Nuclear Power: Has the Time Finally Come?

 

Commercial nuclear power emerged in the mid-1950s, to great enthusiasm. The Eisenhower administration promoted it as a major part of its Atoms for Peace program.  There was talk about ‘electricity too cheap to meter,’ and about making the world’s deserts bloom via nuclear-powered desalination.

And quite a few commercial nuclear plants were indeed built and put into operation.  In the US, there are presently 93 commercial reactors with aggregate capacity of 95 gigawatts, accounting for about 20% of America’s electricity generation.  But overall, adoption of commercial nuclear power has not met early expectations.  Costs have been much higher than were  expected.  There have been great public concerns about safety, stemming originally from the association of nuclear power and nuclear weapons as well as by practical concerns and then supercharged by the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 and then by Chernobyl (1986) and the Fukushima disaster in 2011.  Permitting and construction times have been long and  unpredictable, driven by the public concerns as well as by the general growth of regulation and litigation in the US and the custom, one-off manner in which these plants have been constructed.

There are reasons to believe that the stalled state of nuclear power may be about to change.  Some factors are:

Concerns about CO2 emissions, combined with increasing realization of the intermittent nature of wind/solar energy, point to nuclear as a solution that could be both practical and politically acceptable.  Europe’s dependency on Russian natural gas, the downside of which has been strongly pointed out by recent events, further builds the case for nuclear on that continent.  Politicians are feeling cornered between their promises of green-ness, the now-obvious dangers of energy dependency, and the need to not do too much economic damage if they want to get reelected.  Some will turn to nuclear.

The Cold War fears of nuclear annihilation are now a long way behind us–surely there are many fewer people who have nightmares about mushroom clouds than there were in, say, 1985.  (Although this point has been partially negated by Russia’s nuclear saber-rattling and by the battles around the Chernobyl area–still, I don’t believe nuclear fears are anywhere near the original-cold-war level)

The French experience with nuclear power, from which it generates about 70% of its electricity, helps build credibility for nuclear as a practical and safe energy source.  Also, the US Navy’s successful operation of nuclear submarines and other ships over several decades.

The downsides of wind and solar in terms of their very considerable land use as well as their fluctuating outputs, are being better understood as a result of experience.  Starry-eyed views of a new technology often become a little less starry-eyed following actual experience with its downsides.

New-generation nuclear plants which can be largely built in factories, substantially reducing the on-site construction time and effort required and potentially reducing the capital costs per kilowatt, are being developed.  The greater standardization, as compared with one-off construction, will hopefully also reduce licensing problems and delays.  Very importantly, most of the reactors are designed to avoid meltdown situations even if left unattended and without backup power.

Most of the new plant designs are of a type called Small Modular Reactors, although the definition of ‘small’ varies from case to case.  Companies in this space include the GE-Hitachi joint venture, a private company called NuScale (soon to go public via a SPAC), Rolls-Royce, the Canadian company ARC Energy, and a consortium of French companies developing a product to be called Nuwber.  I’ll discuss some of those SMR products in more detail later in this post.  There is also interesting work being done at Terra Power (Bill Gates is founder and chairman), which will probably merit a separate post, and on designs using thorium rather than uranium as a fuel.

The products which seem furthest along toward commercial adoption are the modular design from NuScale and the BWRX-300 from GE-Hitachi.

Some deals which are signed or in process:

–In Utah, NuScale plans to deploy their system for an organization called UAMPS (wholesale power services)

–In Romania, NuScale has a deal with SN Nuclearelectrica for a 6-module unit.

–In Canada, Ontario Power has picked the GE-Hitachi system for its first nuclear site–they ultimately plan to install up to 4 reactors there.

–In Poland, GEH has a letter of intent for up to 4 BWRX-300s to be installed by Synthos Green Energy.  Also in Poland, NuScale is working with KGHM, a leader in copper and silver production–sounds like this application is for industrial energy rather than for grid electricity.

–In Estonia,  Fermi Energia OÜ is moving toward deployment of a BWRX-300.

–The US Tennessee Valley Authority has embarked on a program to install several SMRs at its Clinch River site, starting with the BWRX-300.

The CEO of Duke Energy, Lynn Good, says that the company is talking to GE-Hitachi and NuScale as well as TerraPower and Holtec International about SMRs and advanced nuclear with storage capability.

Despite the traction, however, numerous challenges remain for nuclear.

Current and potentially-emerging issues:

The issue of public acceptanceA recent Pew survey indicates that about 50% of US adults are in favor of expanding nuclear power plants; however, there is a big gap between Republicans and Democrats (60% vs 43%) and also a big gap between men and women (59% vs 41%).  See also this 2019 piece on public opinion re nuclear.  (Michael Shellenberger, a pro-nuclear guy who is now running for governor of California) has thoughts on how the greater female opposition to nuclear might be addressed.)

Public sentiment obviously has huge impact on the success of the nuclear energy,

Availability of fuel.  Although the quantities of fuel used by a nuclear plant are very small compared with the amounts of coal, gas, or oil used to generate the same amount of electricity in a conventional plant, still, these quantities are not zero.  Estimates I’ve seen for the world’s uranium reserves run from about 90 years to 250 years at the current use rate (see this)…indeed, it has been argued (for example in this video, which otherwise has some positive things to say about nuclear) that the fuel constraint implies that it doesn’t make any sense to embark on a large increase in the use of nuclear.

I question, though, whether the world really has a good sense of its uranium reserves given the relatively low emphasis that nuclear power has had in recent decades…it seems likely that these reserves would expand given more exploration driven by more demand.  Increased efficiencies in fuel processing seem likely, as well as the recycling of material in some nuclear weapons.  Longer-term, it is possible to extract uranium from seawater (though prohibitively expensive today), and thorium-based reactors would use a fuel that is much more available.

It should be of considerable concern that the US has allowed itself to get into a situation where a high percentage of its uranium comes from Russia.

Coexistence with wind and solar.  Nuclear plants are generally run flat-out, or pretty close to flat-out…which makes sense since capital costs and other fixed costs dwarf the fuel costs, so higher utilization = better return on investment.  Existing plants have also been designed technically to operate in this mode.  The SMR manufacturers make a point of their products’ ability to work in a load-following manner, so that they can compensate for the fluctuation output of wind and solar–but solving the technical problem doesn’t solve the economic problem: for every minute of the year that you run your plant at less than the maximum sustainable output, you are increasing your cost per kWh.  For this reason, it is far from clear that renewable and nuclear is a marriage made in heaven.

Wind and solar cost reductions.  Wind and solar advocates argue that these sources are on a steep declining cost curve (the terms ‘learning curve’ and ‘experience curve’ are frequently used, that battery costs are also declining…and that nuclear will not be able to meet or catch up with these costs because the volumes are not as high and the deployment (for safety reasons) must inherently be more cautious. Quite likely, though, these cost-decline curves will be intercepted and flattened out, at least to a considerable extent, by materials shortages and prices.  And there is an on-site labor component for the installation of solar and wind systems which is not likely to follow the same decline curves as the factory-built items in the system.

Pushback from the wind and solar industry. Vast amounts of money are being put into these ‘green’ industries, and a lot of people are making money or hoping to make money off of them. If they feel that the growth of nuclear is a serious threat to their revenues and profits (and consulting fees, ‘nonprofit’ salaries, etc) you can expect them to do whatever they can to defend their turf not only in the marketplace, but politically.

But on the other hand, we may see climate-hysteria pushback in some countries.  People may get weary about being asked to sacrifice endlessly to avoid a theoretically-projected apocalypse, and in some places, there may emerge a more positive attitude toward fossil fuels, especially natural gas. In such places, nuclear vs natural gas will be evaluated under strict economics, with less consideration given to its CO2 reduction.

Capital costs and interest rates.  Nuclear is capital-intensive, and economic tradeoffs with fossil fuel plants will be very dependent on financing costs. (And, in the other direction, on natural gas and coal prices)  Wind and solar are also capital-intensive sources.  The interest rate over at which a project can be financed over 20 or 50 years will have a considerable impact on its economic viability.

The Players: Here are some of the entries in the SMR market that I think are most significant:

The BWRX-300, from the GE-Hitachi joint venture.  This is a boiling water reactor, a technology with which GE has extensive experience;  It has a 300-megawatt capacity.  GEH says that the plant can passively cool for at least seven days without power or operator action, and that it uses only 50% as much steel and concrete per unit output as do current designs.  The company says that they are targeting a cost comparable with that of gas plants (I’d note that the crossover point is highly dependent on the cost of gas!) and cites a capital cost of $2,250/kW for an nth of a kind plant.  (It would be interesting to get some idea of what range N would need to be in to approach this number, and also what is and is not included in the cost)

A modular SMR design from Nuscale Power.  The modules are individual reactors of 77 MW each, clustered in packages of 4, 6, or 12 for aggregate plant capacities of 308, 462, and 924 Mw.  The company is currently private but intends to go public via a SPAC approach.  They have announced numerous partners for manufacturing and construction; some of these are also investors in the company, including Fluor and Nucor.

The Rolls-Royce SMR, stretching the definition of ‘small’ a bit with its 470 Mw capacity.  The company says that 90% of the manufacturing and assembly will be done in factory conditions and the system requires only 1/10 the land area of a conventional nuclear site.  This is a pressurized water reactor.

The ARC-100, from Canadian company ARC Clean Energy.  100 Mw capacity, as the name suggests. This design uses liquid sodium rather than water for the reactor cooling loop.

The Nuward, from a consortium of French companies.  Capacity stated as 300-400 Mw…pressurized water reactor, a technology with which France has a great deal of experience. The French government has recently reinforced its commitment to the future of nuclear, which appeared to be in doubt for a while.

As I noted above, there is also interesting work being done at Terra Power and on thorium-based reactors, which will probably merit a separate post.

Disclosure:  I have a small speculative position in NuScale, via Spring Valley Acquisitions Corporation (which will be NuScale’s vehicle for going public) and I’m also a GE shareholder.

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 33 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    There are, it seems, huge upsides to nuclear power that if allowed to flourish would be a great achievement for mankind. I have heard of reactors that are very small that can be decentralized so that every neighborhood has its own source and the fuel used is not highly poisonous when spent. Are you aware of this @davidfoster ?

    • #1
  2. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    I have thought that the best mix is nuclear for electric and hydrogen for mobile power.  Nuclear plants run a constant rates.  On off hours that energy can be put into the production of hydrogen for vehicle use.  It seems to me to be a more useful, cleaner model.  Especially with the later generation nuclear plants.  

    • #2
  3. jmelvin Member
    jmelvin
    @jmelvin

    I would suggest that while nuclear power use in the US could have an opportunity to flourish, particularly with designs that rely less and less on the availability of secondary sources of electrical power for recovery from accidents, operation of these plants requires a high trust society to function where the public can and will trust the operators to do what is necessary to protect the health and safety of the public.  With a significant loss of public trust in the various institutions and major businesses people routinely interact with, I see this issue being one of the larger hurdles for the expansion of nuclear power moreso than overcoming any technological issues.

    • #3
  4. Mad Gerald Lincoln
    Mad Gerald
    @Jose

    David Foster: Michael Shellenberger, a pro-nuclear guy who is now running for governor of Califoria

    Shellengerger’s Ted Talk  Why renewables can’t save the planet is very interesting.  He acknowledges the problems of unintended consequences which he didn’t anticipate in his early work in ecology. Worth watching at 17 min long.

    • #4
  5. GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms Reagan
    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms
    @GLDIII

    I have long been an advocate for Nuclear energy, to the point that my sole Engineering child did his minor in that field as a potential back up to his Mechanical degree. Dad is definitely a go nuke guy.

    Two points I have never really explored is how much of the cost of installing a nuclear plant tied to time cost of money and the self inflicted resistance of the clueless global greens. It seems they are endlessly putting ridiculous hurdles on the utilities slowing the build process to the point they “bleed their capitol source to death”.  While I believe every one is entitled to their misguided views on energy, I just wish that they be kicked off the grid to align with their near religious beliefs on how unicorn farts are going to ensure our standard of living.

    The second area of reasonable consternation is the limitation on fuel reserves? I am old enough to recall how were were on the downward slope for fossil fuel reserves since I basically graduated in engineering in 1981. As with almost any technology that is not conscripted to government over planning, the market become ingenious in blowing pass those constraints. Have we really done a good survey of Uranium sources and will the recycling of spent fuel (my understanding is we only use ~5% of the energy in a “used” fuel rod) and they can be “re-purified” to constantly up the active Uranium content, thus solving for the few hundred year Uranium outlook, the waste issue, and the sourcing demand to find new Uranium mines?

    As for safety? If we can have our entire nuclear Navy operated mostly by post teenagers (ie 18 to 24 year old) without a single accident in over 50 years of service, why is that not a selling point to the Karens? An oppositional group with too much vocal resistance, and not much sensibility of a life without inexpensive energy?

    • #5
  6. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    There needs to be developed some sort of nuclear power plant design code, that can apply like the uniform building codes for structures now. That way, just as a builder does not have submit each aspect of a house’s design to regulatory approval, one can just build it to code, and it’s good.  No idea if such standardization is even possible, but it’s a thought.

    • #6
  7. jmelvin Member
    jmelvin
    @jmelvin

    Fritz (View Comment):

    There needs to be developed some sort of nuclear power plant design code, that can apply like the uniform building codes for structures now. That way, just as a builder does not have submit each aspect of a house’s design to regulatory approval, one can just build it to code, and it’s good. No idea if such standardization is even possible, but it’s a thought.

    There is and has been.  10 CFR 50 (Code of Federal Regulations Title 10, Part 50) lays out the codes and standards required for the building of light water reactors in the USA and it has been there for over half a century.  Part 52 is newer and allows for a single part licensing process, but it likely references back to the requirements of Part 50 (I don’t know for certain as I’ve never been part of the new plant process).  The CFRs point designers to well known codes and standard such as ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, Section III and VIII, along with ASME B31.1 (power piping), ACI (American Concrete Institute), and so on.  The NRC endorsed codes and years change from time to time based upon operating experience and recommended changes, but they are there and known.

    Once a design is certified to meet the required codes and standard (part of the design certification process) the utility that wants to build a plant submits a construction and operation license application (COLA) under 10 CFR 52, or if they want to go via the old process that required two licenses (one for construction and one for operation), they could do that under 10 CFR 50.  The Part 52 requirements reduce the risk for operation as the old process had the possibility that the plant could get built, but never get licensed to operate (see Shoreham Nuclear Plant as one example).  The problem is that there are always exceptions requested to the standards that have to be requested, then justified, and accepted.

    • #7
  8. Hank Rhody drools. Misthiocracy rules. Member
    Hank Rhody drools. Misthiocracy rules.
    @Misthiocracy

    It’s too bad Gordon McDowell hasn’t updated his Thorium Remix video since 2016:

    • #8
  9. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Great post.  I have to wonder that, if this nation would make an all-out commitment to nuclear power, all of The China Snydrome nuts would come out in force.

    We always have to remember that the ultimate goal of the Left is to leave us freezing in the dark.  (Except for them)

    • #9
  10. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    There’s a post on nuclear by Robert Zubrin at Quillette; first of a 3-part series.

    • #10
  11. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Here is a long critique of nuclear in general and of NuScale and the Utah project in particular.

    I think there are quite a few holes in it, but take a read-thru and form your own opinion.

    • #11
  12. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Those old, closed-minded conservatives are so stuck in the past.  How do they want to produce electricity?  Nuclear power.

    We’re young, hip, trendy liberals, open-minded to new ideas.  How do we want to produce electricity?  Windmills!

     

    • #12
  13. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    Nuclear fuel is a solved problem.  Beyond Thorium reactors, which could last us for millennia, we could reprocess/recycle nuclear fuel.  France and Britain both do it.   There’s also fast breeder reactors that turn uranium 238 we can’t use into plutonium 239, which fissions quite well.

     

    • #13
  14. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Those old, closed-minded conservatives are so stuck in the past. How do they want to produce electricity? Nuclear power.

    We’re young, hip, trendy liberals, open-minded to new ideas. How do we want to produce electricity? Windmills!

     

    With a trail of dead Bald Eagles in their wake…

    • #14
  15. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Those who say that nuclear power is too expensive and takes too long, sound like the same people who say capital punishment is too expensive and takes too long:  because they fight it every step of the way.

    • #15
  16. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Should have mentioned: new reactor in Finland went online last month.  1.6Gw, so this is definitely not a Small Modular Reactor.  With this addition, something like 35% of Finland’s electricity production is now nuclear.

    Wonder how much is required to keep the saunas heated up…

    • #16
  17. David Pettus Coolidge
    David Pettus
    @DavidPettus

    As a former nuclear engineer, I am following this issue with a lot of interest and am hopeful that nuclear will make a comeback.  As a guy with a few environmentalist friends who despise nuclear, you can’t possibly imagine the zeal, irrationality, and almost religious passion those folks have for expressing their hatred of nuclear (actually, most of you reading this probably can imagine it).  It’s going to be a tough slog.

    • #17
  18. jmelvin Member
    jmelvin
    @jmelvin

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Should have mentioned: new reactor in Finland went online last month. 1.6Gw, so this is definitely not a Small Modular Reactor. With this addition, something like 35% of Finland’s electricity production is now nuclear.

    Wonder how much is required to keep the saunas heated up…

    I read today that OL-3 (Olkiluoto Unit 3) had achieved 60% of its thermal power rating as it is working toward full power operation.  It’s nice to see this thing finally making some megawatts after being under construction for almost 17 years.  Hopefully the Fins will get many decades of reliable service out of it.  The Chinese EPRs that had construction started years afterward have been making electrical power for a couple years now without any notable issue associated with the design.

    • #18
  19. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    David Pettus (View Comment):
    As a guy with a few environmentalist friends who despise nuclear, you can’t possibly imagine the zeal, irrationality, and almost religious passion those folks have for expressing their hatred of nuclear (actually, most of you reading this probably can imagine it).  It’s going to be a tough slog.

    So if you were in charge of marketing to nuclear industry to the population in general…any ideas for how best to go about it?

    • #19
  20. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    David Foster: There was talk about ‘electricity too cheap to meter,’ and about making the world’s deserts bloom via nuclear-powered desalination.

    The only persom who ever believed that was the guy who said it.

    Anyway, the ideal setup for electricity generation is for nuclear plants to carry the base load while using natural gas plants for load following.

    To handle growth over time, the nuke plants could use Small Modular Reactors instead of building one behemoth after another.  Any project that takes years to cplete is highly likely to experience cost overruns . . .

    • #20
  21. jmelvin Member
    jmelvin
    @jmelvin

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    I have thought that the best mix is nuclear for electric and hydrogen for mobile power. Nuclear plants run a constant rates. On off hours that energy can be put into the production of hydrogen for vehicle use. It seems to me to be a more useful, cleaner model. Especially with the later generation nuclear plants.

    There are actually initiatives in the nuclear power industry now to study and possibly convert some plants to provide power or steam (can’t recall which) for hydrogen generation.  This should be handy, particularly for those units that operate in a non-regulated market where the nuclear power plants may struggle to provide electrical power as inexpensively as other means (whether it be subsidized wind or solar or abundant natural gas).  This can provide some other option for covering the costs of operation along with some margin for the utility to continue using that asset versus shutting it down and replacing it with something more profitable.

    At first I expect the pilots to generate hydrogen for their own uses on site and go from there for more commercial aspects once more is known.

    https://www.energy.gov/articles/doe-announces-20-million-produce-clean-hydrogen-nuclear-power

    • #21
  22. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    An important issue for making hydrogen from nuclear (or from wind/solar) is the capital cost of the electrolyzer. If you’re only running that electrolyzer, say, 30% of the time (because that’s how much of the time you have excess capacity from the nuclear or other source), then you’re pro-rating the cost of the system against a much smaller base of hydrogen production than if you could run the electrolyzer flat out.

    • #22
  23. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    David Foster (View Comment):
    Wonder how much is required to keep the saunas heated up…

    Don’t know…but it sounds like pretty good motivation to build a nuclear power plant.

    • #23
  24. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    Stad (View Comment):

    David Foster: There was talk about ‘electricity too cheap to meter,’ and about making the world’s deserts bloom via nuclear-powered desalination.

    The only persom who ever believed that was the guy who said it.

    Anyway, the ideal setup for electricity generation is for nuclear plants to carry the base load while using natural gas plants for load following.

    To handle growth over time, the nuke plants could use Small Modular Reactors instead of building one behemoth after another. Any project that takes years to cplete is highly likely to experience cost overruns . . .

    A nuclear-based power grid could conceivably just charge for capacity, which would mean you don’t really pay by the kWh, but by the max kW you could use at a given time.  This is because nuclear power plants have very low fuel costs and are designed to run as much as possible.   You could say that is too cheap to meter.

    Nuclear desalination is doable – most reactors work by generating lots of steam, and end up with a lot of waste heat.  Using the waste heat for desalination is certainly doable

    • #24
  25. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Netflix is about to release a documentary called “Meltdown: Three Mile Island”

    A woman who tweets as @MadiHilly has created an issue brief to put this event in perspective.  Link.

    • #25
  26. Duane Oyen Member
    Duane Oyen
    @DuaneOyen

    Mad Gerald (View Comment):

    Nuclear Power: Has the Time Finally Come?

    David FosterDavid Foster  April 25, 2022 2510 follow 1131 

    Commercial nuclear power emerged in the mid-1950s, to great enthusiasm. The Eisenhower administration promoted it as a major part of its Atoms for Peace program. ……..

    Current and potentially-emerging issues:

    The issue of public acceptance

    Availability of fuel.  

    Coexistence with wind and solar.  

    Wind and solar cost reductions.  

    Pushback from the wind and solar industry. 

    But on the other hand, we may see climate-hysteria pushback in some countries.  P

    Capital costs and interest rates.  

    The Players: Here are some of the entries in the SMR market:

    The BWRX-300, from the GE-Hitachi joint venture.  This is a boiling water reactor, a technology with which GE has extensive experience;  It has a 300-megawatt capacity.  ……. 50% as much steel and concrete per unit output as do current designs.  ……..

    A modular SMR design from Nuscale Power.  The modules are individual reactors of 77 MW each, clustered in packages of 4, 6, or 12 for aggregate plant capacities of 308, 462, and 924 Mw.  ……

    The Rolls-Royce SMR, stretching the definition of ‘small’ a bit with its 470 Mw capacity.  The company says that 90% of the manufacturing and assembly will be done in factory conditions and the system requires only 1/10 the land area …. This is a pressurized water reactor.

    The ARC-100, from Canadian company ARC Clean Energy.  100 Mw capacity, as the name suggests. This design uses liquid sodium rather than water for the reactor cooling loop.

    The Nuward, from a consortium of French companies.  Capacity stated as 300-400 Mw…pressurized water reactor, a technology with which France has a great deal of experience. 

    As I noted above, there is also interesting work being done at Terra Power and on thorium-based reactors, which will probably merit a separate post.

     

    Note that Michael Shellenberger is not a fan of SMR or thorium and other innovative designs.  He believes in building the best current version of the classic LWR (e.g., using more passive cooling for meltdown failsafe operation), then replicating it over and over without constant re-designs, is the way to go. 

    The best construction people for that kind of thing in today’s world are the South Koreans, because they have built more plants than anyone alive (the US doesn’t even have any remaining cadre of nuclear-spec qualified welders, let alone other skilled categories), so he thinks that the US should set up joint ventures ASAP with the ROK experts and start building, with them retraining a new generation of nuclear-construction-qualified technicians to be built up. 

    He believes that any other approach would have us starting anew in 25 years while the Russians and Chinese, etc., have been building and building.  Even the US companies, such as Westinghouse and GE (not to mention the military) have retired most of their skilled personnel- the US companies all have overseas senior partners.

    • #26
  27. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):
    A nuclear-based power grid could conceivably just charge for capacity, which would mean you don’t really pay by the kWh, but by the max kW you could use at a given time.  This is because nuclear power plants have very low fuel costs and are designed to run as much as possible.   You could say that is too cheap to meter.

    If something can be metered, it will be.  Homeowners merely pay for the juice they use, but businesses have two considerations – the juice they use, and peak power usage.  You could say that business bears the cost of any overcapacity needed.  Watch for the left to consider peak power usage for homeowners, maybe even a high-MPG surcharge for gasoline . . .

    • #27
  28. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I’m wondering about small-scale nuclear power plants. In the midst of the Disney World debates last week, I learned that Disney World has between one and four nuclear power plants on the premises (I couldn’t find a definitive source that stated how many they actually have). Fascinating to read that. And I got to thinking about nuclear-powered submarines. So it seems that nuclear power can be generated at a small scale. I wonder if cities and towns can start developing their own small nuclear facilities. 

    I would think the market for small nuclear generators would be unlimited, given the global energy mess we’re in. 

    • #28
  29. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I’m wondering about small-scale nuclear power plants. In the midst of the Disney World debates last week, I learned that Disney World has between one and four nuclear power plants on the premises (I couldn’t find a definitive source that stated how many they actually have). Fascinating to read that. And I got to thinking about nuclear-powered submarines. So it seems that nuclear power can be generated at a small scale. I wonder if cities and towns can start developing their own small nuclear facilities.

    I would think the market for small nuclear generators would be unlimited, given the global energy mess we’re in.

    Naw, the RCID documents apparently allow Disney to have a nuclear power plant, but they don’t have one currently.

    Also, the nuclear plants aboard submarines and surface ships don’t have to be designed for particular efficiency.

    • #29
  30. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    MarciN (View Comment):

    And I got to thinking about nuclear-powered submarines. So it seems that nuclear power can be generated at a small scale. I wonder if cities and towns can start developing their own small nuclear facilities. 

     

    Here’s a piece on very small modular reactors.  I understand that Westinghouse is doing, or at least thinking about doing, something in this space as well.

    One challenge is that staffing requirements need to be kept very low for a small plant to be economical; there may be regulatory issues that need to be overcome.

     

    • #30
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.