- August 1, 2019: Vol. 12, Number 7

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Smaller, cheaper, safer: New generation of reactors seeks to regain public trust

by Mike Consol

There is hope that a new breed of safer, less expensive fission reactors will help the nuclear energy sector mount a long overdue comeback in the United States, as well as other parts of the world, where some countries have curtailed or even abandoned their nuclear energy programs. With any luck, sodium-cooled fission reactors and other technologies — including the ability to reuse spent fuel — will get the public to regain their trust in the safety and viability of nuclear generating stations.

Proponents of nukes point to, among other things, dismal statistics that show coal accounted for 38 percent of the world’s power in 2018, the same percentage as when the first global climate treaty was ratified 20 years ago. What’s more, greenhouse-gas emissions increased by 2.7 percent in 2018, the biggest rise in seven years. Meanwhile, several zero-emission U.S. nuclear plants were shuttered because the cost of their product cannot compete with shale gas.

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