“Their amount of shrinking is currently insignificant unless you compare to a country with a growing population.”
And yet, several analyses of their decreased energy consumption have mentioned their population shrinkage as a factor. My hunch is that it isn’t just about the raw number of humans alive, but also a matter of what happens to their energy consumption profile as they age out and retire.
“It is quite frustrating that so many politicians or people who speak out about nuclear power can’t be bothered to learn some of the basics about Gen IV reactors.”
I routinely see remarkably well-informed politicians speaking about Gen IV reactors. The frustrating part for me is that they all happen to be Republicans. Gen IV development should have been a natural opportunity and cause for people on the left, for environmentalists against carbon emissions, and fossil fuel pollution and degradation, for people who don’t want to see any more old-tech nuclear plants built and would like to see the existing old-tech plants retired as soon as possible, for people who worry about the long-term issues for spent fuel, for people who pride themselves for being on the side of science, for people who don’t want to undercut the credibility of climate scientists like Hansen and Caldeira, and for people trying to convince the public climate change really is serious enough to be an all-hands-on-deck situation. Instead, the left, through both neglect and opposition, handed the issue as a gift to the right, and even though some centrist Dems went along, it was really Republicans who seized the initiative and did the heavy-lifting on getting NEICA, NEIMA, NELA other initiatives passed to help foster Gen IV research, development, and deployment. And if any of the new designs work out, it will be Republicans who will justifiably be crowing and claiming credit for that, and using it as a cudgel to portray Dems and especially greens and progessives as hypocrites and backward luddites on the wrong side of history. That just chafes the hell out of me.
“I wish Tulsi or Bernie would educate themselves a bit on the topic as well.”
Elysium Industries is headquartered in New York State–practically in AOC’s back yard. They are definitely in Dem. Rep. Paul Tonko’s congressional district. The issue Tonko is most passionate about, and the one he says he knows best, is energy. Prior to entering Congress, he was president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. He serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. He’s also co-chair of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition. And one of his first acts in Congress was to sponsor a bill to get $800 million research program in wind energy technologies (which would largely benefit GE in his home district). So one would think Tonko, with all of his focus on clean and sustainable energy, energy commerce, and technology and a big proponent of funding research, would be psyched to have a leading team in his home district developing a form of nuclear which can never melt down and which can actually consume spent fuel. So what are we hearing from him about this? Crickets.
“What is your current assessment in terms of MSR demonstration reactors? Are we going to see them in other countries first and then the political discussion here may mature? Or are there going to be any in the US in the same time frame?”
The only reactors in development I’ve seen so far that I think have real potential to be game changers are of the liquid-fuel molten salt class, and out of those, there are four teams that hold lead positions. At this time, it looks like Thorcon (thermal spectrum-uranium burner) has the inside track for deploying the first commercial operating plant–a marine based unit they are developing for Malaysia, and they think they can get that running by around 2025. Close behind is Moltex UK, (fast-spectrum uranium breeder) who has site approval to build a unit at Point Lepreau in New Brunswick–about 30 miles from Maine. Elysium, and now Terrapower, (fast-spectrum uranium breeders) are looking to develop in the U.S. but how fast that can happen is totally up in the air right now. Before Trump came in, the NRC was basically operating as a high obstacle to innovation, and the general view was that development would take place first elsewhere. That’s why Thorcon went to Malaysia and Terrapower went to China. The Trump administration has shut down the Terrapower project with China, but for now, they are letting the Thorcon project in Malaysia stand. The legislation has been passed mandating an overhaul of how the NRC deals with new classes of reactors, but we don’t know yet what shape those reforms will take. Technically, both Elysium and Terrapower think they could have something running in 8 - 10 years, but the regulatory reforms will determine what the actual timetable will be. If the reforms are good, private investment will ramp up substantially, and the field could grow. Moltex had previously indicated that they would have liked to pursue certification in the U.S., but the regulatory mess looked insurmountable. They might revise their position if the mess gets cleaned up. On the other hand, if the NRC drops the ball and Congress doesn’t ride herd on them, I expect that would kill the current momentum toward American Gen IV reactors, and the overseas teams will take the lead.