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  (Source: Washington Times)
Smaller reactors means lower costs, which in turn mean lower risk to investors

Argonne National Laboratory's former chief scientist and director, Robert Rosner, is on a mission to sell the nation on a clean "small modular reactor" (SMR) nuclear power solution.

I. Good Things Come in Small Packages

As the new director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), Mr. Rasner has devoted much his energy into guiding public policy towards financially optimal "green solutions."

With funding from his former research facility, Professor Rasner and his colleague Stephen Goldberg -- a special assistant to Argonne's new director -- examined reactors ranging from the tradition gigawatt scale, down to smaller megawatt-scale designs.

The report simplified the equation a bit, removing interest and construction time.  It dubbed this simplified metric "overnight construction costs".  It puts the cost of a kilowatt of new nuclear capacity at $4,210 USD for a large plant -- nearly twice what large-scale capacity cost in 2004.  The remedy, it argues, is smaller reactor designs.

Professor Rasner cites "commodity price changes and other factors".  While he does not explicitly elaborate on those "other factors" in his press, release, he's likely referring to the strong public animosity for nuclear power in the U.S., in the wake of the Fukushima Japanese nuclear disaster.

But the veteran researcher says those who lump modern nuclear reactors with decades old legacy designs like the reactors at Fukushima are ignorant of the scientific reality.  He states to the contrary, "[Modern reactors] would be a huge stimulus for high-valued job growth, restore U.S. leadership in nuclear reactor technology and, most importantly, strengthen U.S. leadership in a post-Fukushima world, on matters of nuclear safety, nuclear security, nonproliferation, and nuclear waste management."

CSIS president and CEO John Hamre concurs, commenting that the new reactors are virtually meltdown-proof.  He remarks, "The entire heat load at full power can be carried passively by thermal convection. There's no need for pumps."

Critics, it would seem -- tend to write a blank check to solar and wind power when it comes to environmental impact, land impact, safety, government funding, and risk -- while looking to sharply admonish nuclear power firms from seeking those same benefits.

II. Modular Mass Production Holds the Key to Profits, Halting Lawsuits

Again, he says the cheapest way to get their is to develop a modular construction process, perhaps somewhere around the 600 MW scale.  Rather than being custom-built on site, parts could be mass-produced at factories and then shipped to the new reactor for "easy assembly".

Mr. Hamre says its not just public sentiment that's holding reactors back -- it’s the staggering scale of large reactor cost.  A gigawatt scale reactor would cost a company $10B USD to deploy and would not see a pay for 7 to 9 years.

He opines that small reactors currently look like the best energy solution, other than natural gas use.  He says natural gas is less desirable too, because it's a commodity and its cost in 15 years could radically shift.

Mr Hamre and Professor Rasner say that the government must step in as a customer to help small nuclear manufacturers build up factories and deployment networks.    Even at small scales, initial costs will likely be too high versus traditional "dirty" power technologies like oil and coal, they argue.  

"The faster you learn, the better off you are in the long term because you get to the point where you actually start making money faster." says Professor Rosner.  But while there is a rush to get these solutions out there, he warns that he's not advocating a rush to judgment.  He adds, "It's a case that has to be argued out and thought carefully about.  There's a long distance between what we're doing right now and actually implementing national policy."

Another good thing about SMRs mentioned in the report is that they could serve as direct replacements to fossil fuel power plants.  Given the fact that many coal plants produce around 200 to 400 MW, a SMR could be fitted as a direct drop-in, versus current larger designs, which require special grid accommodations.

Another positive not mentioned in the report, is that SMRs would likely strike a blow to opponents who hope to cripple the clean power technology with lawsuits and protests.  Rather than having just one target to focus their wrath on, landowners and "environmentalists" would be forced to divide their time and money between several deployments per state, depleting their resources.

Georgia Plant
U.S. nuclear power stands at a crossroads.  Proponents want it to move ahead to new technologies, and they have backing from some top scientists.  But for every ounce of science leverage in support of nuclear there's and equal violent emotional backlash from public critics [Image Source: Georgia Times Blog]

So what do you think?  Should the U.S. follow in France's bold footsteps and invest big in nuclear, even if it requires mild government "seed funding"?  Or should it go in the opposite direction and pull a Japan, turning its back on nuclear energy?  Or should politicians simply sit there and keep their mouths shut, as President Obama has appeared to do (a reversal of his vocal pre-Fukushima support of nuclear development) -- in an effort to avoid angering either side?

For more reading, dive into the full report below.

Sources: Univ. of Chicago, EPIC

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By OzQuant on 12/14/2011 10:55:02 PM , Rating: 3
Just switch over the thorium already.

RE: thorium
By dgingerich on 12/14/2011 11:30:32 PM , Rating: 2
RE: thorium
By dgingerich on 12/15/11, Rating: 0
RE: thorium
By michael67 on 12/14/2011 11:46:50 PM , Rating: 2
I agree fully, but the main problem is that there are no real working designs to build a efficient Thorium plant, yet.

India is the only country that has 8 working plants, all 25y and older, and only one is use for commercial use.
But is building a new one.

Commercial nuclear power station

India's Kakrapar-1 reactor is the world's first reactor which uses thorium rather than depleted uranium to achieve power flattening across the reactor core. India, which has about 25% of the world's thorium reserves, is developing a 300 MW prototype of a thorium-based Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR). The prototype is expected to be fully operational by 2011, after which five more reactors will be constructed. Considered to be a global leader in thorium-based fuel, India's new thorium reactor is a fast-breeder reactor and uses a plutonium core rather than an accelerator to produce neutrons. As accelerator-based systems can operate at sub-criticality they could be developed too, but that would require more research. India currently envisages meeting 30% of its electricity demand through thorium-based reactors by 2050.

RE: thorium
By mjv.theory on 12/15/11, Rating: 0
RE: thorium
By ShieTar on 12/15/2011 7:39:29 AM , Rating: 2
300 times more efficient? So they will achieve efficiencies far beyond 100%?

Either way, giving up on alternatives to nuclear fission power now would be extremely short-sighted. Depending on how fast energy demand in China and India will rise in the future, and on how much coal/oil/gas we need to replace with nuclear power, fission material will run out (or become unaffordable) anywhere between the years 2050 and 2400.

There has to be a development of other power sources at some point, and there is no reason not to develop them right now.
That way we can save fission material for uses where it really is the best option. Like research and medical reactors, submarines, maybe future starships.

RE: thorium
By m51 on 12/15/2011 8:58:31 AM , Rating: 5
300 times more efficient does not imply efficiencies in excess of 100%. Current fuel utilization in Light Water reactors is less than 0.4% of the mined Uranium.

Uranium is not going to run out that soon. Uranium is currently very cheap at around $40 a lb and little money or effort has been spent on prospecting in decades. The actual recoverable uranium in the ground is vastly larger than what are published as Known Reserves simply because most of the supplies are unknown as of yet. In the past whenever money has been invested in prospecting for Uranium, known reserves have increased sharply.

Also what is deemed Recoverable changes drastically with market price. A rough rule of thumb is that for every doubling of the market price of a mineable commodity the recoverable reserves increase by a factor of 10 since lower concentration ores become economically recoverable and the amount of lower concentration ores is enormously larger than high concentration ores. Currently the cost of the mined uranium is about 0.2 cents per Kwh. Uranium prices could increase by a factor of 10 and only increase the cost of the power generated by 2 cents a Kwh. Current energy prices are around 10 cents a Kwh.

Since uranium salts are water soluble there is also 4.6 billion tons of uranium in seawater. The japanese have already demonstrated methods of extracting it although not competitive with current mined prices of uranium it would be competitive should uranium prices rise by a factor of 5 or so.

On top of all this the fallacy of running out of uranium fuel assumes that no effort is made to develop breeder reactors, or even the development of high-burn up reactors. Breeder reactors can use all the mined uranium as fuel, thus increasing the fuel supply by more than 200 times. Thorium LFTRs are also breeders so they use all the thorium as fuel, and Thorium is about 3 times more common than Uranium in the earths crust. There is enough nuclear fuel in the ground to last millions of years.

For policy making decisions even a 100 year supply is sufficient, enough to cover the next 2-3 generations of reactors. At that point in time technology will be much advanced and there may be other options.

RE: thorium
By augiem on 12/15/11, Rating: 0
RE: thorium
By lagomorpha on 12/15/2011 1:38:54 PM , Rating: 3
Well at current demand if we harvested the oceans and put the hydrogen in a hypothetical 1% efficient deuterium-deuterium fusion reactor we would have power for something like 5 billion years. On the other hand at current population growth rate the entire mass of the universe will be composed of human flesh in a few thousand years. If I didn't have to leave for work I'd run through the calculations (done them before but it's been a while).

RE: thorium
By geddarkstorm on 12/15/2011 2:50:02 PM , Rating: 2

Population growth around the world is slowing--our population is nearing what is called the "stationary phase", and will not grow beyond that (unless we start colonizing space). 9 billion will probably be the top out, or even lower, since higher technology actually decreases human population density (or conversely, makes birth rates decline more sharply with increasing density. Consequently, most first world countries have negative growth rates, and are shrinking as technology can do more, requiring less people to be born).

Population is always a function of density, need, and resource allocation. It will never grow indefinitely or cataclysmically. It's a natural process seen with ALL types of populations, from bacteria to humans, to abstracts like product adoption, markets, and the like.

Nothing to be afraid of at all. The only real woe we have right now is the UNDERDEVELOPMENT of most of the world's population.

And now on to the fuel.

You do realize that uranium fissions into thorium, correct? That's where most of the thorium comes from.

The poster you are replying to is completely correct. Even with everyone consuming as much power as the US does, we have enough uranium and thorium in this planet to last a million of year. And this is ignoring OTHER types of radioactive elements we may one day be able to use as fuels, and OTHER types of sensible renewable power generation like hydroelectric. Radioactive elements are everywhere: uranium is in your soil, your drinking water, and your body. And let's not even get started on the ubiquitous amounts of radon gas, which gives you the biggest dose of radiation every year that you will ever receive, sans being hit by a nuclear weapon.

And then there's outer space.

Us humans are really in no danger from resource depletion, just our own idiocy and self destructive policies, and the mindless fears driving them.

RE: thorium
By lagomorpha on 12/15/2011 3:21:28 PM , Rating: 3
While population growth is slowing, it is unlikely yo stop before we actually do stretch our resources to the limit. New humans are not manufactured on a by need basis, they are produced by adults who either want children or lack family planning. As the proportion of the population that is willing to use family planning shrinks you are going to see another factor in the population growth rate - willingness to limit yourself to 2-3 children is a massively powerful selective force. What would prevent entire cultures from using family planning even at the risk of their family's wellbeing? Well religion for one.

Also a million years of thorium does not invalidate 5 billion years worth of hydrogen inour oceans.

RE: thorium
By Ringold on 12/16/2011 2:30:36 PM , Rating: 2
While population growth is slowing, it is unlikely yo stop before we actually do stretch our resources to the limit.

People have been saying that since, most famously, Malthus. Been wrong ever since. At the end of the day, innovation has always kept us ahead and moving forward.

RE: thorium
By m51 on 12/15/2011 4:00:21 PM , Rating: 2
I think you meant uranium decays into thorium, not fissions. U238 and Thorium 232 are actually in two different decay chains and U238 does not decay to Thorium 232. Uranium 238 Does decay into other Thorium isotopes (Th234 and Th230) but these are relatively short lived and do not consitute a significant fraction of the Thorium in the crust.

The source of Thorium is from the primordial super nova that created most of the elements with a higher atomic number than iron in our earths crust. It has a half life of about 14 billion years. U238 has a half life of about 4.5 Billion years.

You are quite right about radioactive material being distributed everywhere on earth. People have a distorted view of the risks of radioactivity, like people on the west coast of the US fearing the radioactivity from Fukushima when the naturally occuring radioactive Potassium-40 in the person sleeping next to them is giving them a bigger dose of radiation than any fallout from Fukushima. Neither of which constitute any measurable danger. Driving to the grocery store once would increase your risk of dying prematurely more than the miniscule radiation doses. Yet people have no sense of the scale of the dangers and are terrified of radiation completely out of proportion to the risks.

RE: thorium
By lagomorpha on 12/15/2011 10:34:19 PM , Rating: 2
How big boned would the person sleeping next to you have to be to give you a lethal dose of radiation from potassium-40 decay?

RE: thorium
By bh192012 on 12/15/11, Rating: 0
RE: thorium
By mattclary on 12/15/2011 1:40:30 PM , Rating: 3
100% of .4% = .4%
200% of .4% = .8%
300% of .4% = 1.2%

RE: thorium
By FITCamaro on 12/15/2011 2:29:18 PM , Rating: 3
Public schools ftw.

RE: thorium
By hankw on 12/16/2011 6:26:38 AM , Rating: 2
To be fair the original post did say 300 "times", which is actually 30000%. ;)
Something that is 3 times greater, is 300% greater.

RE: thorium
By Just Tom on 12/16/2011 8:18:34 AM , Rating: 2
From the original post...

"China is investing heavily in this technology - these devices are 300+ more efficient than the solid fuel dinosaurs referred to by this article."

300% would be 3 times more efficient, not 300+. I have no clue where you got 300% from.

RE: thorium
By kattanna on 12/15/2011 3:34:32 PM , Rating: 3
300 X .4% = 120%

this post makes me laugh..and cry

RE: thorium
By Just Tom on 12/16/2011 8:21:03 AM , Rating: 2
Why do you have such weird emotional reactions to a correctly solved equation? You must have been highly entertaining during 8th grade alegbra.

RE: thorium
By m51 on 12/15/2011 6:10:31 PM , Rating: 2
less than 0.4%

RE: thorium
By JediJeb on 12/15/2011 2:10:04 PM , Rating: 2
Another source of Uranium is Coal. There are some seams of coal that would be worth more as a source of Uranium than what they are currently worth simply used as fuel.

RE: thorium
By NellyFromMA on 12/15/2011 12:46:58 PM , Rating: 2
300% more efficient than current output efficiency, which is clearly within the typical laws of efficiency as there is room in output efficiency to be 3 times greater while still under 100%, a likely unattainable figure.

Arithmetic Fail.

RE: thorium
By Slackjaw747 on 12/15/2011 3:30:05 PM , Rating: 2
You can scream efficiency all you want, but until they can find some way to harness the energy other than boiling water, it will never be efficient. Boiling water with nuclear energy is simply ludicrous...

RE: thorium
By m51 on 12/15/2011 6:08:07 PM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately it's your statement that is ludicrous. It only displays your complete lack of understanding of the thermodynamics and engineering involved.

In fact boiling water can be a quite efficient means of energy conversion and is used with coal, geothermal, and solar thermal systems as well.

RE: thorium
By a_roach on 12/15/2011 6:43:04 PM , Rating: 2
There are several more efficient ways to convert energy as your input temperature goes up. Most notably the Brayton Gas cycle used currently in natural gas turbines.

The only reason this isn't done with traditional nuclear is that the current reactors use water for coolant, and there's a limit to how hot you can get water, even under pressure, and have it stay water rather than flashing to steam. Therefore, it's more efficient at the relatively low temperatures in conventional nuclear to just boil water not under pressure and use that to make power.

Many/most of the new nuclear designs allow for much higher output temperatures and therefore have inherently better conversion efficiency. LFTR comes to mind in particular.

RE: thorium
By a_roach on 12/15/2011 6:46:03 PM , Rating: 2
Also, to be clear, in traditional light water reactors, the (primary) coolant water is under pressure and is used to boil a separate (secondary) loop of water to steam that isn't under pressure through a liquid/liquid heat exchanger.

RE: thorium
By polishvendetta on 12/15/2011 9:03:01 AM , Rating: 4
while im all for green renewable energy, this country, geographicly, is not made for the current technologies of green energy without factoring in nuclear power. wind and solar are good but only in specific types of climates. with the large land mass of america and having several climate zones, it seems to me modular nuclear is a very good solution.

this technology seems to be 5-10 years away where throium is likely 20 or so with government regulations and such. Its good to have a long term goal but equaly good to have several short term ones as well.

RE: thorium
By WinstonSmith on 12/15/11, Rating: -1
RE: thorium
By ShieTar on 12/15/2011 10:15:50 AM , Rating: 2
The global amount of Thorium is about 3 times higher than that of Uranium. You do not need to look for it specifically, as you can figure this out on a global scale by Neutrino-Measurements.

Nevertheless, the main problems are it's lower efficiency as compared to enriched uranium (It is not fissible in itself, but needs to be bred first), and the generally higher complexity of fuel generation.

Thus at this moment there is very little economic incentive to switch the fuel cycle.

The other thing to keep in mind is, that expanding the Uranium cycle usage can lead to a decrease of waste components with a long half-life and thus simplify the waste managment.

RE: thorium
By WinstonSmith on 12/15/2011 3:27:09 PM , Rating: 3
Actually, it's about four times higher (10ppm thorium vs. 2.5ppm uranium). And U235 is .018ppm.

Here's one of several technical discussions that have convinced me that a serious effort should be made to further develop this commercially:

Google Tech Talk
The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor: What Fusion Wanted To Be

RE: thorium
By AntiM on 12/15/2011 10:24:49 AM , Rating: 2
...or helium 3.

This could be an incentive to put us back in space and have abundant, safe energy at the same time.

RE: thorium
By m51 on 12/15/2011 11:30:26 AM , Rating: 3
Unfortunately HE3 doesn't pass a reality check. The neutron flux over Deuterium-Tritium fuel will only be reduced by about a factor of 3, not enough to make a difference. The drawback is much higher temperatures are needed to achieve practical reaction rates and increased losses due to Bremsstrahlaung radiation etc. may put it out of reach as a usable fuel.
There is also the supply problem. It would not be cost effective within orders of magnitude to try and 'farm' this stuff off the moon compared to standard old nuclear reactors or other power generation systems.

As to Fusion power in general it doesn't look like commercial power generation via Fusion power will happen in my lifetime or several generations after. A number of intractable problems remain such as the first wall problem for which there are no solutions and no viable options. This after 60 years of fusion research. Even if break even power generation with fusion is technically possible it appears it will be orders of magnitude too expensive as a commercial power source. It does us no good if it is not economically feasible.

The only small hope I have is that one of the alternative non-tokamak approaches pans out like the Dense Plasma Focus, Polywell, or the Field-reversed technique. If one of these can be made to run with Boron-11 fuel then we may have a new ballgame.

RE: thorium
By Namey on 12/15/2011 12:07:29 PM , Rating: 2
Say "Bremsstrahlaung" three times fast

RE: thorium
By ppardee on 12/15/2011 12:36:30 PM , Rating: 2
Three times? I can't even say it once without choking on my tongue!

RE: thorium
By Gondor on 12/15/2011 5:24:23 PM , Rating: 3
It is not that difficult once it is spelled correctly. Split it into syllables:

Brems - like "Brahms", but with an 'e'
strahl - "trall" ('a' as in "bar" or "car") with "sh" (from "shoot") in front of it
ung - "oong"

and it's not the soft 'r' of English language, it's a hard 'r', more like that of Spanish ("perro").

Bremsstrahlung - easy ;)

Government intervention
By sleepeeg3 on 12/15/2011 12:49:57 AM , Rating: 1
The government needs to NOT step in and keep their hands off the power industry. Subsidizing wind and solar, while forcing utilities to generate power only from wind and solar, drives up costs, forces Americans to waste more of their budget for inefficient technologies and prevents investment in inexpensive alternatives like nuclear technology.

Government is the problem, not the answer.

RE: Government intervention
By gundy11 on 12/15/2011 1:07:42 AM , Rating: 3
You do realize that the government subsidies natural gas and gasoline.

RE: Government intervention
By DockScience on 12/15/2011 4:05:40 PM , Rating: 3
No... how do they subsidize gasoline and gas?

You mean with normal business tax deductions granted to all businesses or with direct payments to the producers as with "green" energy.

RE: Government intervention
By mikeyD95125 on 12/15/2011 2:35:46 AM , Rating: 2

RE: Government intervention
By Paj on 12/15/2011 7:31:37 AM , Rating: 1
You muppet. US government subsidises all forms of energy - and fossil fuels far more than any other.

RE: Government intervention
By Ringold on 12/15/2011 9:31:16 AM , Rating: 3
They sure pay lots of licensing fees, royalties and income taxes to be so highly subsidized, those evil oil drillers.

I think there's a feeling on the left that anything less than a 100% tax rate represents a subsidy.

RE: Government intervention
By tastyratz on 12/15/11, Rating: 0
RE: Government intervention
By ppardee on 12/15/2011 1:06:41 PM , Rating: 2
The effective (US) tax rate of oil companies is roughly 41%, which is far greater than the average non-oil industrial companies pay, which is about 26.5%. In addition to the nearly 15% extra that the government taxes oil companies, the end product is taxed as well at a rate of about $0.18 per gallon of gasoline and $0.24 per gallon of diesel fuel. And that doesn't count state and municipal taxes, which bring it up to about $0.50 per gallon.

Now, I don't put it past the government to play Shell games (HA! I made a funny!) but it seems rather stupid to directly subsidize an industry, and then reclaim those subsidies via taxes on the companies and the tax payers.

The progressive movement's propaganda doesn't jibe with the real numbers. You can spin it both ways. Exxon-Mobile paid $1.45 in US taxes (Federal, state and local) for every $1 they earned in the US between 2006 and 2010. Where are the tax breaks?

RE: Government intervention
By gamerk2 on 12/15/2011 2:36:53 PM , Rating: 2
Now, I don't put it past the government to play Shell games (HA! I made a funny!) but it seems rather stupid to directly subsidize an industry, and then reclaim those subsidies via taxes on the companies and the tax payers.

Not really. You subsidize the costs to make it cheaper (IE: Economically viable) to begin initial production, and in exchange, you take a percentage of the profits. Many things are simply unaffordable without subsidies from the government.

Exxon-Mobile paid $1.45 in US taxes (Federal, state and local) for every $1 they earned in the US between 2006 and 2010.

So...Exxon-Mobile went bankrupt because they couldn't turn an after-tax profit? I think your numbers are just a *little* bit off...

RE: Government intervention
By Etsp on 12/15/2011 2:40:09 PM , Rating: 2
Exxon-Mobile paid $1.45 in US taxes (Federal, state and local) for every $1 they earned in the US between 2006 and 2010. Where are the tax breaks?
That doesn't make sense. That would be a tax rate in excess of 100%. Do you mean that for every $2.45 they earned they paid $1.45 in taxes? That sounds like cherry picked data to me. Especially given their trend of breaking profit records year after year.

RE: Government intervention
By ppardee on 12/15/2011 3:45:00 PM , Rating: 5
It was an example of how to spin the numbers, which the liberal media does constantly. These numbers are 100% accurate (insofar as they aren't falsified).

First, this is US taxes and US earnings only. The corporate tax around the world is much lower. Second, the 'earned' refers to net profits. So, while this statement seems to say that they had an effective tax rate of 145%, in reality, it only means that they paid more taxes to the government than they were able to retain as profits in the US (The taxes came out of gross earnings). The extension of this statement and yours would be that even though they made record profits, they also paid record taxes.

Another spin in the other direction is that Exxon's effective tax rate is lower than the average American's, (this is Center for American Progress's spin) which takes Exxon's global effective tax rate (about 24%, but CAP figures it down to 17% some how, and 2% in the text with the given numbers) and ignores American's who don't pay any taxes and uses average rather than median, which would give a better idea of who pays what.

In any case, it's all bogus and you have to actually look at the real numbers to see that the oil industry isn't screwing anyone or getting a sweet deal from the government and their profit margins are about 5%, which isn't insane. Record profits are a result of record demand. Same way Wal-Mart makes money (without giving the shaft to employees.)

RE: Government intervention
By Ringold on 12/16/2011 2:48:18 PM , Rating: 2
They hardly pay out compared to what they make

I wont link any opinionated website with any agenda whatsoever, just hard numbers.

Look at those numbers, and engage the brain. It's a profit margin of 10%, which is downright mediocre, it's simply that Exxon has built up massive operations and thus its 10% on a large revenue base. Further, if you dig in to it just one layer deep, by my math Exxon pays almost 41% (as someone else said) of its earnings after expenses in taxes.

The only way to really say that integrated oil companies are subsidized is pointing at the sort of tax credits that many companies benefit from that boost incentive for investment and benefit from various sorts of public infrastructure which, again, exist to boost business. The link you provided are littered with such things; MANY businesses get to take advantage of expensing, foreign income tax credits (where do you get off saying a company unit operating entirely overseas owes the US money anyway?), etc.

So again, according to that sort of logic, all businesses are subsidized, or given special tax treatment, heavily.

RE: Government intervention
By Starcub on 12/19/2011 9:31:54 PM , Rating: 2
Oil and gas companies receive 88% of all federal energy subsidies. Nuclear energy gets 9%, and all clean renewables combined get about the same as nuclear.

As the article pointed out, the tech under discussion isn't viable in the marketplace without subsidy. I can only imagine the regulatory headache that portable nuclear would cause. I'm not sure portable nuclear will ever see the light of day... that is, unless the govt. is selective in making exceptions in it's push to eliminate tax expenditures and NRC becomes a stooge for industry. Of course these things would never happen would they!?!

The problem with using many smaller reactors
By Natch on 12/15/2011 7:42:27 AM , Rating: 3
....versus fewer large reactors, is the manpower it takes to run the plants.

The USA's first nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, uses 8 nuclear reactors (4 power plants, each having a pair of reactors in parallel service) to drive the ship (as well as generate electricity, make steam for the catapults, etc).

Every subsequent aircraft carrier, in the Nimitz class (and now in the new Ford class) uses TWO nuclear reactors, each of which is approximately 4.5 times larger capacity than the Enterprise reactors.

Why? Fewer power plants equals fewer trained operators to run those plants.

And we want the human version of Homer Simpson running our nuclear power plants, in reality?

RE: The problem with using many smaller reactors
By Ringold on 12/15/2011 9:38:07 AM , Rating: 2
And we want the human version of Homer Simpson running our nuclear power plants, in reality?

If there were a future in it, and the government stopped subsidizing student loans for artsy majors, I bet enrollment in nuclear physics courses would leap. Right now kids might be interested, think its cool, but think its a dead end so bright people may be passing the field over.

I just don't think there's necessarily a need to lower standards, but a push for nuclear today would require a simultaneous education push, with reforms and nuclear PR (the latter being the job of industry, the former the government) so that when these plants come online the first waves of students have graduated and been adequately trained.

RE: The problem with using many smaller reactors
By kattanna on 12/15/2011 11:02:20 AM , Rating: 4
and the government stopped subsidizing student loans for artsy majors

but if they did that then who would be serving me my coffee??

RE: The problem with using many smaller reactors
By lagomorpha on 12/15/2011 1:44:11 PM , Rating: 3
Someone less stuck up and with a less ridiculous haircut.

By JediJeb on 12/15/2011 5:30:37 PM , Rating: 2
I wish I could rate you up!

By Skywalker123 on 12/15/2011 11:50:38 PM , Rating: 2

By JediJeb on 12/15/2011 5:39:36 PM , Rating: 2
Honestly there are a lot of chemist and physicist out there that could do the job if it was available. Many science graduates end up in jobs far outside their field of study simply because there is a lack of those types of jobs. I am a chemist and I was lucky to find a job in chemistry, but my training in school was focused on coal chemistry, specifically to be a chemist in a goal gasification plant, but I finished just as those were being scrapped, so I am working in environmental compliance testing which pays half of what an autoworker makes or less. Believe me, if a bunch of these small nuke plants were spread across the country there would be plenty of skilled people to run them.

In same vein...
By Cygni on 12/14/2011 11:59:33 PM , Rating: 1
Need fart proof butt says US top smart guy.

If it was easy as saying it, we would have already done it.

RE: In same vein...
By ShieTar on 12/15/2011 7:48:12 AM , Rating: 2
So you do not believe in the possiblity of technolical improvement? Any kind of technology must remain forever at the standard it had when it was first introduced?

In any High Tech scientists and engineers will forever come up with new and better options. If they increase efficiency or reduce cost, companies are happy to adopt them.
If they improve security, but increase cost, than companies need to be forced to use them by government guidelines or laws.

The government does not only have the right, but also the responsibility, to protect its population from risks of outdated technology whenever alternatives are identified through research.

RE: In same vein...
By Ringold on 12/15/2011 9:33:06 AM , Rating: 5
If it was easy as saying it, we would have already done it.

Other countries already have. Not SMRs, but advanced designs. It's a failure of politics, not technology.

RE: In same vein...
By jRaskell on 12/15/2011 11:09:26 AM , Rating: 5
If it was easy as saying it, we would have already done it.

Only the utterly and hopelessly naive would believe such a statement.

With the vast array of special interest groups, lobbyists, and law firms all spending ridiculous amounts of money to protect their own self interests from any sort of new competition, there is an incredibly long list of items this country could do (even should do) that hasn't been done.

While the theories of a democratic government and capitalist market are great, the realities are that our government keeps our markets from being truly capitalist and our markets (ie corporations) keep our government from being truly democratic.

RE: In same vein...
By Namey on 12/15/2011 12:10:00 PM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately, the ability to "light farts on fire" was deemed far to important to sacrifice, and the decision was made to scrap the project.

This guy is good
By Ammohunt on 12/14/2011 10:36:11 PM , Rating: 5
But the veteran researcher says those who lump modern nuclear reactors with decades old legacy designs like the reactors at Fukushima are ignorant of the scientific reality.

Could not be said any better! 70ies era reactor design meet 40 years of fission research.

RE: This guy is good
By drycrust3 on 12/15/2011 3:19:26 PM , Rating: 2
70ies era reactor design meet 40 years of fission research.

Years ago I heard an item on the radio about the total energy content of a nuclear power station, and how the energy put into building a nuclear reactor and supplying it with the fissionable material (e.g. the fuel needed to extract the uranium, refine it, and ship it to the plant; or the fuel needed to make the concrete and steal used in the construction) was just a bit less than what you got out of the plant over a 20 year period, which was the then life expectancy of the nuclear pile before it was replaced. Thus, the plant actually only made "a profit" in terms of energy during the second and subsequent pile lifecycles of the core when it was replaced.
Therefore, as time goes on and the oil reserves shrink, there will be more pressure to keep existing plants running as they are, or, if major modifications were to be undertaken, then they shouldn't amount to a complete rebuild of the plant. All this means we can expect those "70s era" designs to be around for a long time.

about thorium
By tharik on 12/15/2011 6:46:27 PM , Rating: 3
There is about 200 times more of it as uranium.

It does not have to be processed in a centrifuge.

It has already successfully been used in molten salt reactors about 40 years ago.

It can be used to burn up the existing waste created by uranium reactors.

You can not make atomic bombs with it.

It operates at normal atmospheric pressure.

It can not melt down, even in the event of a major catastrophe.
If power goes out the frozen salt plug would melt and the fluid would drain into holding tanks, which stops the reactor. No manual or computer process need to control shutdown. It is automatic.

The heat it creates can be used to for water desalination.

They can be placed all over, close to where the power is needed, so you do not have to long power lines that waste energy.

"So why has it taken so long for thorium to hit the nuclear power agenda? The key reason seems to be that because it can't be used to make a nuclear bomb, it was largely ignored during the Manhattan project and in the development of nuclear power stations that followed."

The above quoted material was from

Asimov had the right idea...
By dgingerich on 12/14/2011 11:27:18 PM , Rating: 2
Read the Foundation series. they use lots of small nuclear reactors in that series of stories. :) I prefer the way Asimov thinks.

By PaFromFL on 12/15/2011 9:04:44 AM , Rating: 2
... and this time build plants that are properly designed to generate power for the grid, instead of designing them to subsidize the Navy and line the pockets of defense contractors.

By danjw1 on 12/15/2011 11:58:26 AM , Rating: 2
Anyone who thinks we can meet our energy needs of the future without nuclear power, is foolish. Small scale mass produced nuclear plants seem like a good choice. I remember reading a few years ago that a company (Honda?) was working on a "nuclear battery". The concept was that it would power a ~100 homes and last 5-10 years and then be recycled, as I remember it. These would be sealed and not serviced in the field.

The key is bringing engineered manufacturing to nuclear power. This is what we did in World War II with the Sherman Tank, they were the first tanks to not be bespoke. The key thing is replaceable parts, that don't need to be made specifically for a particular end unit. Once you can have a regular supply chain, instead of custom made parts, prices drop drastically.

Modular Dreams and Nightmares
By Paxus on 12/16/2011 3:48:21 AM , Rating: 2
Promising to solve our energy problems with modular reactors is a bit like trying to pitch fusion. It has been out there for years, it has only been crazy expesnive (military cost plus applications) and it solves none of the conventional nuclear reactor problems and adds some. See

This is the latest version to "too cheap to meter" and "It can never meltdown" and "Trust us we are experts", Turns out is is crazy expensive, does meltdown and the experts are paid to lie to us.

Helium 3 fusion reactor.
By fteoath64 on 12/16/2011 6:03:51 AM , Rating: 2
Using remote operated craft to mine H3 from the Moon, we can have energy independence in a few years. But first, one has to remove the military-industrial complex because that is leeching off mankind. The international bankers who are parasites of control and evil doers.

With energy independence, the earth can easily accommodate 20 billion people or more with 10X to 100X the quality of life we have today. The younger generation can then exploit zero-point energy and provide orbit level housing/habitates and floating gardens that will grow the most nutritious foods without the GMO poisons that exist today!.

Such a nice planet being spoiled by a few greedy souls is such a shame.

And in other news
By Reclaimer77 on 12/14/11, Rating: 0
“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls

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