There's a quiet revolution in nuclear energy: 10 recent signs

24 January 2022
China's PBMR reactor

The National Science and Technology Major Project Shidaowan High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactor Nuclear Power Station is connected to the grid for power generation / China Huaneng China Nuclear Energy Industry Association via WeChat

There's a quiet revolution going on in the quest for green energy.  You won't see much of this as headline news, but check this out:

1.     On 20 December 2021, China brought online the world's first operational modular nuclear reactor. It's a two-step process; a second reactor in the same complex is expected to be brought online mid-2022. What's mind-blowing is that the project was started in July 2021.

2.     A key feature of the China reactor design is the use of liquified helium instead of water to drive the turbines. Consider the lesson of Fukushima nuclear disaster  In 2011 where flooding from a tsunami caused large amounts of water contaminated with radioactive isotopes to flood into the Pacific Ocean. The beauty of helium is that it's lighter than air. If these new reactors are compromised, the helium simply rises into the upper atmosphere and dissipates harmlessly into space.

3.     Later that month, China's prototype "artificial sun" reactor set a new record for controlled fusion, clocking 120 million degrees Celsius for 1 056 seconds; this was 10 times better than the previous world record set at the same institute of 101 seconds in May.

4.     In the UK in November, Rolls-Royce announced the establishing of its own Small Modular Reactor project with funding of close to £200 million which will be matched a similar amount from Boris Johnson's government.  

5.     In France, also in November, President Emmanuel Macron announced plans for new third generation nuclear plants

6.     In Romania, two established companies have formed a partnership with the backing of the US government to build a 462 megawatt plant by 2027. 

7.     In Kemmerer, Wyoming, Bill Gates is funding a liquid sodium driven nuclear power plant. It's a 500 megawatt $4 billion project; half of that funded by the US government.

8.     Russia is likely to help Iran expand its existing nuclear power generation by 10 000 megawatts. Russia built Iran's existing plant and brought it online in September 2013. 

9.     Russia is pursuing a similar project in Armenia to build new power units at Metsamor.

10.  In South India, Russia has started construction on a sixth unit of Tamil Nadu’s Kudankulam nuclear power plant.

There are doomsayers trying to downplay the role of nuclear in reducing carbon emissions. Germany believes nuclear power is dangerous, and is shutting down its plants. I'm not going to argue whether they are correct or not; what matters to me is that the markets clearly disagree.

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