Like it or not, nuclear reactors will be part of our energy future. They’re clean, reliable, and provide more consistent power than wind and solar sources. So it should come as no surprise to learn that Babcock & Wilcox, a construction and energy development company, will likely announce the release of a small, modular nuclear reactor today. The announcement will be made with the Nuclear Energy Institute and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The idea for small, portable reactors that could be sold to developing countries isn’t new. Westinghouse designed a 600 megawatt reactor, two thirds the size of traditional reactors, in the 1980s. But the company didn’t receive any orders, and the model was scrapped.
Now that energy availability is in the international spotlight, interest in small reactors has been renewed. Hyperion Power Generation’s Power Module is a modular, hot tub-sized nuclear reactor that delivers 70 megawatts of thermal power or 25 megawatts of electric power for seven to 10 years. Hyperion expects to sell 4,000 of the $30 million reactors when they go on sale in 2013. The company has already received 70 pre-orders, proving that there is a market for small nuclear devices–even with NIMBYers probably lined up to protest.
If Babcock & Wilcox’s announcement goes over well, expect larger nuclear power companies like Westinghouse, General Electric, and Hitachi to pay attention.