There is a fascinating editorial in the Wall Street Journal titled The New Nuclear Revolution: Safe fission power is our future — if regulators allow it. Here is the attribution at the bottom of the article:
Mr. Metcalfe is a venture capitalist with Polaris Venture Partners in Waltham, Mass. He is a trustee of MIT and a 2005 recipient of the National Medal of Technology for leadership in the invention, standardization and commercialization of Ethernet.
In the opinion piece, Mr. Metcalfe compares the potential of smaller nuclear power systems to the innovations that enabled the computer revolution. He also does an excellent job of describing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission hurdle that I have mentioned here on a number of occasions and describes how that led to his company passing on a couple of opportunities to get involved in financing start-up companies in the field. Here is a copy of the comment I left on the WSJ:
Very interesting editorial, especially when viewed through the lens of having been the founder of Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. in 1993.
I have spent countless hours during the past 16 years working to capture the interest of people like Mr. Metcalfe with the idea of building small atomic fission power plants that could be assembled in a factory with a well trained and compensated work force. Those machines could then be delivered and installed on a schedule similar to that used for natural gas fired turbines.
It does my heart good to see that the concept is finally developing a critical mass of believers who will do for the power industry what the guys at the Homebrew Computer Club did for computing. Series production of smaller machines with inherent safety and security features offers the potential for some amazing scale economies and for entering markets that currently have no alternative to burning distillate fuel oil at a far higher cost and far great environmental harm.
With the hurdle of the cost and delay of NRC approvals, my reluctance to seek or accept massive venture funding injections, and my own advancing years, I have found other ways to make a living and am currently building a publishing company that will play the same role in the atomic revival as tech focused publications like Byte, PC World and MacWorld played during the personal computer revolution.
For the people behind companies like Hyperion, NuScale, and TerraPower, I say – Hurray, but keep moving forward.
There are some established companies like Babcock and Wilcox, who also seems to “get it”. Their recently announced 125 MWe modular mPower™ reactor seems to have some analogies with the IBM PC development in 1981 after several years of watching the response to what the Homebrew guys had accomplished. That machine also played a big role in the computing revolution and made digital power accessible to millions.
Publisher, Atomic Insights
Host and producer, The Atomic Show Podcast
Founder, Adams Atomic Engines, Inc.
Wonder if Mr. Metcalfe will follow and participate in any discussion that ensues from his work.
This could lead to an interesting turn of events.