Portrait of Seth Hoedl

Seth Hoedl

Achieving a social license for fusion energy

Seth Hoedl

Post Road Foundation

Wednesday, February 2, 2022



PSFC Seminars

Abstract: Fusion has the potential to address humanity's energy needs. However, there is a risk that fusion will not play a substantial role in mitigating climate change or alleviating energy poverty due to a lack of social acceptance. This risk is not academic -- other promising technologies, such as fission reactors, spent fuel waste repositories (i.e., Yucca Mountain), genetically modified foods, and even vaccines, struggle because they are rejected by a substantial fraction of society. Conventional approaches to this challenge, including risk-reducing technical solutions, such as replacing fission with fusion, and better "communication" or "education"are unlikely, on
their own, to alleviate a lack of acceptance [1].

Looking to other industries, endeavors, and fields of research, this talk will describe this risk and explore established methods that have been used to achieve social acceptance of new technologies and specific projects, particularly the "social license" [2] and bioethical review [3]. A key insight of these methods is that technology proponents must engage in meaningful two-way dialogue with the public and address the public's concerns through modifications of the technology and/or business models. Looking to global bioethics literature, the talk will discuss seven different categories of concerns that are likely to arise as fusion is commercialized, including energy access and conservation, human health and safety, future generations, land and the environment, community solidarity, and distribution of benefits and harms  The talk will conclude with specific recommendations for researchers, funders, regulators and other stakeholders to facilitate long term social acceptance of fusion power.

[1] Otway HJ, Maurer D, Thomas K, “Nuclear power: The question of public acceptance, Futures 10:109.118 (1978). doi: 10.1016/0016-3287(78)90065-4
[2] Hoedl, Seth A. "A Social License for Nuclear Technologies." Nuclear Non-Proliferation in International Law-Volume IV. TMC Asser Press, The Hague, 2019. 19-44. https://arxiv.org/pdf/2009.09844
[3] Hoedl, Seth A. "Ethical Review for Nuclear Power: Inspiration from Bioethics." Nuclear Non-Proliferation in International Law-Volume VI. (Springer/Asser Press, forthcoming in 2021)

Bio: Dr. Seth Hoedl is a physicist, an entrepreneur, and an energy/environmental attorney with a long standing interest in nuclear technologies and their social acceptance. He is presently the
President, Chief Science Officer, and co-founder of the Post Road Foundation, a non-profit funded by The Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the U.S. DOE that focuses on helping communities build and finance sustainable infrastructure at the intersection of energy and communications.

Seth is originally trained as an experimental nuclear physicist (Princeton Ph.D., 2003), which he pursued in both academia and industry.  As an academic, he studied neutron decay at Los Alamos and
other facilities, and built a torsion-balance that improved the limits on a spin-dependent fifth-force by 12 orders of magnitude.In industry, Seth was the Chief Science Officer of a radiation oncology startup, where he developed and helped commercialize two radioactive devices for cancer therapy, which are now in clinical trials.  After this startup, he chose to refocus on energy and climate change by returning to law school (Harvard, 2015), where he specialized in energy and environmental law. As an energy/environmental attorney, Seth has pursued nuclear and climate change policy research, helped university and government clients assess climate change mitigation strategies, and co-founded Post Road. His policy-focused scholarly research has been published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals, including /Science and Global Security/ and a book series focused on international nuclear law.  He has been invited to present his policy work at policy- and technical-focused conferences,
university colloquiums, NRC meetings and other venues.