Monday, April 11, 2011

Can Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Save America?

...mPowerâ„¢ reactor...represents a new generation of smaller, scalable nuclear power plants on track to be deployed by 2020. Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Energy, Inc. (B&W NE) and Bechtel Power Corporation have formed a joint company, Generation mPower LLC, to design, license and build the next generation of nuclear power plants based on B&W mPower reactor technology _BusinessWire
B&W has received a $5 million grant from a Virginia community revitalisation commission, to promote the company's development of a new, safer, cheaper, factory-built small modular nuclear reactor. The fact that the funding comes from a state-level community development agency indicates how quickly the strong need for energy development is being felt across the US at all levels. The US energy giant TVA is also interested in mPower's approach to modular reactors.
Watts Up With That
The US national economy is being hurt by dysfunctional federal government decisions being made from the White House to the NRC to all agencies of the US government. Policies of energy starvation -- anti-oil, anti-coal, anti-nuclear, anti-gas, anti-oil sands, etc etc -- have set the current US administration apart from all previous administrations except perhaps the Carter administration. Unfortunately, being anti-energy is the same as being anti-prosperity in the modern world.
If the US acts now to certify new, safer, cheaper, more reliable, more secure small modular reactors, the first reactors could provide energy to the grid by 2020.
"How do you reduce the upfront cost [of nuclear power - ed.]? Make them much smaller - we're talking about 100 megawatts, a power a tenth of one of the plants at Fukushima," he told BBC News.

"They would be factory-built, not built on site. You could combine them, gang them together - put 10 together and you get a gigawatt plant. The point is the utility could buy into nuclear power in stages, they wouldn't have to come up with the entire cost of a gigawatt plant."

What the Fukushima crisis casts light on, though, is that the SMR idea takes safety into account from the outset, said Victor Reis, senior adviser in the Office of the Undersecretary of Energy for Science.

"This is a reactor that is designed safety first, not one that you do the physics first and then add the safety on," he told the conference.

SMR designs all run on the idea of "passive safety" - that is, protective measures run without human intervention and even without power; cooling is done by natural convection, rather than with the kinds of pumps that were at the heart of the Fukushima plant's problems.

They are also small enough to be built underground, making them less vulnerable to severe weather, unauthorised access, impacts, and to some degree, seismic events. _BBC
Unfortunately, these reactors may never be built, since the priorities of the Obama administration lie elsewhere than in promoting a prosperous future for the United States. Look, we know that Mr. Obama has a plan. Hopefully, one day, we will all know what it was.



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