(Northern Rockies News Service) An experimental nuclear technology project slated for testing in Idaho is raising concerns about the potential for nuclear weapons proliferation.
The Bill Gates owned company TerraPower plans to test technology known as a molten chloride fast reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory.
Former U.S. State Department officials warn the project's use of bomb-grade uranium sets a bad precedent and could encourage other countries to do similar experiments.
Ava Traverso - energy program manager for the Snake River Alliance - said with the war in Ukraine increasing fears of nuclear weapons use, the project should be reconsidered.
"As a nation, especially with the state of the world right now," said Traverso, "we should be leaning away from creating a larger possible stream of nuclear weapons production."
A spokesperson for TerraPower says the highly enriched uranium would be dealt with securely and in a location that already handles this type of material.
Traverso said the experiment presents other issues.
While the U.S. Department of Energy did assess the potential environmental effects, she said the agency should go further and release an Environmental Impact Statement - focusing especially on waste created by the project.
"If they are going to do this project, they need to do it right and they need to do right by the people of Idaho," said Traverso, "and take an actual, proper environmental assessment and not just say there's no risk because there is."
The Energy Department has said it is committed to reviving and expanding domestic nuclear energy to help the U.S. reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
However, Traverso said the transition away from fossil fuels needs to happen sooner than nuclear can provide needed energy resources.
"Starting these experiments gives people hope that oh, nuclear will solve climate change," said Traverso, "but we need real renewables now. We don't have 25 or 30 years to wait."