The U.S. government is investing millions of dollars in what it considers a promising new industry for American manufacturing: nuclear reactors. The plan is to build hundreds of mini-reactors, dot them around the U.S. and export them overseas.
Construction of these reactors are already in the works, and at one office park in Lynchburg, Va., where one of these reactors is being assembled, the traditional signs of nuclear reactors are nowhere to be found. There are no cooling towers that look like smoke stacks, no clouds of steam over the buildings — just a research building and a tower about nine stories tall.
“One of the features of these small reactors is that they can be entirely manufactured here in the United States,” Lyons said. “They can literally be made in the USA. With the large plants, that’s simply physically impossible.”
Lyons pictures churning reactors out in factories, shipping them to utilities to replace aging coal plants or selling them to developing countries — which can’t afford a full-scale $15 billion nuclear plant.
“MPower is not going to be measured in terms of success in terms of building tens of these things, but in terms of hundreds of these things,” Mowry says. “We’re not trying to build a Rolls Royce; we’re trying to build a Ford.”
That model worries Ed Lyman, a nuclear physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“My feeling is that if you’re going to have a nuclear power plant, it’d better be a Rolls Royce,” he says. Lyman says small reactors carry a host of safety, security, environmental and economic concerns.
“Nuclear power is a technology which is much more suited for large plants, centralized and isolated from populated areas in as small a number of places as possible,” Lyman says.
He says every nuclear power plant is a target for terrorism or is at risk during a disaster. Lyman says the closer the reactors are to populated areas, the more of a threat they potentially become. That’s one reason Lyman is not convinced enough demand exists for mass production. He also worries about selling them overseas.
Read more at Are Mini-Reactors The Future Of Nuclear Power?