FactoryBuilt Nuclear Power Coming To A Lab Near You

first_imgPrefab nuclear power plants might sound straight out of a 1950’s vision for the nuclear age, but the technology may be on its way to laboratories across the country. The New York Times is reporting that the Obama administration’s budget, which will be officially proposed tomorrow, includes funding for research into low-cost, modular nuclear plants that can be quickly assembled and shipped without the overhead of traditional designs. Designed to be deployed at first in large-scale national laboratories, like the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the plants cost up to $2 billion, a small fraction of the $10 billion price of a typical nuclear reactor, but offer about 1/20th of the output. The use of these reactors is expected to help the Energy Department lower its carbon footprint by 28 percent before 2020.In the long-term, this research is expected to yield the ability to mass-produce these power plants, assembly-line style, allowing them to replace existing coal plants already on the grid. According to the Times, this type of modular reactor saves utilities from the large start-up costs associated with building a traditional reactor, allowing for more options when it comes time to replace older, less environmentally-friendly plants. They also produce roughly the same amount of power as older coal plants from the middle of the century that are now nearing retirement.The administration will likely be asking for $500 million over five years, which will pay for half of the design costs for two reactors.[via New York Times, image via Flickr: Bagalute, CC-BY]last_img