Nuclear Power InvestingOctober 23, 2020
For the last several years, nuclear energy was a focus of sharp disagreement from the debate over climate change. Conventional environmentalists have a propensity to oppose climate trolls claim it is the savior of humanity, just stopped by ignorance that is green. For all the hyperbole, a few points that are excellent are made by either side. Nuclear energy is not as dangerous as it is often portrayed, at least in contrast to coal, whilst the trolls don’t acknowledge the main problem with conventional nuclear power: its stupendous cost.
Betterment of nuclear
Nevertheless, there are motives to hope there could be a way. The solution lies in moving away from present nuclear technologies, and towards general research. The theoretical advantages of non standard nuclear technology are very great, but these technologies aren’t currently in a workable form. Therefore, more research could pay off handsomely. The Department of Energy is moving into this way, with $60 million recently assigned to new nuclear research. That’s a good measure, but an inadequate one. We should be doing much more. The major problem with conventional nuclear energy plants is they’re too big. Existing nuclear technology relies on uranium fission, which necessitates huge generators to work correctly.
Is it profitable?
The plants are huge, complicated, dangerous, and for that reason very expensive to construct and insure. Normally, that means big government subsidies are expected to receive one really constructed, and cost overruns together with other headaches are incredibly common. Consequently, many nuclear projects are abandoned outright. What is worse, nuclear has stagnated or increased in price through the years. Like any large piece of infrastructure nowadays, American associations struggle to receive them done on time and within budget. That is in stark contrast to wind and particularly solar, that have been plummeting in price. Faced with a likely price assault from renewables, many utilities are trying to pay regulated ratepayers who can be forced to pay for their unprofitable atomic plants.
Danger of a meltdown glooms upon us
Then, of course, there’s the small, but real danger of atomic meltdown, which could turn enormous swaths of the country in a radioactive wasteland for hundreds of years. Newer reactor designs have the potential to alleviate most or any of those problems. Some research funded by the Department of Energy concentrates on smaller, modular reactors, which could standardize the production process and bring down prices, since one of the costly aspects of conventional design is having to construct custom parts and equipment for enormous generation facilities. Another, even more promising research field is in thorium reactors. This is just another fission reactor, but with numerous major advantages.
Alternative to uranium
Thorium is more common than uranium, making the fuel cheaper. The reaction path generates far less waste. Such a reactor also must be continuously bombarded with neutrons to keep the reaction going, rather to be modulated with control rods meaning that it’ll have a tendency to naturally cool down on its own during an emergency loss of power, as opposed to spiral out of control. In possibly the most promising design, thorium is dissolved in a molten salt, which suggests that the reactor can be operated at atmospheric pressure, in place of the very high pressure of conventional reactors.