Modular Nukes

11/02/2008 12:07

In the late 80's and early 90's, I was an advocate of big nuclear power plants.  Back then, the major concern was over nuclear accidents, radiation, and meltdowns.  We learned enough in engineering school to understand the operations of those plants and the safety mechanisms in place to prevent accidents with repercussions.  The anti-nuclear activists leveraged the fear factor to quash most of the nuclear building plans back then.  

Today nuclear power is back in the spotlight.  But now that there are alternative options like solar, wind, and eventually wave, I have been shying away from nuclear power.  It’s an expensive, overly large project that can’t be exported to other countries for a profit.  Solar, on the other hand, is in the infancy of design and thus is perfectly situated to financially rescue the American financial market by providing the next technology boom.  

So I ruled nuclear out.  That is, until I heard about Dr. Otis Peterson’s project at Los Alamos.  Modular nuclear power plants.  That’s right, small, self-contained reactors that are buried underground and can power about 10 to 20,000 homes.  They use low-yield uranium and so are not enriched enough to be converted into weapons.  And putting them below ground almost single-handedly solves the security problem. 

Suddenly, nuclear is back.  And this solves the intermediate problem of night power.  With the modular solar cell system I’ve been advocating, the problem is how to power homes at night (when the load is less but still substantial).  A low-level nuke would be perfect until battery technology can catch up.