mead berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
Future Tech
New Nuclear Is Struggling

Next-generation nuclear technologies represent one of humanity’s best hopes for developing sustainably over the coming decades, but thus far they’re having a difficult time getting out of the gate. Bloomberg reports:

So-called generation III+ reactors were supposed to have simpler designs and safety features to avoid the kind of disaster seen in Japan almost six years ago. With their development, the industry heralded the dawn of a new era of cheaper, easier-to-build atomic plants.

Instead, the new reactors are running afoul of tighter regulations and unfamiliar designs, delaying completions and raising questions on whether the breakthroughs are too complex and expensive to be realized without state aid. The developments have left the industry’s pioneers, including Areva SA and Westinghouse Electric Co., struggling to complete long-delayed projects while construction elsewhere gains pace.

There’s a lot to look forward to when it comes to further progress in nuclear power. Deep-pocketed investors, chief amongst them Bill Gates, are backing exciting new reactor technologies like molten salt, thorium, or modular reactors. Nuclear power needs to be the cornerstone of any future low-emissions energy mix. And yet even the latest generation, available now, is mired in a regulatory morass.

One of the biggest problems new nuclear faces comes from a “societal risk aversion to nuclear causing ultra-restrictive regulatory requirements,” according to former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission official Lake Barrett. That’s a major issue, and it’s one for which modern environmentalism shoulders much of the blame. The environmental movement was partly born out of a deep fear of nuclear technologies, but that emotional rejection of nuclear power is looking increasingly farcical as greens focus more and more of their attention on averting climate change. After all, nuclear reactors are one of the only sources of zero-emissions baseload power. The fact that this next generation of nuclear power is faltering because of a skeptical public—a public that has been swayed by decades of green fear mongering—is sadly ironic.

Maybe the Trump Administration will take note of the regulatory gridlock and help move things along. It would be a smart way to help save the planet.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Unelected Leader

    Nuclear is in for a rough go. Greens know that it’s not very environmentally friendly, whereas non-greens view it as unnecessary when there are perfectly good (and relatively cheap) resources to use underground.
    Both view nuclear as a security risk.

  • Observe&Report

    TAI really needs to sort out its network security.

  • LarryD

    The anti-nuclear movement is largely a creation of the USSR’s dirty tricks department. As the Verona papers document. Unfortunately, the western media is staffed with people who have internalized anti-nuclear prejudice. Nuclear power will never be given a fair shake.

  • I’m not sure I’d call Gen III+ “new nuclear”. It’s more like trying make old nuclear as safe as it can be–which is a lot safer than, say Gen II with Gen II best practices, but you’re still dealing with sold fuel and light water, both of which are problematic.

    If it really turns out that we can get renewables to be cost-effective for base load power (which requires storage that is currently insanely expensive), then nuclear will go away. If, as I suspect, the renewables can’t handle the base load, then everybody’s going to have to decide whether they want combined-cycle gas or nukes. But we have to get the greens through the last of their reality-denying exercises before they get to make the choice between whether they hate a little radioactivity more than they hate carbon dioxide. We’ve set the system up so that they have veto power. That wasn’t very smart, but it’s the way things are.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service