Monday, May 18, 2015

New Reactors May Be Needed for Climate Fight in U.S.

Slow advances in reactor designs, compared to far more rapid advances in renewable energy and energy storage, mean that low-carbon energy systems may end up competing head to head with nuclear. (Credit: Nuclear Regulatory Commission/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Rising temperatures around the world are a compelling argument for nuclear energy, industry advocates say.

However, they acknowledge that existing nuclear energy technologies—and the corresponding policies—aren’t up to the job.

“While nuclear can be a very large share of global demand and low carbon supply, we’re not going to do it, I believe, on the current generation of technology,” said Armond Cohen, executive director of the Clean Air Task Force.  “My concern is these things take just too bloody long to build.”
Part of the problem for the nuclear industry is that the reactors on the market are cut from the same cloth as those built during the post-war atomic era.  The wavering fortunes of the nuclear industry have led to a dearth of research on new designs that take advantage of better materials and manufacturing techniques that could drive down costs.

Earlier this week, John Parmentola, senior vice president of energy and advanced concepts at General Atomics, told a House energy subcommittee that the United States needs to invest in a test bed nuclear reactor to ramp up development in the next generation of atomic energy.

Transatomic Power Corp., a nuclear energy startup, is developing a reactor that runs on waste from existing reactors.  However, its founders lamented that economic and political concerns have trumped advances in nuclear science and engineering.  Co-founder Mark Massie said building modern nuclear reactors on first-generation technology is analogous to building airliners out of the same wood and cloth the Wright brothers used in their prototype.

On the policy side, nuclear needs a level regulatory playing field.  Dan Reicher, who served as assistant secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy during the Clinton administration, said that the more consistently the Obama administration can write its Clean Power Plan, the more likely it will survive challenges in the Supreme Court.  In the existing proposal, only a small fraction of nuclear power counts toward state carbon targets.

Read more at New Reactors May Be Needed for Climate Fight in U.S.

No comments:

Post a Comment