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Posts Tagged ‘TerraPower’

ANALYSTS: FUKUSHIMA MAY INCREASE THE APPEAL OF SMRS 

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

March 23, 2011
Nuclear Townhall

Despite the general pause over nuclear energy as a result of the Fukushima crisis, some analysts believe the end result may be to bring small modular reactors to the fore.
 
“As improbable as it may sound amid the devastation in northeastern Japan, the nuclear accident may increase the appeal of innovative, small-scale reactors,” Chris Gadomski, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst in San Francisco, tells Bloomberg News. “We’re seeing a knee-jerk reaction saying, ‘get rid of nuclear,’ but that’s not going to happen in the long run,” he says. “There is no other good solution if you want to decarbonize the energy sector. As far as small reactors go, these events in Japan will strengthen their hand as opposed to weakening it.”
 
Although SMRs are getting a lot of good press lately, including a feature-length article in The American Spectator this month,   the finances have not been good. Paul Lorenzini, CEO of NuScale, announced this week that his company would be making layoffs soon if it could not get further financing.
 
NuScale’s 45-MW reactor would sell for only $200 million and would allow utilities to add power in small increments without betting the company on a $10-billion project. Hyperion Power Generation is offering an even smaller 25-MW reactor for $50 million. The article also cites TerraPower’s 500-MW Traveling Wave Reactor but also notes that Russia is making rapid progress with 35-MW reactor it is mounting on barges. The big surprise is that Argentina is also clearing the ground for a 25-MW experimental prototype it hopes to begin in 2014.
 
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has said that SMRs represent the U.S.’s last big chance to get back in the game on world reactor construction.

Read more about it at Bloomberg

 

TOWNHALL DEBATE: ARE CONVENTIONAL REACTORS AND SMALL MODULAR REACTORS RIVALS?

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

“Disruptive technology” was a phrase that kept coming up at Infocast’s Small Modular Reactors Conference in Washington, DC this week.

The term was coined by Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen in his 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, in which he showed that even the innovators of new technology can hurt themselves by introducing it if they are already well established in the old technology. Therefore, new technologies are usually developed by newcomers in the field.
 
The description would seem to fit the U.S. Nuclear Renaissance at this moment. The proposals for small reactors are coming mostly from upstart companies such as NuScale, Hyperion, Advanced Reactor Concepts, Radix, TerraPower and a reincarnated Babcock & Wilcox, which has dropped out of the full-scale field. Meanwhile, the established companies – AREVA, Westinghouse, General Electric and General Atomics – are “keeping up with the Jones” at best.
 
But there is a new element to the equation – the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The limiting factor in any reactor development, old or new, in this country, at least, will be getting licensed by the NRC. The Commission’s time – which is subject to Congressional appropriations and dedicated to safety issues first – can be finite even at its pass-through rate to users of $260 hour.  And any effort spent on SMRs could logically be subtracted from time spent reviewing larger reactors. Thus, when Hyperion sat down with NRC officials earlier this month, the company was only adding to the Commission’s overload.

There won’t be any Apples or Netscapes upsetting the established order in the nuclear industry. Ultimately, along with securing customers, everything will depend on successfully navigating uncertain NRC regulatory regime waters over a five-year period at a minimum. In this department, established technologies will have an advantage, since, even more than major corporations, bureaucracies have trouble adjusting to innovation.
 
“I believe if the nuclear industry is going to succeed, we have to succeed as a whole,” said Gary Barbour, senior advisor for regulatory affairs at NuScale Power at the conference. In winning public acceptance, this is obviously true. But is there also a sibling rivalry?  Are big and small reactors partners or rivals?  Are small reactors and large reactors an either/or proposition for the industry or can the industry and the NRC multi-task?  Are small reactors an untimely distraction at a time when the Renaissance should be focused on consummating a spate of new large reactor deployments over this decade?

 

 

GATES TAKES THE LEAD ON TRAVELING WAVE

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Silicon Valley may be pursuing the will-o-the-wisp of a solar economy (while quietly moving their manufacturing facilities out of California), but up in Redmond Bill Gates is embracing nuclear.

The world’s third richest man just chipped in $35 million to fund TerraPower, which is trying to develop the traveling wave reactor – a fast breeder reactor that could run for thirty years without refueling by consuming its own wastes. TerraPower (energy from the earth – get it?) is the outgrowth of Intellectual Ventures, another Gates startup that has been looking for cutting-edge technologies. Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s longtime idea man, heads Intellectual Ventures.

Silicon Valley, much more enamored to this point with trendy wind and solar ventures, may finally be getting on board. Vinod Khosla, who has spearheaded the California plunge into renewbles, kicked in a small amount on TerraPower, as has Charles River Ventures, one of Boston area’s leading venture capital firms.

Read more at Market Watch