13 votes

How the next generation of nuclear reactors could be smaller, greener and safer

6 comments

  1. [6]
    vord
    Link
    Wow. As someone who hasn't followed nuclear news closely, this is a huge step forward. Given proper support and funding, is likely one of best options for rapid retirement of oil/coal/gas/outdated...

    Wow. As someone who hasn't followed nuclear news closely, this is a huge step forward. Given proper support and funding, is likely one of best options for rapid retirement of oil/coal/gas/outdated nuclear plants.

    Shame the anti-nuclear camp still seems to be winning the culture war.

    PS - Three Mile Island's other reactor (which has the same design as the one that failed) remained in constant usage until September 20, 2019.

    9 votes
    1. [5]
      gpl
      Link Parent
      The crazy thing is that a lot of the safety improvements on display in these small reactors is decades old at this point. EBR-II demonstrated complete passive safety in a live test in 1994 - close...

      The crazy thing is that a lot of the safety improvements on display in these small reactors is decades old at this point. EBR-II demonstrated complete passive safety in a live test in 1994 - close to 30 years ago at this point. The regulatory process for these things takes so long that there is a huge delay between when these technologies are demonstrated and when they go to market. Often times this leads to companies trying to extend the life of existing reactors as long as possible, which I'm not so sure is great from a safety standpoint.

      That being said, nuclear can and should be only a part of a broader transition to renewable energy. Solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, etc are all mature or maturing technologies that are 100% clean. Nuclear has its place but that place is not everywhere. There is still the thorny issue of what to do with the waste as well, for which there is no clear solution that is both technologically and politically feasible.

      5 votes
      1. vord
        Link Parent
        Oh totally agree it's only part of the answer. The other alternatives are definitely important for helping to de-centralize and increase resilience to outages. But nuclear power is a major part of...

        Oh totally agree it's only part of the answer. The other alternatives are definitely important for helping to de-centralize and increase resilience to outages.

        But nuclear power is a major part of being able to transition the whole grid to clean power, as it is far more consistent, portable (in terms of viable sites), and compact.

        The largest solar plant in the world puts out 2245 MW. But it takes up over 11,000 acres to do so. These proposed reactor sites fit on 35 acres and can put out 640MW. Four of them can out-produce the peak capacity of the largest solar plant in the world.

        4 votes
      2. ubergeek
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Not to mention, pebble bed reactors fail safely, by default. If the pebbles are not precisely positioned, criticality goes away, so it cannot self-sustain, unlike the rod reactors, which fail...

        Not to mention, pebble bed reactors fail safely, by default.

        If the pebbles are not precisely positioned, criticality goes away, so it cannot self-sustain, unlike the rod reactors, which fail poorly. Also, it has a negative feedback loop based on temp.

        As far as waste goes, there really is no reason to not use Kola SuperDeep

        3 votes
      3. [2]
        suspended
        Link Parent
        From the article:

        There is still the thorny issue of what to do with the waste as well, for which there is no clear solution that is both technologically and politically feasible.

        From the article:

        Terrapower says its liquid sodium reactor can be fueled by depleted uranium, a byproduct of the uranium enrichment process that is used to create fuel for both nuclear reactors and weapons. Navin explained that the reactor also utilizes more of its fuel than traditional light water reactors, which would produce “about 80 percent less waste.”

        2 votes
        1. gpl
          Link Parent
          As far as I know this is only the sodium reactors, which are a subset of the total reactor population. And while the waste is reduced, it still exists and must be managed. Any amount of nuclear...

          As far as I know this is only the sodium reactors, which are a subset of the total reactor population. And while the waste is reduced, it still exists and must be managed. Any amount of nuclear waste is a headache to deal with given its long lifespan.

          1 vote