Tiny Nuclear Reactors Are the Future of Energy

New nuclear reactor designs could bring far more widespread use and public acceptance of this powerful form of energy.
December 17, 2020, 5:34pm

Nuclear reactors began producing energy in the U.S. in 1958. Now, they generate 20 percent of all electricity in the country and are far more environmentally sustainable than natural gas and other fossil fuel-based energy sources. 

Traditional reactors take a staggering amount of time to construct and come with an upwards of $10 billion initial investment price tag, however. Luckily, that could soon be changing thanks to new, smaller versions of this energy solution that could one day be factory-made. 

Companies like X-Energy and the BIll Gates-founded TerraPower are creating small modular reactors that come with massive benefits. These mini reactors are cheaper, take less time to build, and are drastically more efficient than the outdated models that are currently producing power. 

X-Energy's reactor uses helium gas heated to 750 degrees centigrade to transfer the heat needed to create energy within the reactor. X-Energy claims it is meltdown proof, too, adding a layer of futuristic safety needed to hopefully turn public opinion on this alternate energy source. TerraPower’s reactor uses molten sodium to initiate the heat transfer needed to create electricity. 

Small modular reactors are turning the page in renewable energy, and there are also microreactors, sometimes called "nuclear batteries," in development. Over the past 50 years, 60 gigatons of CO2 emissions have been avoided thanks to renewable energy according to the International Energy Agency. These new reactors can be placed in areas where renewable energy was once unthinkable. Ideally, these reactors will normalize electric energy in the near future and create efficiency levels that noticeably curb the climate crisis.