Saturday, March 8, 2008

Decentralized Reliable Nukes

I continue to believe that small-scale nuclear power will be a key source of electricity as we transition through this messy period of skyrocketing costs for large power plants.

Looks like the Air Force agrees:

A Nuclear Renaissance Via the Air?

According to a recent article in Energy and Environment News, the Air Force is planning to build a 100-225 megawatt nuclear power reactor. It will not only provide affordable, reliable electricity to an Air Force base, which has yet to be chosen, but will also be used as a power source for the local community. This is a departure from the usual news regarding the comeback of nuclear power.

These stories generally revolve around plans to build large, 1000-1600 megawatt commercial reactors to increase power supplies to consumers that rely on the current electricity grid (also known as base load capacity expansion).

While such planning certainly signals a new day for nuclear power, it does not necessarily represent the full scope of a true nuclear renaissance. The Air Force’s decision, however, demonstrates a growing recognition that nuclear energy has applications beyond simple base load expansion. And that is an indication that a nuclear renaissance is truly underway.

One of the advantages of nuclear power is its flexibility, which the Air Force has recognized with its decision. These small reactors share many of the advantages of their larger counterparts. They produce massive amounts of power, run on inexpensive uranium, require infrequent refueling, and are environmentally friendly.
Smaller reactors have some unique advantages as well. First, they allow its users to insulate themselves from an increasingly unreliable U.S. power grid. This vulnerability was demonstrated last week when a relatively minor disturbance on the grid caused massive blackouts across Florida. They are also physically smaller so that they can be constructed in more isolated locations. This would obviously be attractive to the armed forces, which relies on a distributed system of sometimes remote installations and bases...

1 comment:

subadei said...

Very cool. If anything the mini-nukes could serve a similar symbiotic function to that of combustion/electric engines/motors that we see in hybrid cars.

I think the wide spread use (one is quick to imagine each city having it's own mini-nuke plant) is limited by the expense of security. As far as military bases go, the security is already there and so what an excellent plan.