“When I was young,” said Ima, “I was scared that either the Soviet Union or the pesticide DDT would surely be the end of us. Glad we dodged those! But I’ll tell you what frightens me now. It’s the aging nuclear power plants that are still operating. I get chills, thinking about the radiation contamination from the meltdowns at Chernobyl, Fukushima and Three Mile Island. We just shouldn’t be messing with this nuclear stuff,” Ima Frayed concluded.
“Yup, that’s scary stuff!” Maeby agreed. “But funny you should mention it; I’ve recently learned a bit about the current state of the nuclear industry. Those old-design reactors required active cooling systems that failed in those three cases causing their meltdowns. Huge plants like those generate hundreds of megawatts (MW) of electricity.
“We now have what’s known as small modular reactors (SMR) that generate just 1-25 MW; these are a good fit for modern distributed energy systems. They circulate water to cool the core without the need for pumps, AC or DC power, human/computer intervention, or external water. The smallest, like the one engineering students at UW Madison operate on campus, can be delivered on a truck. Similar reactors are on our submarines where 100 sailors depend on them to power the vessel and clean the air they breathe.
“I agree; radioactive waste is a big problem, but nuclear energy is actually one of the safest ways to generate electricity. The coal and oil industries cause far more deaths. And speaking of big problems, burning fossil fuels is a huge one. It pollutes the air and contributes to the climate disasters that take lives and wreak havoc costing us billions. California’s mopping up another oil spill right now!
“Thankfully, clean wind and solar electrical generation is expanding rapidly as are energy efficiency and battery storage technologies. Experts say that effectively combining these could take care of 80% of our energy needs.
“But what to do about that pesky goblin, the final 20%?” Maeby Wegotta wondered. “Perhaps it’s time to give more consideration to SMRs because ya know, this is our only home. We’re all forever… Earthbound.”