The US is about to go Nuclear! Again.

Posted on Saturday, Feb 4, 2023 by Ned Bellavance

Featured in this episode of Chaos Lever

There are 93 active nuclear power plants in the US that produce about 19% of all electricity. While the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved licenses to build eight new plants, most of these ventures have stalled for lack of funding or political viability. Nuclear power is a polarizing technology, with such public incidents as Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island, and Fukushima, reminding folks how dangerous the technology can be.

That’s without even mentioning the difficulty of disposing nuclear waste from the power generation process. Our best solution so far is to bury it under a mountain and hope for the best, essentially the same strategy my 6-year-old would employ to hide spilled milk.

However, the massive plants with their steaming cooling towers are not the only approach to nuclear power, and the NRC has finalized their rules regarding the construction of small modular reactors.

As implied by the name, these reactors are much smaller in scale, producing 50-75MW as opposed to our gigantic facilities today that produce closer to 1000MW per plant. They are also modular, meaning they can be produced in a central location and moved into place, instead of being built onsite, and they can be chained together to increase net output.

The NRC rule finalization clears the way for construction of the SMRs, with the first planned construction by NuScale at the Dept. of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory in 2029. Not exactly swift, but then building nuclear power plants isn’t a process I would want rushed. There are still concerns surrounding the disposal of nuclear waste, but with the rules finalized, the door is open for competing solutions to emerge in a more competitive landscape.

My bet, however, is still on Cold Fusion, Keanu Reeves would never steer me wrong.