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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 28, 2021

As important as getting carbon-free generation domestically is, the geopolitical implications as spelled out here are also huge. The next decade is going to be formative when it comes to the 21st century global energy leaders-- no time to be left behind!

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Jun 30, 2021

Emily, The USA is a leader in electric vehicles and advanced battery storage with Tesla. No country in the world is even close. Their vehicles are 400% more efficient . They use the same battery cells for Mega Packs to make the GRID more reliable. Their vehicles are also safer than any in the world.

   So why would you propose a limited unsafe power system that would never be built if it wasn't for huge subsidies? Why would you support a system that cannot ramp up and down quickly to match the changing demand? Can the new system fail in an earthquake and be unsafe? Will it fail in a Tusani and give off radiation for thousands of years? Do you want it in your back yard. 

    The USA  is also a leader in Solar PV with Sunpower. They produce the most power and run the coolest. With no pollution or water used. 

    You work in the nuclear industry. So how can we get an unbiased view on the new Nuclear system?  

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jul 5, 2021

Jim, 

There are advanced reactors in development that address your concerns. However, as I noted in my post below, there are fundamental institutional problems that short-circuit the return of the US to a commercial nuclear reactor leadership role. I suppose from your viewpoint that is probably good.

However, wiping out nuclear reactors as an energy source in the US has disturbing strategic consequences. Energy is absolutely vital to modern civilization. To the extent that our energy options are severely limited, then our civilization will slide backwards and our enemies will dictate our future.

 

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jul 5, 2021

I seriously doubt the versatile test reactor will return the US to a leadership role, for a variety of reasons.

Fundamentally, the VTR’s only reason to exist is to support fast reactor research. Such reactors have an utterly dismal operational and profitability record. Further, fast reactors require reprocessing facilities that themselves are extremely expensive to build and operate. The reprocessing facilities generate vast amounts of radioactive waste.

If the US is to ever return to a leadership role, then the reactors need to be commercially viable and passively fail-safe. Fast reactors inherently are not leading candidates to meet such a target. The fast reactors are essentially the most unlikely technology capable of hitting the target.

The other severe leadership problem the US faces is the stupefyingly extreme costs to license the facilities. All advanced reactors face that problem, but the fast reactor even more so. This problem lies squarely at the feet of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. One would logically conclude that passively fail-safe advanced reactors should be easier to license than earlier reactor designs. That is, in fact, not the case. The financial risk associated with licensing costs is currently extremely high. That in and of itself a massive disincentive to invest in advanced reactors.

In my opinion, in order for the US to return to a leadership role, advanced reactors that provide reasonably priced energy coupled with passively fail-safe designs is the key. Seems highly unlikely that will occur. The Russians and Chinese will become ever stronger leaders in the field of civilian nuclear energy, with the US relegated to a minor role.

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