Huge computer screens line a dark, windowless control room in Corvallis, Oregon, where engineers at the company NuScale Power hope to define the next wave of nuclear energy. Glowing icons fill the screens, representing the power output of 12 miniature nuclear reactors. Together, these small modular reactors would generate about the same amount of power as one of the conventional nuclear plants that currently dot the United States—producing enough electricity to power 540,000 homes. On the glowing screens, a palm tree indicates which of the dozen units is on “island mode,” allowing a single reactor to run disconnected from the grid in case of an emergency. This control room is just a mock-up, and the reactors depicted on the computer screens do not, in fact, exist. Yet NuScale has invested more than $900 million in the development of small modular reactor (SMR) technology, which the company says represents the next generation of nuclear power plants. NuScale is working on a full-scale prototype and says it is on track to break ground on its first nuclear power plant—a 720-megawatt project for a utility in Idaho—within two years; the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has just completed the fourth phase of review of NuScale’s design, the first SMR certification the commission has reviewed. The company expect final approval by the end of 2020. The US Department of Energy has already invested $317 million in the research and development of NuScale’s SMR project.
Mother Jones 7th March 2020 read more »
Nuclear proponents have argued net-zero emissions will be impossible to achieve fast enough without relying on nuclear energy. But there’s no consensus in energy policy that this is true: Renewable energy has expanded faster than expected, and as energy storage technology continues to improve, its potential is only growing. “What really needs to happen at this point is for there to be competition among low-carbon energy sources, to see who can deliver the most benefit for carbon reduction at the least cost,” says Peter Bradford, a former member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “I don’t have a problem with the government underwriting research in a different energy technology, as long as the research is proportional to the promise it has shown.”
Grist 7th March 2020 read more »