Oct 25, 2015

Alternative Reactor Designs

The physics and mechanics to power a fossil fuel free, nuclear powered future are quite well known. Todays coal power plans could operate using nuclear power plant designs from the 1960s and still be light years ahead of our current energy infrastructure.
Modern nuclear reactors are virtually indestructible, highly efficient, and very cheap to operate. So why haven't more reactors been built? The answer is fear. And politics. A new power reactor hasn't been built for the public in the US since the 1970s (while countries like China, France, and India are going full steam ahead with their light water reactors.
In comparison the reactor that blew up a Fukushima was from the 1970s and very similar to the designs used in the US today. Most experts think we should update our rusting fleet, and I agree. We know how to do it, and it would cost very little to do so. It is the political situation regarding nuclear power that is keeping us in the coal age. What we need to do is sway the opinion of politicians and the general public.  It is a marketing problem, and the future of humanity just might depend on it. 
This is a quick sketch I created to explore how nuclear reactors might be able to appear more friendly. Reactor technology has advanced so far, that the US military us using dozens of small reactors to power floating cities (Aircraft carriers) with people living and sleeping safely just a few hundred feet away from the reactor core. There is no reason (besides the current political situation) that a nuclear reactor cannot power schools, factories, and agriculture. Experimental designs are even safer, requiring less maintenance.
The Ginna Nuclear Power Plant, that powered the first 16 years of my life (Democrat and Chronicle)
Currently operating plants were generally built in the 1970s and 80s, huge monolithic designs with truly scary architecture. The "Communist green" building above holds a gigantic pressurized water reactor that powered my home growing up. Even old designs can be operated safely, but experts are raising questions as most reactors in the US are having their lifetimes extended 20 years beyond ther spec. If we're going to build new power plants, they must look attractive and safe, and seem different than the "Old unsafe designs of yore" .If we're going to be building one in our backyards, they're going to need a new look, new style, and a new brand.

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