approach presents a significant concern over handling of separated plutonium in the power plant environment.  Since chemically pure Pu is inherent in the PUREX process, safeguards inspections must be highly intrusive.

by William Hannum

Dear Congressman Garamendi,

Some weeks ago, Chuck Till distributed a definitive technical analysis that included a discussion of why the IFR presented a very limited safeguards challenge.  This was in part in response to your request at the "Summit in the Sand."  For those who may not wish to go through his analysis, I thought a much more qualitative representation of the issue might be useful.  Attached is a rather simplistic essay I have prepared, on Safeguarding the Nuclear Fuel Cycle.  The abstract and Summary reads as follows:

Canadian Nuclear Society
29th Annual Conference
2 June 2008

by William Hannum


Sensible recycling of used nuclear fuel will allow nuclear power to satisfy the early dream of environmentally responsible, essentially unlimited energy at a reasonable cost. This will require a multiple-pass nuclear fuel cycle.  Technologies for recycling used nuclear fuel are available that will resolve the most challenging nuclear waste issues and will significantly simplify the task of controlling the potential for weapons proliferation.   A major effort is needed to build prototype facilities for processing used fuel from today’s nuclear power plants, to recover material for use in fast reactors.  As these technologies are being developed and implemented, many additional nuclear power plants based on today's single-pass nuclear fuel cycle will be needed to meet near term demands for energy.

by William Hannum

Preaching to the Choir


This paper presents no new science; the science behind what I have to say is all available.  This is not a paid promotion of any specific product or design, but an appeal for all of us in the nuclear community to recognize that we need to get on with the practical matter of addressing immediate needs, and put aside the thrill of searching for something that is different, and perhaps a little more sexy.  Members of the Choir: We need to be singing from the same song book.

The context of my remarks is that we need additional electrical capacity in this country and around the world, to support a healthy, growing economy. The energy needs of the U.S., or of the wider world, will not be met without nuclear power, and lots of it, and we need it now.  That means we need to get on with building standardized light-water cooled reactors (LWRs).

If we are going to have lots of LWRs, we need to have a plan for the used fuel.

That, in turn, means a Yucca Mountain type repository - or - recycle.

The Science Council for Global Initiatives is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. All contributions are tax-deductible.
© 2022 The Science Council for Global Initiatives | We do not use cookies.