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11 Comments

  1. The new environment in nuclear energy is one of a surplus of great new ideas against a background of urgency for clean and economical energy. The shortcomings of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are becoming ever more obvious in this new environment. True though it may be that the current structure of the NRC is the legacy of another administration and another era, we now have a different administration that has a chance to leave a positive legacy of its own by making the NRC much more responsive, accountable, and helpful in the quest for nuclear energy, all without compromising safety. I hope this happens.

    1. We haven’t had the wholesale “deliming” and “degunking” of the NRC that’s really necessary for a thriving nuclear industry to develop, especially in the area of non-LWRs. I’d love to see some different designs get built that utilize other than LWR concepts. After all, even the various and diverse flavors of LWRs are just the tiniest volume of a massive space of practically unlimited potential – nuclear energy should be a field far broader than just what Admiral Rickover made to work very well. (Not knocking Admiral Rickover at all, of course.)

  2. Putting to Sea in compact “Tiny” nukes is more than a concept. Whether or not the regulators realize this fact is academic. The fact remains, if we (The US) don’t our competitors will. The cheaper and smaller more efficient new concept fusion engines will be the wave of the future regardless of current technology. It is what is not being openly discussed that gives the DOD and DOE fits. Can regulation into oblivion end a great society? Come on and get real. Nice job Rod with coverage and comments.

  3. Different administrations and perceived needs produce the policies that carry the day. I say that not to excuse Stockman or Reagan, but to keep this journey in perspective. Carter canceled used fuel reprocessing and encouraged the vast expansion of coal use. Clinton canceled the IFR funding (remember Hazel O’Leary?) with the able help of Sen. John Kerry.
    Our national energy policy has been advanced more by people who have little or no understanding of energy needs and systems to meet those needs than by a sober assessment of the scientific facts – stripped of the fads that persuade some because it’s fashionable to be part of the “Crusade”.
    Financial constraints will focus our attention on what really works — nuclear, not wind — and other countries are already making that judgment. Hopefully, the first round of loan guarantees and the event Rod most ably reports about, is an indication that America is waking up from its 30 year stupor like Rip van Winkle.

    1. @DocForesight – you correctly point out that actions that disadvantaged nuclear energy development have been one of the few bipartisan “success” stories over the past 40 years. Another one has been our continuing – and somewhat depressing – ability to overlook almost anything that Saudi Arabia does to its own people and its neighbors because we want their oil and oil money.
      Perhaps the two multi-decade efforts are related.
      (By the way, I just finished rereading Baer’s eye opening book titled “Sleeping with the Devil”, written by a former CIA operative about America’s long standing relationship with the Middle East and especially the House of Saud.)

  4. I think I might write something about the Advanced Reactor Concepts design on WP one of these days soon. Nice concept, haven’t really seen too much publicity out about it yet, but it’s built on a solid foundation that the US has had experience with before – the EBR-II – and it uses a S-CO2 power generation cycle (which I like…CO2 supercritical cycles are probably pretty efficient). Perhaps it’ll be easier to license than one might think.

  5. Thanks, Rod,
    Following with great interest. I am struck by the NRC’s insistence that they be involved right from the start with a design, but they do not give a clear path for approval of designs that are not LWR’s. Sort of like, well you pay us as much as we charge and perhaps we will tell you some day if you really have a design we will approve or not. Who would invest in that?

  6. Not a technical comment, but I wanted to share this.
    I went to the dentist yesterday. One of the women (not a dentist) who works in the office is pro-nuclear and has noticed some of my letters in the local paper. So we talk briefly when I come in to the dentist.
    So, yesterday I walk in to the office and Amy says: hey, have you ever heard of a company called Hyperion? I hear they are making small reactors…
    Word is getting around about small reactor possibilities! Amy does not have broadband, she spends little time on the net, etc. She’s not exactly following the blogosphere on this!
    Everyone who is pro-nuclear and hears about small reactors becomes excited about them.

    1. @Paul – thanks for the reminder and for remaining interested in my impressions of the meeting. I have just returned from a “week” of vacation and am still working my way through the notes that I took during the morning sessions on the 29th. (The Platts meeting actually ended at 1200 on that day. Later in the afternoon, there was a four hour publicly accessible small modular reactor meeting hosted by the Department of Energy office of Nuclear Energy.)
      I expect to finish the Platts meeting post tomorrow morning. I hope that is not too late to be of interest.

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