Next-generation small nuclear reactors in the United States and Europe are now seen as a potential solution to pollution from burning fossil fuels for electrical power.
Unlike the generation of electricity by the giant nuclear reactors of yesteryear, with their tall cooling towers and labyrinths of cooling pipes that guard against the possibility of catastrophic collapse, the new reactors are designed to be simpler, safer, cheaper and much smaller.
A small reactor the size of a school bus could power a nearby town or factory. Several of these reactors could be assembled for mass generation to match the output of a giant nuclear power plant.
Not only are they expected to be safer and produce electricity at a lower price than conventional nuclear power plants, but these reactors could do so without ever emitting a puff of greenhouse gas. Greenhouse.
Experts believe that in the shift to renewable energy, small nuclear weapons could play a catalytic role. Solar and wind power alone may not be enough to meet the growing demand for energy in the decades to come. In 2019 and 2020, countries around the world added 270 gigawatts of solar and wind power to their grids, but these renewable sources have yet to be supplemented by conventional power systems.
Several new small high-tech reactors are currently being developed commercially by more than a dozen companies. The first series of mini-reactors are expected to be deployed in the United States and elsewhere within the next three years.
The bipartisan $1.2 trillion jobs and infrastructure bill, championed by US President Joe Biden and signed into law last November, includes $2.5 billion for advanced nuclear energy development, including some will go to mini-nukes.
Jacob DeWitte, founder and CEO of Oklo, a California-based company that develops clean power plants to provide affordable, reliable, emission-free energy using advanced fission, says “a totally different wave of innovation in the ‘nuclear energy is coming’.
However, many critics of nuclear power remain skeptical of the new technology’s ability to overcome the industry’s history of safety issues and cost overruns. “It’s not about saving the environment…it’s about saving the industry by rethinking old concepts,” said Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace East Asia.
With climate change looking more and more like a ticking time bomb across the world, the energy economy could shift in favor of nuclear power. Small nuclear weapons, in particular, could also be poised to benefit from this change.
Nuclear energy had a promising future. Then, in 1979, the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania suffered a partial core meltdown, leading to a massive cancellation of orders for new plants in the United States. Hopes of recovery were dashed in 1986 when Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant suffered a reactor meltdown and rupture.
Nevertheless, the industry slowly rebuilt its credibility. In 2010, 104 nuclear power plants were operating smoothly in the United States, and there are plans for dozens, prompting talk of a “nuclear renaissance.” Then, in 2011, a tsunami hit the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, causing a collapse and the evacuation of more than 150,000 residents.
Japan, which once embraced nuclear power, has shut down the vast majority of its nuclear power plants. In Germany, once a nuclear-powered nation, the staunchly anti-nuclear Green Party won major political victories in recent elections.
Today, nuclear power plants produce about a tenth of the world’s electricity, up from a fifth in the 1990s.
“However, nuclear energy is becoming increasingly competitive as technological advances make atomic energy mini-reactors a cleaner, safer energy alternative,” said Jess Gehin, associate director of the science and technology lab. nuclear weapons from the Idaho National Laboratory.
Nuclear power has grown in popularity as an alternative as its costs have slowly come down, due to improvements in power plants that have increased their efficiency by almost 30% compared to 15 years ago. New designs for large nuclear power plants are expected to further reduce costs and improve safety and reliability.
“…nuclear energy is becoming increasingly competitive as technological advances make mini atomic reactors a cleaner and safer energy alternative.” – Jess Gehin, Idaho National Laboratory
Last November, US President Joe Biden signed into law a bill providing $2.5 billion for the development of advanced nuclear energy.