Washington hoped that its new generation of advanced nuclear power reactors would help to curb global warming. A scientist advocacy organisation, on the other hand, disagreed. Nuclear power, they claimed, faced more significant risks than traditional power plants.
These advanced reactors were also popular among Republicans. A month before Joe Biden was elected, the US Department of Energy granted TerraPower LLC and X-energy each US$80 million to construct reactors that would be operational in seven years.
Advanced reactors are typically much smaller than traditional reactors, and they use molten salt instead of water to cool them. Supporters argue that they are better and that some may be driven by radioactive waste.
According to Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power protection at the Union of Concerned Scientists, the technologies are unquestionably different, but it is unclear if they are better. He went on to say that advanced nuclear power reactors are riskier in terms of safety, serious accidents, and nuclear proliferation.
Nuclear plants that produce almost zero emissions will play a role in decarbonising the economy by 2050. However, due to high safety costs and competition from natural gas, wind, and solar energy, some of the 94 conventional nuclear plants in the United States are closing down. As a result, the situation prompted the first round of funding for a new generation of reactors.
However, since the fuel for many of those reactors will have to be enriched at a far higher rate than conventional fuel, the fuel supply chain may be a tempting target for insurgents seeking to build a crude nuclear bomb, according to the study.
Furthermore, radioactive waste from today’s reactors will have to be reprocessed to produce fuel. Because of concerns about proliferation and expense, the technique has not been used in the United States for decades. Other advanced reactors produce significant quantities of nuclear gases, which may be a problem waste stream.
Funds for advanced nuclear construction, according to Lyman, would be better spent protecting conventional nuclear plants from earthquakes and climate change-related threats, including flooding. According to the paper, the Department of Energy should put its advanced reactor demonstration programme on hold before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) needs prototype testing before commercial reactors can be approved.
According to Brett Rampal, director of nuclear innovation at Clean Air Task Force, the report’s findings were not focused on a thorough examination of the industry. If the DOE followed the suggestion, he said, “nuclear energy engineering will effectively come to a halt today.”