Skip to main content

In Small Packages

udall The plausibility of using small nuclear reactors in situations where a full-scale reactor might be seen as overkill is an idea pushed, as you would imagine, by vendors with such reactors in their portfolios. In fact, a group of those vendors travelled around Washington during the early fall months scaring up as much interest in their wares to anyone who wanted to listen. Not just think tanks, but the NRC has hosted a presentation on small units.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko told the NRC forum on small reactors in mid-October that his agency needs to ensure it has adequate resources to plan for detailed review of small and medium reactors. Among the issues needing resolution is focusing on specific technical designs.

“We need to hear from the industry about the demand for these reactors, and the industry’s development and deployment priorities,” Jaczko said.

Rod Adams has a terrific discussion of the NRC forum up at Atomic Insights.

Jaczko sounds measured but open, about what one would expect. It’s not exactly kick the can, but the can still ended up in the offices of Sen. Mark Udall (D-Col.) who decided to move the conversation forward a bit. He’s submitted an amendment to the Energy Act of 2005 to allocate $250 million to the Department of Energy to investigate ways to lower the cost of building new reactors.

Now, the small reactors are not the meat of the bill. Here’s how he describes its purpose:

To amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to require the Secretary of Energy to carry out a research and development and demonstration program to reduce manufacturing and construction costs relating to nuclear reactors, and for other purposes.

And here’s what he wants to be researched:

(A) modular and small-scale reactors

(B) balance-of-plant issues [that is, the elements of electricity generation not including nuclear reactors – things like turbines];

(C) cost-efficient manufacturing and construction;

(D) licensing issues; and

(E) enhanced proliferation controls.

So a bundle of thing, but this is the first mention of small reactors we’ve seen in legislation to date.


Interestingly, stories we’ve seen about this and the speech Udall gave on the floor of the Senate introducing it all fasten on the small reactors, though he didn’t mention them at all in his speech.

According to a report in the examiner, Colorado's senior U.S. senator has proposed a bill that would give the federal government authority to research whether small-scale, modular nuclear reactors are a feasible contributor to the nation's energy supply.

That’s from Nuclear Street. Our friend Dan Yurman over at Idaho Samizdat also focused on it:

Colorado Senator Mark Udall, has introduced a bill to authorize federal R&D for small, modular reactors. Udall said in a speech on the Senate floor he believes nuclear energy is an important part of the nation's response to global warming.

Here’s video of his speech if you want to take a listen.


It seems churlish to talk of small reactors and not provide a way for you to learn about them. So visit NuScale Power, Babcock & Wilcox, even the still-incubating TerraPower. That’ll get you started.

Sen. Mark Udall. We suspect every western politician has photos like this.


Popular posts from this blog

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.

Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…