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Will. Was the. Transcribed program produced by Purdue University under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. In cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. The day's program written and produced by Bob McMahon bears the title the economic atom. We was I. Was. I was. To find a way by which they invented this shall be consecrated to his life. The next voice you hear. Well be that of Dwight D Eisenhower.
You mean. You. Were good. For. Every discovery we have many. Even the. Fire. To warm our body. To cook our food. Has also been used as one of the devastating weapons of war to bring destruction. When. Everything discovered. Or good. Depending on. The purpose of. President Eisenhower spoke these words on the occasion of the dedication of a little three cent stamp a stamp that showed the two hemispheres bound together as a nucleus is bound to the center of an atom. Then you cannot be torn from the center of the atom without the atoms destroying itself. And so it is with the two hemispheres of our world. The inscription the stamp there's Atoms for Peace.
Today in many parts of Europe Asia Africa and the Western Hemisphere the lack of power is holding back economic and social developments as one highly placed observer recently said of Europe next to peace electric power is the primary interest of many governments unless something is done about it the lights will grow dim over much of Europe. That was Gordon Dean former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. What he said of the peoples of Europe is true today. But in 40 to 50 years time perhaps even less the lights here at home will also begin to grow dim unless something is done today to find new sources of power to produce electricity. So John cock cropped up but speaks at the Geneva conference for atomic power. Our economists and statisticians have looked ahead. To the U.S. nine thousand nine hundred seventy five and 2000. And on the basis of past experience of the rate of increase of energy
requirements they have predicted the bio energy requirements will increase at least one of the hop times. By 1975. And three times by the thousand. So by the end of the century the well is likely to require. The energy equivalent of seven. Or eight. Really odd. Tons of peril as compared with our present usage of 1.7 million tonnes a year by Million and I mean the billion ten to the nine. Almost half of this energy will be required for generating electricity hydro electricity should by then be fully developed. But even so. It will only do the work of one million tons of coal. It will certainly be a
great help to the human race. If by the 2000 nuclear energy they can generate the remainder of the electricity and send it to the work of two to three million tonnes of CO a year. The first atomic power plants are beginning to go up all over the world and 10 to 15 years time they will no longer be a novelty. Already there have been instances here in our own country where for short periods atomic power was used to generate electricity to light home on July 17th 1955. I had a whole community of twelve hundred inhabitants became the first community in the nation to receive its and tire supply of power from a nuclear source. The experiment was carried on for only one hour but it proved to a number of skeptical people that it could be done and that electricity from an atomic reactor really was not different from electricity generated by any other source whether it be
water or coal or natural gas. It is just as safe and efficient. But would it be as inexpensive as ordinary electric power. Would it drive power prices up or down. Can it compete today or tomorrow for that matter with the present cost of electricity. But before we can discuss individual cost we must consider capital outlay with respect to atomic power. How much money is being spent by government and industry to find out how to produce it. Although the government's atomic energy program is only in its second decade of development it has already become one of the nation's most important businesses. It consists of a vast network of factories laboratories and other facilities operated by universities research groups and industrial for the atomic industrial Forum a group whose purpose is to better inform the public on atomic power developments conducted a survey some months ago on the growth prospects in the nuclear power field. Mr. Charles Robins executive manager of the
atomic industrial forum described the results of the study in a talk given before the conference for management of the Cleveland Engineering Society in December. Here in part is what he had to say. Its conclusions were that industry and government will spend between four and a half billion and 10 billion dollars in the decade one thousand fifty five thousand nine hundred sixty five for nuclear reactor plants and related research and development. It broke down the more optimistic figure of 10 billion and a seven and a half million dollars for a reactor plant construction and two and a half billion for research and development. This study anticipates an increasing expenditure to a point where by 1965 the annual rate may be on the order of two billion dollars a year. This is money being spent on atomic energy for constructive purposes and is equal to what is being spent today on the government's total atomic energy program which as you know continues to be primarily directed at weapons
development. The forum's growth survey estimates that the manufacture of components for reactor plants may be more than a 700 million dollar business by one thousand sixty three reactor vessels and internals may amount to one hundred twenty million dollars a year. Control apparatus 80 million heat exchangers 70 million pumps one hundred four million valves and fittings 40 million and fuel handling 16 million. We of the atomic industrial forum believe that these projections are conservative. Events since the survey was completed indicate that industry is becoming involved to a greater extent than we had visualized. This has of course very great economic implications. So first of all we see a great new industry in the making and industry which will provide employment for thousands of workers. We see that atomic development is not in the hands of a central authority alone that the government does not have and does not
want to have a monopoly on atomic power. That industry is eager to invest great amounts of capital and the atomic power business and we know if this is the case that the business must be south. But what will the cost be to you. So John Cook Croft at Geneva. The papers presented in the conference have shown that we must not expect the cost of nuclear power to be cheaper in the next decade than power from CO. The consensus of opinion is that capital costs will be appreciably not perhaps 50 to 100 percent. Then the capital. Cost of counting stations. That to fuel costs will probably be less than. That of CO. So on balance there will be little difference in the cost of power. With nuclear power perhaps slightly more expensive. Nevertheless the whole history
of engineering development shows how rapidly. Capital costs. In the early stages of important new developments. And there is good reason to believe that in the second decade the cost of nuclear power will fall below that from coal and oil. Today there are no assembly lines turning out atomic power reactors. There is no particular design or plan for a reactor that is better than any other. With some reactors we know before we build them how efficiently they will operate but with others we can't know for certain until they are built and put into operation. Each reactor which is built is different. Each must be assembled with extreme care. No standard model has as yet been devised. Even Sol in some parts of the world today. Electricity from atomic power can be manufactured as cheaply as from any other source. It depends. As Dr
James a lane of Oak Ridge Tennessee can tell us on where you live. The question as to whether the electric power obtained from atomic energy can compete successfully in cost with present costs depends very much. Or I should say almost wholly on the present cost of electricity in an individual countries. In general it can be said that electric costs are now highest in the very countries that are most in need of power and are lowest in the most industrialized countries and the industrial countries of Europe Present estimates indicate for that. For the most part atomic power will cost approximately what power from call it costs now. The published estimates show that there is a good chance that nuclear power will be in the range of 4 to 10 mails per kilowatt hour and almost any country. And if they up a figure of 10 mails on one cent per kilowatt hour at least can be realised within the next 10 to 20 years. The lower figure for males would be competitive with the cheapest coal power even in the United States.
At These cost of electricity that is four mills per kilowatt hour. Nuclear power will compete for an appreciable fraction of all new plants built in the United States by 1975. While the estimated cost of not wholly reliable due the lack of experience with actual plans the fact that the optimists outweighed the Passionist and most predictions indicate a very promising outlook for competitive nuclear power. This optimistic attitude is shared by everyone the world over each nation according to its abilities and its needs is going ahead with individual power programs. Pearson Dixon in the United Kingdom we have two types of experimental reactors in construction. A pressurized gas cooled type. And a more advanced freezer type when these are already produced on a substantial scale. From our experience with these 30 types. We built improved. And it should not be many years before some large atomic reactors are
feeding electricity into our grid system as a massive daily routine. With this interview. The British electorate still solitary has already set up a nuclear energy section this is the best example I can ask of our progress in the past and of my country's confidence in the future. One tremendous advantage of atomic power over power from any other source of fuel is that it can go anywhere that man can go and own up build or run a small sized reactor for at least a year can be carried in a container no larger than a suitcase. That's underdeveloped countries which lack transportation facilities for hauling great amounts of coal or other fossil fuel where it is needed can use power from the atom to more friends. I plummy power of the earth has to be easy ladies past summer and plans fear into regions which are lacking in other sauces. These sort of DC Nation doubtless would
spell immense social progress in making every last power sauces or peoples. One such underdeveloped country that can make full use of atomic power today is India. Here is Dr. Holly Bahama to tell us why this is so all our coal reserves are concentrated in a few region and the cost of gold is high and industrial sent as remote from the coal thieves. It is this that will make Adamic energy competitive with coal even today. Besides our transport system is already IS FUCKING the use of coal so the use of atomic fuels will divide the expense of expanding our elite facilities in order to deliver large new amounts of coal. Then after is logical for us to set up a few atomic power stations during the next 10 years in areas of India that are remote from coal fields and where there is an urgent demand for power that
cannot now be met. Economic evaluations by the Atomic Energy Commission and its contractors show that the probability of producing electricity from nuclear fuel at a cost competitive with electricity from coal oil or gas is good but the estimates generally indicate that if the goal of economic nuclear power can be obtained and there are increasing signs appearing that it can that the cost of electricity from nuclear fuel will be about the same as the cost of electricity from the more conventional fuel. And this will all happen within a decade or two. This does not mean however that such a low cost nuclear power will be obtained from the very first plants which are built. But it may well come from succeeding plants which as a result of the experience with the first will be constructed and operated on a much more economical basis. It is for this reason that the Atomic Energy Commission established its five year programme of nuclear reactor development out of more than 80 possible reactor
designs. The Atomic Energy Commission chose five designs which will be put in actual operation in the next five years. Total expenditure for the five year reactor building programme. Two hundred sixty seven million dollars. The reason why the Atomic Energy Commission is building five reactors is because it wants to know which of them can best be adapted to fulfill the requirements for which they are needed. But the cost of actual reactor design and construction is only part of the picture. Because of the very nature of atomic fuel itself and its consequent reactivity all conventional methods of equipment construction maintenance and operation must be changed. New materials are being developed at great cost materials that are not readily damaged by radiation or do not as readily absorb radiation lubricants that resist corrosion safety devices that are capable of action in thousandths of a second reactor shielding materials to protect both man and machinery from damage by radiation and methods of disposal of long
lived radioactive waste are being devised to handle the ever increasing amounts of radioactive materials that will result as time goes by. One of the greatest contributing factors to the high cost of reactor development has been the universal desire to make them completely safe to operate. This means safety not only for plant personnel but also for all surrounding areas in which the plant is located or its waste products are sent. So John Cochrane of Britain speaking at the Geneva conference on the peaceful uses of the atom spoke of the concern of nuclear scientists and engineers that atomic power be above all safely employed. The world over. He also told us of some of the practical steps that are being taken so that we might be sure no harm can come of its use in planning the development of nuclear energy during the next two decades. We have a great responsibility to see that it is developed
in such a right that it is an essential a safe industry and that it does not produce a substantial new hazard to the general population of the Rio. We have been fortunate so far in having been able from the beginning to lay what we believe to be a sound scientific basis for health protection by the devoted labors of biologists and health physicists. I do not think that any new industry has had the advantages of such preparation. The immediate effect of radiation on living organisms. Has been studied. By a very large number of experiments on animals. And as a result of this the International Commission on Radiological Protection has prepared a list of safe levels of radiation and of the amounts of
radioactive materials which can be safely ingested. These recommendations have been incorporated into the working practice of all around Atomic Energy organizations and should form the basis of well wide codes of practice to be promulgated perhaps by the Health Organization. We have a responsibility to the general public in our own countries in seeing to it that possible accidents to reactors cannot produce an appreciable hazard to surrounding populations. Here again codes of practice are being drawn up by experts who really know the hazards and the problems of Contro. The next step is to compare experiences as we've been doing in this conference to compare the ideas of different countries and to agree
perhaps on international codes of practice. Many people are fearful of the consequences of any widespread use of atomic power particularly when it is used in areas where there are large concentrations of population. Generally they are afraid for two reasons. One of their fears is groundless. An atomic reactor is not in any way similar to an atomic bomb and will under no circumstances behave like one. The second pair is due to the unknown quantity contained in the word radiation. It's a word that is a fairly recent addition to our collective vocabulary but is radiation itself so very unusual or so very rare. Or is it really quite common in varying degrees to our environment. Professor WB Minyard of the British Medical Research Council speaking at Geneva can give the answer there if I might make one or two remarks there. Briefly three main ways in which we are related by
so-called cosmic radiation radiation coming from time to space. Incidentally it's quite an interesting problem if we are going into outer space and we should become better acquainted presumably with these cosmic rays and they will last. But at under most conditions unless we are living at the tops of mountains or in very high don't you lose on the how relatively small. Question about radiation and most of our radiation comes from the materials immediately surrounding us and this is why they are so different in different places. If you happen to live in a region where there is much granite igneous rocks then the levels are much higher. Even inside houses it seems built of such materials. You may have some rise of a back up and then the other very interesting method of the radiation is the potassium in our own blood. Part of the potassium in our own blood like or other Potassium is a radioactive isotope testing 40
and this material is naturally occurring it's a fair concentration in our blood and it contributes quite a large fraction of the radiation to which we are being exposed. I do I'm not sure of the numbers but I think each of you gentlemen in this room are emitting something of the order of five hundred point up a second. You are probably not much the worse for a doctor. Also in this room as there is a large gathering of humanity the river level is that would be I think with sensitive instruments perhaps appreciably higher than if we were spread out. But the levels of course are all extremely small and normal. No balance was again after his address. Professor Minyard was asked more specifically what he thought the chances were for safe and profitable development of atomic power. He replied. I think the. Outlook is fairly satisfactory. I say fairly because our knowledge is such that
we could not use a stronger word. I would like to make one point clear. Perhaps I might say that it seems to me that this development of atomic energy is after all one of three greatest adventures of humanity and I think there must be you know adventures that must be a certain element of risk. We should make those risks are small as they can. But the real point we have to which to fix our opinion is surely be point at which the damage is very small. But we also have a responsibility to make the advantages of atomic energy available as quickly to as many people as possible. And this I think is the right background to have in relation to these protection problems. We can see from what these gentlemen have said that the word radiation is not as frightening as we have allowed it to become and that it is a question of the degree to which radiation or radioactive elements collect in one place that makes
that place untenable for man. One major conclusion we cannot fail to arrive at. From what we've heard from these men is that regardless of initial expense and reactor development never before in history has so much care been taken in the safe development of a new industry as is being performed today in the development of atomic power. This is one point we must always remember in connection with that story. The development of atomic reactors where the production of electric power involves any number of complex aspects. Many of these aspects of the nuclear power plant system will be discussed in greater detail on programs to come. But there is one general statement that can be made at the present time without going into specific details that is an initial cost of power plant reactors will be high. The nuclear energy industry is starting from scratch without any basis for determining costs except in comparison with
conventional plans in time with increased efficiency and know how they cause of intensive research and development that is being carried on today. It seems fairly certain that the cost of nuclear energy will drop to the level of conventional power methods and perhaps in time become even cheaper. So John Cochrane we have had described to us the past experimental atomic power stations and have they are working well. We have also had the rapid progress off construction of the fast scale nuclear power stations within two years. They would deliver very substantial amounts of electricity to industry. And we will begin to gain experience in that operation and economics. These alley stations will be followed closely. By successes of different and
generally improved designs. So that within five years as we are likely to have at least 10. Nuclear power stations. Generating up to 200 megawatts in a single unit operating in different parts of the world. These when I will be pioneering demonstration stations bent to test the technology. On which the pens. And to compare the relative advantages of the 10 or so members to promising types which have been selected from Dr Feinberg's 900 possible types we will compare. Them from the point of view of economics and also of reliability and safety in operation.
So most of the next decade will be occupied in laying a sound basis from which nuclear power. Can expand rapidly. To become in the end the major power of the show. In the long run we are sure that atomic energy will provide a more economical source of power wherever it is used. The time is coming very soon when the more conventional types of fuel which are in common use today such as coal oil and gas will not be in sufficient supply to furnish power for all our needs power from the atom will replace them. Next week at this same time we'll hear the dramatic story of how the world's first atomic reactor was made to operate. And we'll see how the successive construction of many more since that time has contributed to our present knowledge of reactor design and fabrication on atoms for power
Atoms for power
The economic atom
Producing Organization
Purdue University
WBAA (Radio station : West Lafayette, Ind.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features President Dwight D. Eisenhower; Gordon Dean, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission; Sir John Cockcroft, Great Britain; Charles Robbins, Atomic Industrial Forum; and Dr. James Lane, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Series Description
This 15-part series discusses the feasibility of atomic power as an alternate energy source to replace depleted fossil fuels.
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Advisor: Tandam, Donald J.
Guest: Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Guest: Cockcroft, John, Sir, 1897-1967
Guest: Dean, Gordon E., 1905-1958
Guest: Robbins, Charles
Narrator: Richter, Walt
Producer: McMahon, Bob
Producing Organization: Purdue University
Producing Organization: WBAA (Radio station : West Lafayette, Ind.)
Writer: McMahon, Bob
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 57-59-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:56
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Chicago: “Atoms for power; The economic atom,” 1957-03-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2022,
MLA: “Atoms for power; The economic atom.” 1957-03-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2022. <>.
APA: Atoms for power; The economic atom. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from