The journey of nuclear power into fruition is full of obstacles, but with the help of new technologies and new projects nuclear energy might make a comeback.
FREMONT, CA: Nuclear power is carbon-free and can produce large amounts of power from small amounts of fuel. Once the plants are built, they are cost-friendly to run. However, robust nuclear processes are incredibly complex to handle, which means building a nuclear plant is expensive, and there is always a possibility of a catastrophic failure. On top of that, current technology produces highly radioactive waste. The Fukushima nuclear disaster was the public opposed the technology and the emergence of wind and solar power as carbon-free alternatives have worked against it. On top of that, the 2017 bankruptcy of Westinghouse, one of the world’s leading nuclear power companies, did not work in favor of nuclear energy as well.
The experts who previously opposed nuclear power are concerned about the slump in the technology. According to UN researchers, nuclear energy is crucial to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, an ambitious looking target. A lot of start-ups are trying to revive the nuclear sector, which for long was controlled and influenced by the state-backed industry and engineering giants. According to CB Insights, companies with the nuclear process at the core can revamp nuclear fission. Concurrently, a lot of start-ups believe that the nuclear fusion era is around the corner. In recent times, the small modular reactor has gained a lot of attention. The modular reactor is a miniaturized version of a conventional nuclear plant resulted from advances made in building nuclear-powered naval vessels. The aim behind reducing the size of the plant is to ultimately reduce the substantial capital costs of nuclear plants and the potential impact of a large-scale nuclear meltdown.
NuScale is spearheading a project with the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems to build 12 of 60 MW modular reactors by 2026. The plant will generate 720MW energy in total. In July, the project reached a significant milestone after signing contracts with local utilities to supply them 150MW of power. However, MIT Tech Review recites a similar project which was scrapped less than a decade ago after they failed to find enough customers. Whether these ambitious projects will be successful remains unclear, but the market is optimistic about nuclear power again.
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