The days of the behemoth nuclear plants may be numbered, King writes. There is a movement to design and build smaller nuclear reactors that are more affordable and flexible.
To build a car, basically you need a wheel at each corner, after which you can do what you like. Flexibility comes in how you use the vehicle.
For nuclear power, the reverse of that truism applies. There are many, many ways of building a reactor and fueling it. But its purpose is singular: to make electricity. And making electricity is done in the time-honored way, using steam or gas to turn a turbine attached to a generator.
Around the world, some 460 reactors are electricity makers. Even allowing for events like the tsunami which struck Fukushima Daiichi, they are statistically the safest and most reliable electricity makers.
Yet they are large and built one at a time; one-offs, bespoke. They rely predominantly on two variations of a technology called “light water,” originally adapted from the U.S. Navy. This has left no room for other designs, fuels and materials.
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