ATOMIC ENERGY: The Nuclear Revolution

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Mining. Despite predictions that thorium will displace uranium as the primary fuel for nuclear power plants, the committee said that both will be needed. But the committee raised a warning flag against overexpansion in uranium mining and milling. "If military requirements fall off during the early part of the forecast growth of atomic power, a surplus over civilian needs may exist." The committee recommended that AEC ease off on uranium ore-buying, let uranium find its natural price in a free market.

Agriculture. The committee forecast a worldwide revolution that will boost farm productivity and lower costs. Radiation has been used to breed high-yield barleys, leaf-spot-resistant peanuts; radioisotope tracers have shown the way to more effective use of fertilizers.

Food Preservation. Radiation may prove itself a cheap and convenient method to kill bugs in stored grain. Army Quartermaster tests show that radiation will also cut spoilage in onions and potatoes, preserve bread, chicken, pork and some vegetables without refrigeration, extend the refrigerated shelf life of beef and lamb as much as ten times. In five to 20 years food radiation will be a sizable industry.

Medicine. Atomic diagnosis and treatment of cancer will so prolong life that the U.S. must dump its theory that a working life ends at 65.

Shipping. The committee saw little prospect for atomic dry-cargo freighters or passenger liners. Because of long layovers in ports, the savings in fuel would not offset the bigger cost. But huge oil tankers, which turn around fast, would find atomic power profitable. If the Maritime Administration is ready to subsidize atomic tankers as replacements for all the big, U.S.-owned tankers that will become obsolescent by 1965, the atomic-propulsion industry can expect $3 billion in orders from shipbuilders alone.

Again and again the committee came back to its biggest point: AEC should share its nuclear knowledge with private companies, even set up its own "alert, forward-looking" special staff to shift as much emphasis to the peaceful atom as has so far been placed on the bomb. Both for good business and good international relations, the committee proposed that the U.S. set up a definite timetable for the delivery of nuclear power plants, which backward nations need far more than the U.S. Said the committee: "Atomic power may be the most tangible symbol of America's will to peace through the peaceful atom."

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