14 Dec 2011:
Smaller Nuclear Reactors
Recommended as Good Option for U.S.
A U.S. government-funded report has concluded that small, modular nuclear reactors may be the best option for continuing to develop the U.S. nuclear power industry
in the wake of the disaster at
Fukushima, Japan. The report, prepared by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, said that smaller reactors that can essentially be mass-produced could be a safe, economically viable alternative to building larger nuclear reactors. Larger reactors produce gigawatts of power and can cost $10 billion to build, while the modular reactors would generate 600 megawatts or less and could replace aging, 200- to 400-gigawatt coal plants that will be phased out in the coming decades, according to the report. Co-authored by Robert Rosner, former director of the Argonne National Laboratory, the report said that the smaller reactors could be factory-built as modular components and then shipped to local sites for assembly. Rosner said that an important safety aspect of the modular reactors is that they are designed to eliminate the need for human intervention during an emergency, as the reactors can be cooled by thermal convection, rather than manually-operated pumps.