Race to cut carbon emissions splits U.S. states on nuclear | Technology


The U.S. also has no long-term plan for managing or disposing the hazardous waste that can persist in the environment for hundreds of thousands of years, and there’s the danger of accidents or targeted attacks for both the waste and the reactors, Lyman said. Nuclear disasters at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and more recently, Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 provide an enduring warning about the dangers.

Nuclear power already provides about 20% of electricity in the U.S., accounting for about half the nation’s carbon-free energy. Most of the 93 reactors operating in the country are east of the Mississippi River.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved just one of the new, small modular reactor designs — from a company called NuScale Power, in August 2020. Three other companies have told the commission they’re planning to apply for their designs. All of these use water to cool the core.

The NRC is expecting about a half dozen designs to be submitted for advanced reactors, which use something other than water to cool the core, such as gas, liquid metal or molten salt. That includes a project by Gates’ company, TerraPower, in Wyoming, which has long depended on coal for power and jobs.

As utilities quit coal, Wyoming is tapping into wind and installed the third-largest amount of wind power generating capacity of any state in 2020, after Texas and Iowa. But Glen Murrell, executive director of the Wyoming Energy Authority, said it’s unrealistic to expect all the nation’s energy to be provided exclusively through wind and solar. Renewable energy should work in tandem with other technologies such as nuclear and hydrogen, he said.



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