Nuclear industry thinks small

|  June 11, 2009 |

We get 20 percent of our electricity from nuclear power, but it’s going on three decades since a nuclear power plant has been built in the United States. Cost over-runs and concerns about what to do with the radioactive waste are the main stumbling blocks.

Now the industry has come up with a design for a much smaller nuclear power plant, the 125 megawatt mPower reactor. (The average old-school nuclear reactor generates1,000 megawatts.) Components for the mPower reactor can be fabricated in modules thereby bringing down the cost. Promoters say it’s a game changer and that it can be used for small towns in undeveloped countries that lack electrical grid infrastructure, or as a dedicated source of electricity for large factories and industrial plants.

There’s a lot of great engineering and admirable R&D going on the nuclear energy field today. And except for one fly in the ointment, the nuclear waste, it could be the perfect source of affordable, emissions-free electricity. Until they can find a way to get rid of the waste, which remains dangerously radioactive for 10,000 years, I don’t think the public will ever fully embrace the industry.

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