New nuclear technology to fight climate change

December 21, 2015

Given the state of energy-producing technology today, I think generation by light water reactors must increase globally in order to meet the goals of the Paris agreement. New technologies that could have a major impact on decarbonizing global electricity generation include advances such as grid-level electricity storage, more efficient wind turbines, and new types of nuclear reactors. Unfortunately, these technologies are not economically competitive enough for utilities to deploy at a large enough scale to prevent catastrophic climate change. Sufficient improvement in economic competitiveness might not be achieved in time to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

US states can comply with the requirements of the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by completing reactors that are under construction and also by increasing the power output of currently operating plants. The US nuclear power industry has been effective in coming up with ways to generate more power from existing reactors. But those methods are now pretty much tapped out. At Lightbridge we’ve designed a new nuclear fuel for the existing and new reactors that will allow them to generate more electricity, which will be compliant with the Clean Power Plan. The new fuel is now in the testing stage, and the results are promising.

I’m all for new technology development. There are remarkable advances in existing types of renewables and promising new ideas for generating electricity, including new reactor designs. But from everything I’ve seen, the goals of the Paris agreement and the Clean Power Plan can only be met by taking actions that can be begin to be economically implemented at large scale in the next few years, including increased nuclear power. For countries that already have reactors, I expect the use of new nuclear fuel to generate a meaningful increase in electricity from each plant. For countries that do not yet have reactors, this incremental advancement in fuel technology can result in reactors that are more economical to deploy, to help decarbonize electricity generation.