Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The future of nuclear power

The Energy Department is working on multiple fronts to help the industry. It is dedicating $452 million over six years to help reactors get licensed, partnering with mPower America to develop a reactor with a goal of operation by 2022 and working with NuScale Power on its own reactor development, a program worth $217 million. The department also has an industry-wide program aimed at assisting with licensing.
There are a couple things I wanted to comment on from the previous quote.

One, the Energy Department is dedicating $452 million to help with licensing.  This makes no sense to me.  Make the regulations so complex that you have to have a special program to get through it, then spend federal money to pay for people to get through your regulations.  What am I missing? Why not just streamline the regulations so that you don't need special help to get them licensed.

Two, the above quote comes from an article in The Hill on small nuclear reactors and energy policy.  Small nuclear reactors have been around for years.  Toshiba has a design for a liquid sodium cooled "portable" reactor, the 4S.  I read articles about this several years ago.  Why has no one pursued this before?  Politics is the short answer.  Regardless of what the Energy Department says, anyone who proposes putting a nuclear reactor anywhere in the United States is going to be inundated with lawsuits and environmental protests.  Never mind that nuclear power is incredibly safe and clean.  There hasn't been a new nuclear plant built in this country since the Seventies, and not because people didn't want to build them.

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