New models for nuclear reactors have been attracting a lot of interest recently, with all sorts of ideas touted as the solution to the problems of the standard designs in use today.
The huge cost, and delays and budget over-runs in construction, of third generation reactors such as Areva’s EPR, along with concerns about their safety, has inspired a search for new smaller designs, including some that are only the size of a garden shed.
There is also renewed excitement over fourth-generation reactor technology that can use spent uranium fuel as its feed-stock.
Bill Gates has been advocating one version of that technology, the “travelling wave reactor”, and has invested in a company developing it.
The promise is great: cheap power without the waste problems that have still not yet been solved. Gates says we need an “energy miracle”, and fourth generation nuclear power is it. But there are also some nuclear experts who warn that the promise is a snare and a delusion.
Royal Dutch Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil group, has decided to remain the sole voice of the oil industry in the US Climate Action Partnership, a grouping of chief executives working together to promote climate legislation. This week, BP and ConocoPhillips withdrew, saying they needed to focus not just on passing federal legislation, but rather on trying to shape it to the advantage of the oil and gas industry.