Thoughts on the Engineering Industry

A blog covering engineering, technology and business topics

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors…the Future of Nuclear Power?

Hello, I hope everyone is doing well and had a good 4th of July.  Today I want to talk about an article I read a while back which discussed plans for small modular nuclear reactors to be built in the US with the next five years.

These types of nuclear reactors are defined as having a generating capacity under 300 MW.  These reactors will be designed by Babcocks and Wilcox – who will receive $150 million of initial funding for the Department of Energy.  This reactor is a modular, advanced light water reactor system which operates 4 years without refueling and has a capacity of 180 MW at a cost of $5000/kW.  These reactor units can be combined to create a larger nuclear reactor.  The intent is to reduce the financial risks involved with building a nuclear reactor.  The Internatial Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimates that between 43 and 96 reactors will be built by 2030.

I know this isn’t nearly as complicated or expansive as some of the other innovations I mention; however, I believe this is important in the advancement of energy production in the US.  If we are to continue to improve our percentage of clean energy usage with an increasing population, our reliance on coal, natural gas, or oil in energy production needs to be reduced.  One option has always been nuclear power but accidents have made them a generally unpopular investment.  Along with that, the expense of building one is much larger than other types of power plants.  These reactors will vastly reduce the expenses.  Another benefit I could possibly foresee even though it isn’t mentioned in the article is increased safety.  Since the designs of units are meant to be easy to repeatably build, this would make the safety analysis much more accurate and predictable.  What do you think about the small unit nuclear reactors?  Do you think their usage will increase in the United States?  Thanks for reading and have a good day!

Source: “U.S. Sustains Support For Small Modular Nuclear Reactors”, Forbes, 6/15/2013, http://tinyurl.com/lmdkrur

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