Holtec Has Just Solved Nuclear Energy’s Biggest Problem
When you look at the data, nuclear power seems utterly extraordinary. Its carbon emissions are minuscule at 4g of carbon dioxide per kWh, the same level as solar power and significantly lower than the 6g per kWh for wind power. But it is also incredibly safe. Nuclear averages 90 deaths per TWh of energy produced, a statistic that includes horrific disasters like Fukushima. Compare that to wind power at 150 deaths per TWh, solar power at 440 deaths per TWh, and coal power at a massive 100,000 deaths per TWh! With all of that in mind, nuclear power should be a beacon of sustainability and the power source of the future. But, thanks to the sky-high price of reactors and how painstakingly slow it is to construct them, nuclear power has fallen out of favour. Luckily, Holtec and their genius SMR-160 may have solved this critical flaw.
When I say nuclear power is expensive and slow, I really mean it. Take the 3.2 GW Sizewell C nuclear plant being built in Britain. It is predicted to take 12 years to construct, but its actual date of arrival could easily surpass that. Plus, the total price to build the plant is estimated at up to £30 billion ($36 billion), which is monstrous!
Imagine trying to pitch this build to an energy company. It will cost tens of billions up front and won’t produce energy for over a decade. Meanwhile, solar farms and wind turbines cost a good chuck less and can be built in three to five years. No wonder nuclear power is falling out of favour.
But this is where Holtec’s SMR-160 comes in.
“SMR” stands for Small Modular Reactor. Unlike typical nuclear reactors, which use a handful of massive, custom-built reactors that need to be carefully built on-site, SMRs are small enough to be built off-site in a factory and then transported to a location where they can be stacked together to make a power plant. This makes SMRs far cheaper, faster to build, more flexible, and more scalable than traditional nuclear power. But this is a relatively new concept, and companies are still trying to design the reactors to meet regulations, so as of yet, no SMRs are commercially available.