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« Lawsuit Seeks to Halt New York Subsidies for Upstate Nuclear Plants | Main | Desperate uranium miners switch to survival mode despite nuclear rebound »

This new technology could save the troubled nuclear power industry

Small nuclear reactors, funded by investors like Bill Gates, are emerging in the US as cheaper, safer alternatives to traditional nuclear power plant designs

The future of the nuclear industry may happen somewhere on scenic but relatively isolated land that’s about 100 miles southwest of Yellowstone National Park. Amid the 890-square-mile Idaho National Laboratory campus, a plan is in motion to build a type of nuclear reactor unlike any that’s currently in use to produce electricity.

The plan belongs to Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, a consortium of 45 municipal agencies looking to replace their aging coal-fired plants. It won approval from the US Department of Energy earlier this year to scope out a site at the lab to analyze the environmental and safety impacts of what’s called the small nuclear reactor. If all goes well, the consortium plans to build a power plant there with 12 reactors totalling 600 megawatts in capacity.

The analysis is crucial for determining whether there’s a strong business case for building small nuclear reactors. The emerging technology is meant to create cheaper and safer nuclear power plants. Nuclear power plants emit no emissions, but existing designs have become too costly to be a popular solution for climate change. The new technology has gotten significant funding from investors such as Bill Gates.

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