Monday May 2, 2016
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Here's an new idea. The Department of Energy is putting federal money behind the development of small-scale nuclear lower plants that supporters say are cheaper, safer, and easier to build.
The reactors, if they are approved, will be about a third the size of those now used in nuclear power plants, and will generate about 180 megawatts of electricity, enough to power around 200,000 homes.
It sounds like a good idea. We need the energy, and nuclear energy is the most environmentally sound source of power. It pollutes even less than wind or water power. If waste products are recycled and reused, as they should be, the product of decades of nuclear production is an amount of waste the size of a can of coke.
Why bother with smaller plants? Because building big ones increases the cost of electricity to the consumer. Large, 1,000 or 1,500-megawatt power plants, used to be built in the hope that the demand for them would eventually catch up. That's very expensive. It's like the mistake that almost put Chrysler out of business; they used to build the cars and then wait for people to buy them, instead of waiting for orders from dealers and building what people wanted.
The plan for the smaller plants is that we can build power plants that meet a specific demand. That way, as soon as the plant comes on line it is making a profit, and providing cheap power.
Good idea? Bad idea?
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