Thursday, July 07, 2011

Jordan – Gates – Germany - NuScale

Bill_Gates_300 A couple of days ago, I expressed a little disappointment that Bahrain was not joining the nuclear family – well, maybe it will, but it doesn’t seem to be on its radar right now. So let’s replace that bit of grimness:

Like many others, Jordan is not giving up on its nuclear program, which it considers an essential part of its energy plan. The country has plans to build two reactors in the next decade, and two additional reactors are planned for the next 25 years.

Jordan is at the stage where it is scoping out vendors:

The country’s atomic commission has pre-selected possible technologies from Atomic Energy of Canada, Russia’s ZAO Atomstroyexport and Atmea, a joint venture between France’s Areva and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Rolling right along.

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Bill Gates has been enough a fan of nuclear energy to invest money in it. Have events in Japan changed his mind? Wired thought it would find out:

The good news about nuclear is that there’s hardly been any innovation in the past three decades, so the room to do things differently is quite dramatic. The difference between today’s designs and one from the 1960s is night and day. We understand heat pipes a lot better today. We understand what the decay of heat looks like. There’s this company, TerraPower, which former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myrhvold and I have spun out of his invention group, Intellectual Ventures. We’ve got a new nuclear design, a generation four. On paper it’s quite amazing.

Well, I can’t say I agree with everything here, but Gates is on the hunt for the next big thing (as he often is) and he’s decided that TerraPower is it. That makes everything else, in his mind, rather outmoded – out with DOS, in with OS/2.

You can read the rest at Wired. A lot of his views on energy are counterintuitive, but that makes them challenging even when you find yourself disagreeing with him most of the time.

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Economist Ferdinand Banks takes a look at the German decision to close its nuclear plants. The piece is a little dense in style, but easily comprehensible and even amusing. A taste:

Here it needs to be appreciated that if the German nuclear retreat were a reality instead of a politically motivated and bizarre fantasy, the French nuclear sector might have already started to expand in order to receive the hundreds of billions in export income that would become available when German nuclear facilities begin to close their doors.

Not completely fair, I’m sure, but love it anyway.

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NuScale, a prospective designer of a small reactor design, recently found itself the negative beneficiary of an investment firm heavily involved in a Ponzi scheme. NuScale had nothing to do with the bad business, but of course, suffered a stark reversal of fortune and almost collapsed. Better days ahead:

NuScale Power has been quietly recalling laid-off employees over the past two months as it slowly recovers from a financial crisis that very nearly proved catastrophic.

That’s good news.

NuScale's modular reactor technology has continued to attract attention in the nuclear industry, however, and some modest outside investment. Landrey declined to say how much new backing NuScale has raised so far, but said his company is increasingly confident about its future.

That’s chief marketing officer Bruce Landrey and that’s about what you’d expect him to say. Some of the vendors working on small reactors likely won’t last – it’s just how business works – but it would have been a shame to see NuScale go pear shaped due to the bad behavior of others.

Bill Gates

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