We'll get a vaccine for addiction, debate the future of nuclear power, use new tech to take on water shortages, and-just maybe-find an extra dimension or two. Happy New Year
By the PopSci StaffPosted 01.04.2007 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
The (Not So) New Nuclear
Despite resurgent interest in nuclear power, novel plant designs stall
It´s been 33 years since a nuclear power plant was commissioned in the U.S. That´s likely to change by later this year, when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission could approve a site for a new reactor on American soil. Lured by government incentives, and backed by environmentalists pushing nuclear as an emission-free alternative to fossil fuels, 15 power companies have announced their intention to build new U.S. plants within the next few years.
Nuclear now supplies one fifth of our power, but Americans´ appetite for energy is growing-some estimates project a 40 percent jump in consumption by 2030-and our current plants are getting older. Although the next wave of reactors will supply some of that juice and fill the voids left by decommissioned plants, they won´t be transformative. There are new reactor designs, but most of the updated features are safety-related; these plants won´t support hydrogen production, for example. This May, however, the Department of Energy will select one of three new designs for a truly next-generation nuclear plant, with the goal of building a commercially viable version by 2021. Each of the proposed designs would generate temperatures in excess of 1,650