Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Nuclear power to go: Reserachers at Lawrence Livermore and other national laboratories are working on a portable, lightweight, nuclear reactor that can help take safe, efficient power production to third world countries and other isolated areas with all sorts of benefits over building nuclear infrastructure on sight. It's called SSTAR, or a small, sealed, transportable, autonomous reactor.
The SSTAR design will accomplish DOE’s goals by allowing the U.S. to provide a tamper-resistant reactor to a nonnuclear state while still safeguarding the nation’s sensitive nuclear technology. SSTAR will also secure the nuclear fuel because, after its operation, the sealed reactor will be returned to a secure recycling facility for refueling or maintenance.
Designed to be deployable anywhere in the world, SSTAR may also meet a national need. In the U.S., the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) oversees more than 100 nuclear power plants that were built during the 1960s and 1970s. SSTAR would provide a secure and cost-effective system to replace older nuclear reactors as well as aging fossil-fuel plants, particularly in an isolated location.

This stuff is certainly beyond me technologically speaking, but I found it interesting in light of the ongoing debate over alternative energy needs. I don't know for certain (wish I did, though) what the future for fossil fuels is and when it will hit a wall, or what will replace it. Wind, solar, hydrogen, nuclear? Probably some combination of all of those and others. But I'm always amazed by our ability to design and build things that seem inconceivable to previous generations. It's why I'm confident that, though there will be bumps along the way, the eventual transition away from a petroleum dominated energy market will be viewed as relatively seamless some hundred years hence.

Via Casey Research's What We Now Know.

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