Smaller Nuclear Reactors Recommended as Good Option for U.S.

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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.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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