Into the Future with Small Nuclear Energy
As of 2020, Nuclear is the newest energy source humans were able to use to provide a reliable base load electrical power. Humans discovered fire 2 million years ago, and then started using fire to produce steam for motion only 300 year ago, humans then discovered electricity around 260 years ago, then used steam produced by fire to produce electricity only around 140 years ago.
By the early 19th century humans mastered electricity and used it to provide lighting. This resulted in electrification for many sections of the economy, but only in the 1940s and 1950s humans were able to tame a new form of energy, nuclear energy. The world discovered nuclear energy in 1942, then in 1952 the world had its first sustained nuclear reaction, this was the year where the world had its first nuclear reactor that could produce electricity. Nuclear energy has been in use for only 60 years compared to fire which has been around for millions of years. In the grand scheme of history, we are just taking our first baby steps with nuclear energy. This represents a significant opportunity for the world to capitalize on this newer form of energy and use it to provide electricity and power.
This brings us to newest way to move forward with nuclear energy, small modular nuclear reactors* for mainstream electricity and heat generation. The Idea of a small nuclear reactor is actually not very new. Small nuclear reactors have been used for some time in other applications, these small reactors offered small to medium scale reliable, and unintentionally carbon-free, electric power. Small nuclear reactors have been notably used in nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, small nuclear reactors are also being used in producing radioactive material that’s being used for medical diagnostics and treatment applications. So, Why couldn’t small nuclear reactors then provide everyone on our planet with carbon-free, distributed, and reliable electricity and heat?
Usually the first application that comes to mind when mentioning reliable carbon free power is hydro power, this power comes form of hydro dams which can theoretically operate 24/7 to provide reliable electric load. However, hydro power is limited by Geography which dictates where it is possible to construct a hydro dam and a power station. Another carbon-free option that is less popular but exists in some areas around the world is geothermal power which uses energy from dead deep…