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10 Comments

  1. This sounds great. The engineering logic is good, the political muscle is impressive, and the tone is wonderfully upbeat.
    But I’m still skeptical. The NRC has not approved this design. The NRC has not at all signed on to the basic concept (of small and modular needing less oversight). And most importantly, the NRC has not, and will not any time soon, increase its workforce to get licenses approved.
    Until the NRC gets in gear, I’m not going to get excited.

  2. I would like to know how you’re going to get the NRC to devise regulations specific for these modular reactors in any time scale shorter than three decades. Under the Precautionary Principle attitude of anti-nuclear Chairman Jackzo, these ideas will reach fruition in foreign countries, but never here in the liberal-controlled US. Of course, that may change in November – I pray nightly for that happy event.

    1. You are apparently under the same mistaken impression as Chairman Jaczko. He only has one of five votes on the commission. Just because he holds the title of chairman, it does not give him executive authority over a body set up by law to have five members with equal voting rights.
      I am pretty confident that the NRC will figure out how to allow smaller, evolutionary light water reactors in a relatively short period of time. The other choices might have a more difficult path, but even that is being addressed already.

      1. That would be the “Democrat” Party. And your point is? I am pleased to see those politicians supporting a common-sense approach to expanding both our nuclear energy capacity and the skilled manufacturing and supply chain jobs this promotes. Now, if they can convince their very vocal and influential anti-nuke brethren like Waxman and Markey, there will be even more to celebrate — and I would do so without hesitation.
        If Waxman and Markey were really serious about their conviction on climate change they would include nuclear power plants in the “Renewable Energy Standard” or any other policy aimed at reducing our use of coal or natural gas for electricity generation and drop all pretense of promoting weather-dependent, intermittent, high land-use / low value wind and solar”farms”. They are demonstrably not serious, so they don’t drop the pretense as a sop to their radical environmentalist lobby – of whom some are supported by large carbon-based fuel interests.
        No one can hide behind an excuse of “not enough data” to show how wind and solar don’t compete without actual subsidies, feed-in tariffs, Production Tax Credits and other accounting gimmicks – paid for by the other consumers and taxpayers. That being said, both sides of the political aisle have their pet lobbies that either restrict entry of competitors or limit expansion of better technologies based on actual performance and results, rather than handing out financial favors to prop up constituents “back home”.
        For the record, I say this having relatives in farming and being involved personally in the solar arena. You do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because of favoritism or personal preferences. Let the objective facts speak for themselves.

    2. I know the NRC is hard to deal with. Prospective regulation – anything that is not allowed is forbidden – rather than retrospective regulation – anything that is not forbidden is allowed – literally chokes the life out of the nuclear industry.
      However, never doubt that a system can evolve new structures to deal with new circumstances. I’m hopeful that the NRC will change; it’s not a monolithic body. Given the right sorts of pressures, change can be encouraged.
      Perhaps we here could work on developing ways to identify how to improve the NRC system and make suggestions.
      One great place to start would be in reading Donella Meadows “Twelve Leverage Points To Intervene In A System”, one of the best practical systems theory pieces that I’ve ever read that’s applicable to any complex system – whether bureaucratic systems, legal systems, technological systems, environmental systems, military systems, computer systems, or engineered systems. The NRC is one such complex system. Meadows arguments, though they’re framed in an ecological context, can be applied to any sort of complex system.
      You can download the document itself at:
      http://www.sustainabilityinstitute.org/pubs/Leverage_Points.pdf
      (Interestingly enough, Meadows was an associate of Lovins before she passed on, and a genuinely great thinker in her own right. I was exposed to her work well before I even knew who Lovins was, or I became actively pro-nuclear power).
      There’s also a WP article that covers her piece:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_leverage_points

  3. Uh-oh: “…more cerebral sections….”
    Brace for turbulence. You have that subtle USNA way of… razzing.
    Actually, if I remember right, James Webb was in both our chains of command. “They” made me memorize mine in boot camp– company commander to president. He was CNO or SECNAV or some such upper echelon in the Reagan administration when I enlisted. You and I were both contemporaneously in the Navy (you career, me formative), so we’ve definitely got that “six degrees of separation” thing solved.
    …with the first unit being constructed on a national laboratory site or other government installation ….
    Oh please, please put one on Kirtland Air Force Base (which hosts Sandia National Laboratories). An air-cooled one. I know at least a dozen former Navy Nukes that work there (me one of them) ready to train up and operate it.

  4. Does it make sense that Bechtel should handle the “balance of plant” turbine generator for this modular reactor concept?
    B&W has historically provided steam plants. Why reach out to Bechtel if steam turbine-generators are part of your corporate competence?
    http://www.babcock.com/library/steam.html

    1. Robert – yes, it makes sense. B&W certainly knows steam, but it does not design and build steam plants including all supporting infrastructure like buildings, sewer pipes, cooling water supplies, electrical power in and out, etc. Bechtel does. What is more is that Bechtel does procurement from other specialty companies for a very large range of projects and can obtain better pricing for many components that B&W could by itself. A final consideration is that Bechtel is excited enough about the technology development to invest cash and in kind engineering support. That spreads the risk to another substantial player.
      Disclosure – Generation mPower is one of the options I am investigating.

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