I’ve always thought that today’s problems will be solved with tomorrow’s technology – now there is a new, fast, efficient fission reactor that may prove that axiom true. Excerpt:
Even the latest generation of nuclear power reactors can only harvest about five percent of the energy stored in their radioactive fuel supplies, and the toxic leftovers must then be buried deep underground to slowly decay over hundreds of thousands of years. But thanks to a new breed of sodium-cooled pool reactor, we may soon be able to draw nearly 100 times more energy from nuclear fuels, while slashing their half-lives by two orders of magnitude.
The PRISM reactor (that’s Power Reactor Innovative Small Module, not the NSA’s spy program supreme) is the result of more than 60 years of research by the DoE, Argonne National Lab, and General Electric. Like other existing reactors, the PRISM harnesses the radioactive energy of artificial elements like plutonium to drive turbines which generate electrical current. The PRISM will just do so way, way faster and much more efficiently. Assuming, of course, one ever actually gets built.
That last sentence in the excerpt – that, of course, is the catch. Between the NIMBY crowd and the NAAAT (Not Anywhere At Any Time) crowd, it may be difficult to bring any of these new, highly efficient reactors on line, even as energy costs rise.
Granted the explosion in natural gas production in North America has had a positive effect on electricity production, even as the concomitant expansion in petroleum production (carried out in spite of, not because of, the policies of the Obama Administration) is finally driving gasoline prices down some.
We can not and should not stop with natural gas and petroleum, though. A common sense energy policy would mandate production of more nuclear facilities.
Common sense, however, seems in short supply in the Imperial City these days. Maybe the dramatic shift in power we saw last week will make a difference – and maybe it won’t.