On my recent trip to Oregon I met with venture capital investors in NuScale Power, which is trailblazing, the brave new world of “new” nuclear. Their technology has been pioneered by Dr. Jose Reyes, dean of the School of Engineering at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
This is definitely not your father’s nuclear power plant. The company has applied for design certification with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a mini light water reactor with a passive cooling system rated at 45 megawatts. The idea is to site a dozen of these together, which in aggregate can generate 540 Megawatts, little more than half the size of the old 1 gigawatt monsters.
Running a dozen small reactors instead of one big one makes for vastly easier operation and maintenance, as individual units can be brought on and offline as needed. Small size also eliminates the need for gargantuan, expensive containment structures. This power source runs at night, when solar and wind plants are offline. Modular design makes mass production of these units economical.
Once certification, approval, permitting, and construction are complete, we can expect to see the NuScale plants running by 2018. After all, if something similar works in nuclear powered submarines and aircraft carriers, why not in industrial zones on the outskirts of town? For more on NuScale’s innovative efforts visit their website at the following link: http://www.nuscalepower.com/ .