Nuclear Power

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Approves First Domestic Small Commercial Reactor

New nuclear reactors are important for clean power, but are hindered by intense regulatory schemes.

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The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week approved a design application for the first domestic small commercial nuclear reactor. These types of reactors are smaller, simpler, cheaper, and feature more advanced safety systems than traditional reactor designs. It has the potential to generate enough electricity to power more than 50,000 homes. 

The reactor design was submitted by NuScale Power, an Oregon company that plans to build at least a dozen small reactors by 2030 at a site in eastern Idaho. NuScale has received $288 million from the Department of Energy for the development of modular nuclear reactors, but a complex regulatory system for nuclear power means there's a long way to go before construction can begin.

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems—a consortium of 46 public utilities in six western states that plans to work with NuScale on the small reactor project— is now required to submit a combined construction and operating license application, and must complete an environmental analysis in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. Utah Associated spokesman LaVarr Webb told the Associated Press that he estimates these applications will likely take two years to prepare.

Still, this is an important step forward. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's approval means that they believe the reactor will work safely and as intended.

NuScale submitted its 12,000-page application to the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2017 and has responded to more than 1,500 formal requests from the commission for more information. There's a reason that NuScale's design is the first that the NRC has approved since 2014.

While NuScale is moving forward, NRC regulations seem to be discouraging innovation. Carrie Fosaaen, a licensing specialist at NuScale, told Science Magazine that the NRC regulations, strictly interpreted, would push NuScale towards just building a miniature version of a conventional reactor—rather than being able to incorporate the design improvements that make NuScale's design safer than conventional reactors.

As more states shift away from generating electricity from fossil fuels, nuclear power should be part of the mix. California's rolling blackouts show how an increased focus on renewable energy comes with a problematic lack of durability for the power grid. The sun and wind do not care about the demand for electricity. Sometimes the sun doesn't shine, or there is no wind. Nuclear power, however, produces a consistent amount of electricity that can be dialed up or down to meet demand.

NuScale Power's design approval is an important first step towards a durable, renewable power grid, but the complex regulatory apparatus is a critical obstacle standing in its way. Future advances in nuclear reactor design are going to have to come hand in hand with the further deregulation of the nuclear sector.

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  2. TMI, Chernobyl scared the crap out of two generations of Americans.
    You’ll see no nuclear power until those generations no longer have the voting clout. ChiComVirus has scared the crap out of two more generations so you’ll see all sorts of masking and economic crisis as each new flu virus comes along, no matter how mild the strain is.

    1. TBH, it wasn’t TMI and Chernobyl any more than the current problems are due to COVID-19. It’s the media and politicians overreacting and taking advantage of the inevitable, and I dare say intended, panic to throw their weight around and cancel progress, because the status quo tech-wise is so much more comforting.

      Kind of a puzzle why, though. Best I can guess is that current tech is known, future tech is unknown, and anything unknown scares the bejayzus out of the elites, since it almost certainly will upset their apple carts.

      1. Chernobyl was the result of unbelievable callousness and incompetence on the part of the Soviet government. I don’t think the media overplayed the magnitude of the disaster. I think they lied and pretended what happened there could somehow happen here or that the event had any relevance to the Western World’s use of nuclear power. It didn’t.

        1. “I don’t think the media overplayed the magnitude of the disaster.”

          The Media absolutely insisted that tens of thousands of Europeans would die from the explosion as radiation cascaded over the continent. The same is being done with the Fukishima reactor melt down. In the end, very few people will actually die, but everyone will insist that these caused thousands of deaths for miles and miles around.

          1. “In the end, very few people will actually die”

            In the end? The tax payer funded clean up efforts at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima have not ended. They may never end. Do you think it’s time to abandon this work?

      2. Fuck, even having thought of Three Mile Island, it took two comments before I translated “TMI” as not meaning “Too Much Information”, which didn’t make any sense.

        I have definitely been on the internet too long.

        1. Austin bought shares in the Houston South Texas Reactor right in the middle of all the looter screeching against the zero-casualty steam leak at TMI. That one celebrated its 25th anniversary lately and has since been joined by three other reactors all of them laughing at hurricanes. The same communists, with no exceptions, NOW preach Misanthropic Global Warmunism invented by 1961 Soviet predictions for the year 2017. You can see them on Youtube, complete with Sharknados!

    2. “You’ll see no nuclear power until those generations no longer have the voting clout.”

      That means you’ll see no more nuclear at all since the oldsters who you say got scared have now been replaced by the disciples of environmentalism.

      Frying pan, fire.

    3. 3 Mile Island scared the shit out of Hollywood and Jane Fonda!

      1. The China Syndrome making its premier the same week or following week as Three Mile Island, was absolutely amazing Hollywood timing. Sell-your-soul to Satan kind of timing.

        Junk science, but it sure did scare a lot of people.

  3. Domestic? Damn, I want one in my house!

  4. “NuScale submitted its 12,000-page application to the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2017″

    Holy fuck. Now that is an application.

    1. FDA is a bunch of pikers in their vape business demands, clearly.

    2. “You left out a comma on page 9,271.
      Please resubmit.”

      1. No, the enviro whackiest will sue over the missed comma, it’s their modus operandi. They do the same shit with environmental impact statements and grazing permits and logging permits and NEPA studies. A BLM (the other one, the one that manages grasslands) range conservation officer I met once described how when he started Grazing permits were a couple pages, but now they are 300 plus pages long and take almost a decade to get approved (due to endless lawsuits over stupid shit such as missed commas or misspellings) which considering the length of an approved grazing plan is only 10 years, and they can’t be rescinded without cause (and failure to approve a new grazing permit isn’t cause) means a lot of grazing permits are operating under older plans that don’t incorporate the newest range management practices, e.g. the delay is often worse on the environment. Most ranchers would love to use updated, science based methods, as they are in the business of growing grass to convert into beef (that is what ranching is really about, growing grass cheaply and effeciently so you can grow cattle as cheaply as possible). But the watermelons aim isn’t to actually protect the environment, it’s to close access to it except for the elites.

  5. As more states shift away from generating electricity from fossil fuels, nuclear power should be part of the mix. California’s rolling blackouts show how an increased focus on renewable energy comes with a problematic lack of durability for the power grid. The sun and wind do not care about the demand for electricity. Sometimes the sun doesn’t shine, or there is no wind. Nuclear power, however, produces a consistent amount of electricity that can be dialed up or down to meet demand.

    That is such a comically understated way of saying that “renewable energy” is fucking useless. And of course there is nothing “renewable about it”. Solar panels die, wind mills wear out and so forth. Just because the sun isn’t going anywhere doesn’t mean that getting electricity from it comes without any resource cost.

    1. Don’t forger all the toxic waste from batteries used to store the energy and also used in EV’s. Renewal energy isn’t nearly as environmentally friendly as its promoters say.

      California wants EV’s everywhere on their roads ASAP. Where is the power going to come from to power all the homes, offices, businesses AND a few million EV’s? Democrats are stupid.

      1. The same people who oppose nuclear energy and tolerate rolling blackouts in the summer all want electric cars. It is fucking astounding how stupid some people are.

      2. Hell, it ignores the toxic waste from solar panel production. And it’s not like those windmill blades can be recycled.

        1. Windmills take a lot of maintenance too. And a lot of energy to build. Cement for the concrete structures takes a huge amount of fuel to produce. Then you have to move everything to remote locations. And build roads to all kinds of pristine mountain tops and such.

          1. And they kill all kinds of birds. They are really nasty, stupid things. It is the absolute dumbest way to generate power. Solar makes more sense.

            1. Solar kills 100-year-old tortoises in the desert.

              1. The same tortoises that the Department of Defense spends millions protecting on Twenty Nine Palms and Ft Irwin.

            2. Solar makes more sense

              As long as we don’t count the footprint of the manufacturing process, the chemical contents of the cells, or the land underneath.
              I know some cells sit on buildings, but any level of effective solar generation requires covering acres and acres of used-to-be-green land.

              1. NM and AZ are good sites for solar, because the land wasn’t generally green to start with. But there’s still the other ways it impacts the environment to consider.

                1. Actually, desert and high range (most of Arizona and New Mexico) are some of the most fragile ecosystems around. Solar’s impact in these areas is just now starting to be understood.

            3. And have they considered how filling the skies with windmills will redirect the wind and the weather? C’mon Climate saviours!

              1. It does cause local air mixture and can cause localized warming. But that isn’t ever mentioned or is dismissed. We understand the more global impact almost not at all, and little research is being done, as it fell out of favor once the data for localized warming started being published.

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        2. But China builds all the solar panels, so the US doesn’t look as bad. Remember it’s not about caring is about looking like you care. Take a drive in LA and be amazed at all of the north facing solar pannels

      3. Wonder if CA progs realize that the lithium will most likely come from poor “exploited” Mexicans destroying the Mexican environment in the process. Why do they hate brown people?

        1. If they do, they rationalize it in some way. Prog politics really is a cult at this point. There is no reasoning with them.

          1. Shhh. Don’t tell openborders guy. Another reason for Koch to import cheap labor to indulge his wanton need for cash.

        2. Because most of the ones that stay in Mexico don’t vote democrat?

        3. More likely it comes from China as they are the largest rare earths exporters in the world. And if you think Mexico’s environmental practices are bad, China’s approach to environmental protection can be summed up in the phrase “hold my beer”.

          1. Bolivia, if we’re talking about lithium. Not like that Marxist idiot Morales will be getting much say in how those alkali lakes get harvested.

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  7. The story is, and I have no reason to believe that it isn’t true, that Tom Hayden and other anti war activists invented the anti-nuclear movement out of thin air after the end of the Vietnam war. With the Vietnam war over, the anti war activist industrial complex was facing unemployment with no war to protest. So, they decided to protest nuclear power, not because it was dangerous but because they needed something to protest. That is the entire genesis of the anti nuclear movement in this country; a bunch of fucking bums who needed something to protest after the Vietnam war to avoid working for a living.

    1. Some of it had to do with the nuclear weapons testing which seems reasonable. People like Patrick Moore fought that but then left Greenpeace as they became increasingly communist and anti all heavy industry.

      1. Nuclear power has nothing to do with nuclear weapons testing. The worst thing of all was they got Carter to ban breeder reactors. That make it illegal to reuse and recycle fuel rods and created a high level nuclear waste problem where there was none before. They made nuclear power worse for the environment so they could then have something to protest about it.

        1. I agree one has nothing to do with the other. Just that they got rolled into one big issue because nuisance is hard especially when slogans like Ban the Bomb will suffice. All the ads I have ever seen that are anit-nuclear power all have a mushroom cloud in the background even though a nuclear reactor could never explode in this fashion.

      2. Bah! Who needs nuclear when you can have unicorn farts and wind and solar that kill the pretty little birdies.

      3. Open air nuclear weapons testing ceased by civilized countries in 1963.

    2. No, it started right after WWII with the physicists who had helped create the Bomb.

      1. Bullshit. Physicists never objected to the peaceful use of nuclear power. They objected to nuclear weapons. That is not the same thing. Go find me one scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project who objected to peaceful use of nuclear power?

        1. Jean Shepherd said it was like confusing the electric light with the electric chair.

    3. It was also funded ironically by the fossil fuel industry who knew nuclear was their biggest competitors. And yet you still idiots like Tony spouting about how being pro nuclear power is Exxon talking points. Exxon is one of the largest investors in solar and wind, because they know it is intermittent at best, is subsidized, and requires fossil fuels to back it up. The anti-nuclear activist still receive funding from corporations such as Exxonmobil, and it really isn’t a well kept secret. Useful idiots strike again.

      1. About the only place wind actually works is the PNW, because of the hydroelectric dams as back up. But to do that they turned the Columbia Gorge and Washington Scablands (both pretty fragile ecosystems) into a giant windmill farm, destroying the wild beauty of places like Vantage, WA in the process. Oh and the same idiots who pushed that also want to remove all the dams.

          1. Vantage and the Columbia Gorge were as near pristine a wilderness as just about any place in the lower 48, now it’s crammed full of windmills, with big frigging air traffic lights, and the desert floor is cross crossed with access roads. I’ve talked to ranchers on the front range of the Rockies in Montana who were sold on installing windmills, but now wish they had known more before agreeing. And half the time they don’t even run, because the wind is to strong. And they’re broken, so the companies constantly have to come out to fix them, leaving gates open, stressing the cattle and wildlife etc. Not to mention that the lubricating oil (petroleum based, BTW) is a major environmental contaminant, and often leaks onto native prairie and waterholes when the windmills break.

          2. Hahhahaha. Reading that link, they talk about a CA law mandating 100% “climate friendly” sources by 2045.

            Pussies. If they really cared, they’d have said 2021.

  8. Utah Associated spokesman LaVarr Webb told the Associated Press that he estimates these applications will likely take two years to prepare.

    It might only take two years to prepare the applications, getting them approved is another story. I’m going to guess “never” as a plausible timeline.

    1. First they have to get them approved by the NRC. Then they have to get them approved by the courts.

  9. Environmentalists who considers global warming to be an ‘existential’ crisis but reject nuclear power as ‘too dangerous’ boggle the mind.

    1. There is nothing confusing about it. They are just lying. They don’t oppose nuclear power. They oppose civilization and just won’t be honest about it. The reason they oppose nuclear power is not because they think it is dangerous it is because it produces energy and enables modern civilization, which they hate and want to destroy. That is really all there is to it.

    2. “Nothing is more important than getting rid of fossil fuels” and “nothing is more important than opposing nuclear power” might seem to be diametrically opposing views, but if you can’t hold two or more diametrically opposing views in your head at the same time, you’re never going to make it as a Leftist. “I am completely non-racist and completely for inclusion and diversity and I believe black people should have separate spaces from white people.” See how easy that is?

      1. I am a non racist but think someone’s character is determined by the color of their skin.

        They really do believe this bullshit. It is scary if think too much about it.

      2. Did you see some Cornell professors and students want to implement quotas for admissions and professorship hirings? And they want to make sure every department meets a certain quota of non-white students, regardless of the reasons that there exists a disparity, even if it isn’t racism. Cornell is a land grant college with a fairly well respected College of Agriculture, it’s animal science department is considered top notch, but tends to be very white. It may be because most people in agriculture in the US are also white (and despite reforms by the USDA after lawsuits about racism in loan practices) and targeted funding for programs to get minorities involved in agriculture, most loans still end up going to whites, because the historically underserved populations haven’t really stepped up to take advantages of the programs that have easier lending requirements than what most people are required to follow. I am betting the quota system would result in the same thing Title IX caused in male sports, i.e. in order to decrease the disparity, they’ll just decrease the number of whites admitted, because they can’t recruit enough minorities. We’ve seen some of this in the push to include women in the sciences, already.

      3. ” might seem to be diametrically opposing views”

        Why would you expect people concerned about CO2 to embrace Pu? CO2 is, after all, a naturally occurring chemical which is essential for life on earth. Plutonium is neither.

        1. Who the fuck cares if Pu is natural or not? Being natural doesn’t make it better. This is an idiotic argument based upon a cultist belief in nature as some devine benevolent avatar, when in fact nature doesn’t give a fuck and plenty of things in nature are arguably bad for life.

          1. “Who the fuck cares if Pu is natural or not?”

            Those who don’t want it. If you don’t want it, don’t make it. What could be simpler?

            1. Which one poses an existential threat?
              Which one is making hurricanes worse and causing all these terrible wildfires?

  10. So, have they solved they problem of disposal of nuclear waste that lasts thousands of years?

    1. Not until Nevada agrees to open Yucca Mountain, anyway.

      Even still, there’s no solutions, only trade-offs. On-site, long-term storage of nuclear waste (managing point source pollution) seems like it could be an acceptable trade-off to the environmental/safety challenges of other power sources.

      1. The sole reason the US doesn’t recycle spent fuel is legislation forbidding it. It’s been in use in France for decades…

        1. Yeah, definitely opportunity there. My understanding is that there is still some leftover waste from the recycling process, though. So you still have to find long-term storage for radioactive material (much less obviously).

          1. Americium was worth $1500 a pound as “waste” last I checked. Each of us will in a lifetime of electricity consumption generate a volume of nuclear waste equivalent in size to an orange, and reducible by peeling away valuable elements to the size of a gull’s egg. Look up Petr Beckmann’s articles in earlier editions of Reason. We ought to change to a plutonium standard currency. Gold can never again be a reliable standard of value because of its neuton cross-section, whereas we expect Pu to be a little radioactive.

            1. Look up Petr Beckmann’s articles in earlier editions of Reason.

              The Ghost Hunter?

        2. True. And you don’t see many French troops being suckered into oil-looting wars in fanatical mohammedan satrapies.

          1. Uhm. French troops fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Northern Africa and Western Africa. So I think your conclusions might be a bit off.

          2. France has never abandoned its African adventurism.

      2. Being allowed to recycle the stuff would be a good step, too.

      3. Why omit the risk of wars looting other countries for primitive fuels because politicians lack the backbone to stand up to the antinuclear brainwashing industry? A lot of GOP infiltrators point to antichoice Republican Ron Paul as some sort of libertarian. But his perfect voting record on nuclear issues during the tsunami of communist propaganda–his most valuable legacy–the girl-bulliers never mention.

      4. “On-site, long-term storage of nuclear waste (managing point source pollution) seems like it could be an acceptable trade-off to the environmental/safety challenges of other power sources.”

        How long is ‘long term?’ Human’s are not used to dealing with the time scales nuclear wastes demand of us. The delicious ‘hundred year old eggs’ of China are stored no more than a few weeks. Who is going to pay for storing wastes for tens of thousands of years and longer? Longer than the pyramids have been here.

        1. And has been explained you can recycle or use different materials, such as thorium to deal with this problem. The fact is, your side blocks these solutions because you are all cultist who don’t care about facts but worship Gaia.

          1. These are research reactors, and have been since the 60s. Any country with a serious, ongoing nuclear program has nuclear waste repositories designed to sequester waste for tens of thousands, even millions of years, under construction.

    2. We solved *that* problem ages ago with breeder/burner reactors. We just don’t want to use them because plutonium is scary.

    3. France solved it decades ago. They reprocess it into usable fuel. France gets around 85% of its electricity from nuclear with no waste problem…

    4. Yep. We’re going to place it in an autonomous zone in some west coast city.

    5. Oh look, a mathematical illiterate. Wastes from fission reactors decay to the level found in uranium mines in half a millennium. Logarithmic decay curves are as much a mystery to human slavery advocates as they were to Ian Fleming and Stanley Kubrik. Just reflect on one question: When was the last time you wiped the floor of an uranium mine with your lunch sandwich before finishing it? If the answer is “not lately,” your real risk is from pedestrian crossings and lightning strikes.

    6. Yes, Molten SALT reactors fueled by thorium, which is less radioactive and can’t meltdown and has a half life measured in decades. And burner reactors that are currently banned but recycle the waste.

      1. Next unscientific talking point from the pro-science party?

  11. Nuclear bombs were designed to vaporize NSDAP bunkers and scared the living crap out of all socialist dictatorships. Fortunately for them, prohibition enforcement under Harding and Hoover had swamped the U.S. government with communist infiltrators whose top priority was to pretend the Second Amendment did not apply to nuclear weapons, and to roll all such technology back to the days of slaves chained to the oars of triremes. That was the heyday of slaveholding socialism.

    1. Well, it was the environmentalist of the 60s and 70s that killed the nuclear industry. By lawsuits after lawsuits which drove the companies bankrupt and stop the whole process. That was done by one environmentalist organization filing a lawsuit and getting the construction stopped until the court settled the suite. About when that suit was just about ruled on the next group would have a suit ready to file to start the case all over again. After years of these lawsuits and and the cost of the lawsuits self and the cost of maintaining the sight and all the other cost it became a lost cause so the companies quit the business.
      But at that time it was not global warming that was the cause of these lawsuits but the fear of explosions of the reactor and radiation. The environmentalists were more in favor of coal than nuclear. But when nuclear lose out then these same groups start attacking coal because of global warming.

  12. I am betting the enviro-whackos will try and stop nucluer fusion plants too if we can ever create a stable plasma field (big research being conducted in France, funded in large part by the US, right now that is producing some interesting and promising results).

    1. I am sure they’ll label helium an environmental contaminant despite how useful it is and our dwindling natural supplies.

  13. If this reactor is built this would be the first one in how many decades? Well, it is the first step to a safer and more environmentally friendly source of electric.

  14. Michael Shellenberger, founder of Environmental Progress, is trying to turn the anti-nuclear tide. His new book, “Apocalypse Never” is worth a read.

    1. “His new book, “Apocalypse Never” is worth a read.”

      His new book where he recommends wealthy western countries subsidize development of coal mines in Africa so they can be rich too, and solve climate change at the same time?

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  16. “Sometimes the sun doesn’t shine, or there is no wind. ”

    This is a misconception common to many writers at Reason. In fact, the sun is always shining. It’s only the earth’s rotation that makes it seem the sun ‘goes out’ at night.

    1. Which is still a fucking problem but your solution is both impractical and expensive and would require massive government oversight. But you will gaslight on how nuclear is more centralized than a massive global solar installation requiring huge installations global wide and massive infrastructure, all of which would require massive treaties and government oversight to maintain and defend. Because you are a fucking cultist who buys into the enviro cult while claiming science supports you, which it really doesn’t.

      1. “Which is still a fucking problem…”

        Nonsense. It’s not a problem at all. If the earth didn’t rotate, the side facing the sun would be baked into lifelessness, and the other side would be a frozen wasteland. It’s time we face the fact that the sun never stops and with the right grid in place, the energy it provides could be on tap for every inhabitant of the planet at the flip of a switch. It’s an optimistic vision, not without risk, I grant you, and I understand your reluctance to embrace it.

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  18. “I have built a nuclear—a weapons system that nobody’s ever had in this country before. We have stuff that you haven’t even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before. There’s nobody—what we have is incredible.”

    D Trump.

    Builder of not credible nuclear weapons.

  19. First Solar and Wind produce non storable electricity. Unlike coal/gas and yes even nuclear you can turn it on and off based on demand. For some reason all the liberal art majors pushing “renewables” have lost this fact or since they never passed physics 101 have no idea.

    Second with nuclear you still have the depleted rods which are highly radioactive for centuries. Fission is a dead end..Fusion is always 20 years away. We will have so called “fossil” fuels for centuries generating electricity, our cars and our society. Get used to it

    1. “First Solar and Wind produce non storable electricity.”

      Batteries seem to be the biggest stumbling block to going full on solar or wind. Their weight and bulk for one. Still, it’s quite possible that technical advances might make batteries a more attractive option. I imagine there’s a lot of commercial potential in selling better batteries.

      I think you are wrong about shutting down and restarting nuclear reactors willy nilly. Based on my experience watching actors pretending to run reactors, shutting down a reactor is something to be avoided unless you have to. It’s the part of the operation most fraught with risk. The operators have to rely on procedures and don’t really know what’s going on inside the reactor, what with sub atomic particles being such slippery customers.

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