Despite this worrying outlook, though, a host of startups are trying to breathe new life into a nuclear industry that was long the purview of engineering giants and state-backed industry. In a recent report, CB Insights highlighted companies pursuing technologies that could revamp nuclear fission, the process at the heart of today’s plants. At the same time, several startups believe the long-awaited era of nuclear fusion is nearly upon us. Perhaps the most talked-about nuclear power innovation of recent years is the small modular reactor. It’s effectively a miniaturized version of today’s conventional nuclear power plants and is based on advances made in building nuclear-powered naval vessels. By shrinking the size of these plants, the hope is to dramatically reduce the large capital costs of nuclear power and reduce the potential impacts of a large-scale nuclear meltdown. And while small modular reactors may capture a greater share of the headlines, according to CB Insights another technology seems to be faring better with investors. They found six companies building molten salt reactors that have received $64 million from venture capitalists between them. A number of other exotic updates on the fission reactor are also in the pipeline, from China’s helium-cooled reactor, due to come online this year, to TerraPower’s “travelling wave reactor,” which will be able to run on spent fuel and depleted uranium. But the other main area of excitement is nuclear fusion, which promises limitless clean power with almost no radioactive waste. The technology is famous for always being 20 years away from commercialization, but startups working on making it a reality are starting to attract serious funding as well as credibility. The UK government’s recent announcement that it would spend $270 million on building its own fusion reactor has given the field an even bigger boost.
Singularity Hub 28th Oct 2019 read more »