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Nuclear Energy – Clean Energy

November 8, 2021

In the public eye nuclear power is politicized as being “dirty, dangerous, insecure, outdated, harmful,” among many other things. The reality is the complete opposite.

Jacopo Buongiorno, an MIT nuclear engineer has calculated that the life cycle of a nuclear power plant including construction, mining, transport, operation, and decommissioning creates just 1/700th of coal, 1/400th of gas, and 1/4th of emissions as solar. Also, it uses 1/400th of the land required for wind and solar (for the same amount of generation). In terms of the raw materials needed to build a nuclear plant, the volumes are 1/10000th that of solar and 1/500th of wind – despite being harder to dispose of that is still a significant comparison. Mortality from coal is 2,000 – 3,000x as compared to nuclear.

Typically new nuclear power is not pushed forth by the federal government, but today funding for more than 70 development projects in various technologies is underway. Among those are small modular reactors (SMRs), a goal of which is to standardize testing, licensing, and installations of nuclear powered generation. Successful testing of SMRs and education on the subject can help shift public opinion on the matter. These reactors are not the same as those 50 year ago – they are air cooled, can be shut down quickly without the risk of releasing radioactive material, and be placed in small spaces. If politics are put aside SMRs could be deployed with ease and hasten EV deployment, commercial ship propulsion, desalination plants, heating, etc. The closest examples to an operating SMR today are nuclear reactors aboard ships and submarines – which have been in use over 50 years with no problems or setbacks.

Nuclear powered generation has already in the past been a monumental step to securing and providing grid reliability for many years – it’s a technology too important to be left behind at this stage as we seek to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy resources. Most importantly, it is a step in the direction of nuclear fusion power – which when solved would offer the world inexhaustible power for centuries.