10 November 2008

Small nuclear reactors, Safe?

Mini nuclear plants to power 20,000 homes
I don't know how I feel about this at all.

The miniature reactors will be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground.
Because the reactor is based on a 50-year-old design that has proved safe for students to use, few countries are expected to object to plants on their territory. An application to build the plants will be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission next year.
First off, I'm pretty much opposed to nuclear power across the board. The reactors may be safe, but it's the waste that is dangerous for millennia. Then again, I'm not sure I trust the reactors either. That said, these do have a pretty strong potential to bring electrical power to many people without producing CO2 on site.

CO2 output is only part of what we need to look at when trying to make decisions about new sources of energy. We have to look at every component, and we have to look at each one from cradle to grave as it were. Where would they get the radioactive fuel? Where would it go in the end? So they're encased in concrete, what about regions that are prone to earthquakes?

'You could never have a Chernobyl-type event - there are no moving parts,' said Deal. 'You would need nation-state resources in order to enrich our uranium. Temperature-wise it's too hot to handle. It would be like stealing a barbecue with your bare hands.'
I beg to differ Mr. Deal, the whole contraption has to move to get there, as does the spent fuel and the refill fuel. Transport of spent fuel rods around the US has been opposed time and time again.

I think I would want to hear a LOT more about how this works before I let them install one in my neighborhood. But I live in a nation where we have the luxury of opposing things like this. I'm sure there are plenty of places where the need for electricity outweighs the (apparently minimal??) risks.

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