Solving climate change might prove to be easier than anticipated. Generation 4 nuclear reactors are currently in the works, and they’re slated to have significantly lower carbon emissions than wind and solar energy sources. Additionally, they’re poised to be more reliable, with superior energy production capabilities.
Even better — these Gen 4 reactors will have the ability to be mass produced over the next few decades, allowing them to effectively reduce carbon emissions.
Gen 4 Reactors in the Works
Powered by alternative coolants, Gen 4 systems are currently in production at a number of companies. For example, Terrestrial Energy — a Canadian firm — is in the process of developing molten salt reactors. The company has plans to build a 190 MW plant in Ontario, that will produce power by 2030, and claims the price will be on par with natural gas.
China is also in the process of building a large scale sodium-cooled reactor in its Fujian province that’s slated to be up and running by 2023. Additionally, TerraPower — a Washington-based company that counts Bill Gates as an investor — has been working to create a sodium-cooled system powered by spent fuel, depleted uranium, or uranium from the ground. The company has an agreement with Beijing to build a demonstration plant by 2022, but its future is uncertain due to the Trump Administration’s Chinese trade policies.
Impact on Climate Change
The fact that nuclear power plants have the ability to produce large quantities of carbon-free electricity is indisputable, but critics aren’t convinced it will solve climate change. While a greater volume of nuclear energy would reduce emissions from the power sector, its reach won’t extend to every sector.
As of 2017, the electric power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions were approximately 34% of all U.S. energy-related emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In fact, carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. power sector have decreased 28% since 2005. In comparison, CO2 emissions from all other energy sectors only declined 5% during this time period.
Stay tuned to see how much of an impact nuclear reactors ultimately have on climate change.
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