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jhogan2726 karma

Interesting question.

There is a large nuclear power plant being built today in spite of the so-called incredibly high prices (and I’m talking about in America). So I’m not convinced that it is priced out of reach.

Small reactors still have a higher cost per kilowatt hour. They are a more expensive source of energy than large reactors. However they have one virtue which really attracts people: They can be built in increments and get online sooner. Big reactors can get delayed and delayed and the whole time you’re paying ongoing construction costs. There’s no question that being able to get online and get some income while doing increments, that is an advantage. In the long run that may turn out to be an overwhelming advantage that gives small-scale reactors a better bet.

jhogan1567 karma

Costs a ton! Haha.

Until we actually demonstrate the will — and I won’t say what kind of will, I just mean the actual backbone — to actually dispose permanently (for the next thousand years) the nuclear waste in the country (we now have in excess of 70,000, probably 80,000 tons of spent/used fuel) — it’s the biggest drawback.

Until we have a functioning disposal system it’s going to continue to be a negative for nuclear power in America. Quite frankly the Yucca Mountain project was killed because of lack of political strength. It was said to be safe by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and yet at this point we have put off solving that problem.

jhogan1441 karma

The answer for both of these is China.  China is definitely leading the charge at the moment -- they are leading the commitments to design, build, and operate reactors.  And I see no slackening of interest in that country for continued expansion.

When my wife and I were there last, the air pollution problem in Shanghai was serious. And ultimately I think what China realizes is the sooner they can expand their nuclear power, the better the environment will be, especially in the larger cities.

Obviously their economy is growing rapidly, and any growing economy requires a growth in electrical energy.  Most of China's power currently comes from coal, but nuclear can step in and take some of that burden.

jhogan1339 karma

The argument that we don’t have a way of disposing of the waste.

People use the argument that we don’t have a good way of waste disposal to say “don’t go down that pathway.” But we do! It is being done today in Finland, and it is being done under conditions that are similar to ours.

It's an opinion and there are going to be other opinions. But that's mine.

jhogan1050 karma

OK. In Finland, they're about to start deep geologic disposal. The question of "is deep geologic disposal safe?" has been argued for generations. The consensus of the scientific community is that it is safe. I talked more in another answer here about some of the safety details of that approach.

In the US there is a good deal of power in the hands of the states. So there's a question of whether you can do something safely in America, where there might be a national commitment but the states might be resistant, even to transport waste to the site. But that issue does not exist in Finland. They do not have provinces which have almost veto power (which is what really happened in Nevada, with the Yucca Mountain project I talked about in the link above).

Also, suppose a baby is born, and for their whole lifetime the only power they use is nuclear. It turns out the amount of nuclear waste they would generate over their entire lifetime is just two Coca-Cola cans! So the question is, can you safely dispose of something like that? The answer is, yes, with deep geologic disposal.