According to Catherine Wolfram, nuclear reactors are ‘low-tech tools’

Which we are sure is true. In fact Ug and Gronk probably regularly smashed a few atoms together if the firewood was wet when their mammoth needed cooking…

In the late 1990s, regulators in some U.S. states began to make electric utilities sell their nuclear reactors to private operators. They weren’t trying to help head off climate change, yet they managed to do just that.

Deregulation was supposed to bring down power prices. The sale of nuclear plants to nonutility owners, such as Exelon Corp., was part of the process and was intended to serve that goal. But it also helped offset more greenhouse gas emissions in the 2000s than all of the wind and solar generation in the country combined.

Increased nuclear output is an example of what I call “low- tech cleantech,” or the intelligent management of our energy infrastructure to make it more efficient. A small improvement in nuclear operations can have a much bigger impact than double- digit growth in renewable power sources for a simple reason: Nuclear reactors today generate far more of the U.S.’s electricity than wind turbines and solar panels.

When nuclear reactors were sold to nonutility buyers, the new owners faced strong incentives to increase output. They wanted to make a profit, and, unlike utilities, they weren’t compensated by electricity rates set by the public-utilities commissions. Rather, they earned wholesale market prices for every kilowatt-hour of power they sold to the grid. My Haas School colleague Lucas Davis and I found that these divested nuclear power plants increased their electricity output by about 10 percent compared with plants that remained with utility owners. One way they did this was shortening the down time for the reactors’ refueling.


One response to “According to Catherine Wolfram, nuclear reactors are ‘low-tech tools’

  1. She never heard of this then:

    The Gen4 Module (G4M) The reactor, known as the Gen4 Module (G4M), designed to fill a previously unmet need for a transportable power source that is safe, clean, sustainable, and cost-efficient. The reactor has been designed to deliver 70 MW of heat (25 MW of electricity) for a 10-year lifetime, without refueling.

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