Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Energy Starvation is a Top Reich Priority

...not one new commercial nuclear reactor design has been approved and built in the United States for 30 years.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy were both formed in the 1970s to develop nuclear energy and thereby reduce our dependence on foreign oil. But neither has reduced our dependence on foreign oil, especially not with nuclear energy. _WSJ
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Under President Obama and Speaker Pelosi, the US government has no intention of allowing cheap and plentiful nuclear energy to blossom. A bloom of clean, safe modular nuclear reactors would allow the US economy to sprout new wings and grow in a thousand new directions. An economic renaissance based upon plentiful energy and free markets is the last thing the new O / P Reich wants to see. But it could happen if the government only allowed it to.
These new small reactors meet important criteria for nuclear power plants. With no control rods to jam, they are far safer than the old models -- you might well call them nuclear batteries. By not using weapons-grade enriched fuels, they are nonproliferating. They minimize nuclear waste. And they're economical.

All of the new start-up reactors are tiny compared to the 104 old ones, each of which was custom designed for and constructed at the site of its utility power plant. Small enough to fit on a large kitchen table, the new reactors can be manufactured at very low cost and shipped by truck to power-plant sites. As an Internet guy, these small fission reactors seem to me like the microprocessors that took over from the huge, air-conditioned, glasshouse mainframe computers.

As venture capitalists, we at Polaris might have invested in one or two of these fission-energy start-ups. Alas, we had to pass. The problem with their business plans weren't their designs, but the high costs and astronomical risks of designing nuclear reactors for certification in Washington.

The start-ups estimate that it will cost each of them roughly $100 million and five years to get their small reactor designs certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. About $50 million of each $100 million would go to the commission itself. That's a lot of risk capital for any venture-backed start-up
... _WSJ
The US government is certainly in no hurry to approve newer, safer reactor designs. Brian Wang looks at one government effort to develop a newer reactor design. From my perspective, it certainly looks a lot like "dragging one's feet," on the part of government bureaucracy. Keep in mind that government labs -- as helpful as they have been -- conduct research according to the academic model, which tends to stretch things out to the ultimate time limit. Corporate research takes economic imperatives into account, and often gets things done more quickly -- when government allows it.

Of course when government intervenes with tonnes of regulatory and bureaucratic requirements, no lab or enterprise in the world can get anything done efficiently or promptly.

More at Atomic Insights blog

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