UK Billionaire Richard Branson Urges Obama to Help Develop Fast Reactors

Along with the president of the American Nuclear Society, Virgin Records founder and serial entrepreneur Richard Branson is urging the Obama administration to fund research into integral fast reactors.

Richard Branson. Photo: David ShankboneIn documents obtained by the Guardian newspaper, Branson asked unsuccessfully for meetings with Barack Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu. He signed a letter promoting integral fast reactors as a source of abundant energy and a treatment method for plutonium and nuclear waste.

The letter was also signed by climate change campaigner and Goddard Institute chief James Hansen and ANS President Eric Lowen, the Guardian reported Friday. Lowen is also the chief engineer for GE-Hitachi's PRISM small modular IFR, which the company pitched to the UK government as a way to dispose of the country's unwanted stockpile of plutonium last year.   

Branson is not the only billionaire promoting fast neutron reactors as a way to address climate change and climbing worldwide energy demand. Bill Gates is also backing and promoting a so-called standing wave reactor under the company TerraPower. As envisioned, it would run for years by breeding and immediately burning plutonium from a chain reaction within a core of depleted uranium that's initially set off by a small amount of enriched uranium 235. As with other reactor concepts that breed fissionable isotopes, though, both Gates' and Branson's favored technologies face resistance in the US because of proliferation concerns regarding the plutonium and other elements they can create.

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