Mini-Nuclear Reactors Are Coming, and They Could Reinvent the Energy Industry


Pat, we have a reactor trip on Unit 5. Containment
is isolated. Demon water is isolated. CVCS is isolated. DHR is in service. And pressurizer
heater trips has occurred. All safety functions are green. Understand. We’ve got a reactor
trip on Unit 5 and all safety functions are green. That’s correct. Ryan, can you take
over the plant response to Unit 5? You’re in the middle of a simulated reactor trip. Something happened that’s causing an emergency shutdown. Ryan
I have acknowledged the alarms. Understand that you’ve acknowledged the alarms. This
demonstration took place at NuScale, a next generation nuclear power company that wants
to operate a string of up to 12 small reactors from a single control room. And their new
model might just revive the nuclear power industry. When you think nuclear, you might
imagine a plant like this: enormous cooling towers, generators, steam billowing out the
top. They’ve been a part of our energy mix for decades all working to harness the
power of splitting uranium atoms. Or in other words: Nuclear power, to put it simply, is
the most complicated way to boil water. What you’re trying to do is to take the energy
that’s produced by splitting uranium nuclei and convert it into steam. That steam then
goes to a turbine which turns a shaft which then turns a generator to produce electricity.When
the splitting happens, it produces radioactive materials. Much of the nuclear plant is really
focused on trying to make sure that these radioactive materials never escape out into
the biosphere. There are hundreds of reactors boiling water across the globe, and you might
actually be living near one. But the nuclear industry today is experiencing some major
shifts. The 3 Mile Island and Fukushima disasters prompted countries like Germany and Switzerland
to dismantle their nuclear power infrastructure. Despite efforts from Russia and China to kick-start
new projects, global construction is currently on a down-swing. Here in the U.S., aging
reactors are retiring, and Westinghouse, one of the biggest names in nuclear, recently
filed for bankruptcy. The argument the nuclear industry used to make is that even though
nuclear power plants are expensive to build they are cheap to operate and therefore profitable.
That equation has changed in the last seven or eight years. There have been a combination
of two things that have been happening. One is that as these plants’ age, the cost of
keeping them operational has been increasing because simultaneously and more importantly,
the cost of alternative sources of energy has declined dramatically. The second thing
I would say is that, the argument used to be, oh, we’ve learned a lot from mistakes
in the past. We will be able to lower the cost and how fast these reactors are built,
and that has not happened. The South Carolina project was so expensive, the company pulled out of it after spending about $9 billion, that’s essentially been abandoned. The Georgia plant is now running
at around $25 to $27 billion, compared to a few billion dollars that was the initial
expectation. I think the result of that is nobody in their right mind should be thinking about building another large nuclear plant in the country. It’s a tough situation,
especially with reports of rising CO2 emissions and calls for alternatives to meet climate
goals. And that’s where these next generation reactors enter the conversation for
multiple countries. Hoping to solve the problems of cost and scale,
this new nuclear fleet are called SMRs or Small Modular Reactors. Small in
this context just means it’s producing less than 300 megawatts of electricity. The plants
that were being built in South Carolina, the ones being built in Georgia generate about
1,100 megawatts of electricity. Modular means that you can make these things in a factory.
You’re manufacturing all your high quality components in parallel you’re doing all your
civil construction on site. You’re making the pool, you’re building the building. And
then when the buildings are done, you transport the modules to the site and you install them.
Beyond these two there’s really nothing that constrains you about the design of the
reactor. There are literally dozens and dozens of SMR designs. Portable nuclear power has
a back to the future feel to it. Pursued since the Cold War, several designs have found their
way inside nuclear submarines and university labs. After decades of attempts, SMRs haven’t been the mainstream source of power for local communities just yet, but that might change with NuScale. This all started with a project
that was funded by the Department of Energy back in 2000. We were working with the Idaho
National Laboratory at the time and we came up with this concept for something small that
could be built in a factory. So inside our modules, we start off with the containment
vessel. It’s about 76 feet long and 15 feet in diameter, it’s big cylinder. Inside
that containment vessel the reactor vessel houses the fuel, the steam generator. It’s
a helical coil steam generator. Everything you need for power to produce steam is inside
that one little vessel. Now the containment and the reactor vessel sit underwater below
ground. And you can add on, two, three up to 12 modules in a single pool. So it’s scalable
because you don’t have to add them all at once, you can do them in increments. Each
module will produce about 60 megawatts electric. If you think about homes, it’s somewhere around
fifty thousand homes would be powered by one module. There aren’t any additional cooling
pumps or generators that could fail in an emergency, a lesson learned from previous
disasters. Because a key element NuScale really emphasized with us, is safety. Passive
safety really describes the ability to perform a safety function without power. For our
design, the reactors will safely shut themselves down without any operator action or computer
action, without any AC or DC power, and they’ll remain cooled for an indefinite period of
time, without the need to add water. When you lose power, the control rods actually
fall into the reactor vessel into the core and they’re held up normally by electromagnets.
So you lose power, they disengage and they fall. So you go from two hundred megawatts
thermal to about 10 or 11 megawatts in a second or so. If you look at the control room here,
you’ll see that a lot of things that we do really don’t require operator action at all.
All the procedures come up on the screens themselves and they help you execute the procedures,
and they’ll help correct you if you make a mistake it’s a smart control room. Which
all seems quite miraculous — to have a nuclear control room run mostly on its own. NuScale’s
timeline has more tick marks ahead. Their plant operations are still just on paper or
at prototype stage. They’re aiming to turn on their first commercial plant near the Idaho
National Laboratory by 2026, which brings the project full circle. We finished our
design certification application. It’s a pretty comprehensive checklist, so application
alone was 12,000 pages. We’re on track to get this design certified with the final safety
evaluation report coming out in September of 2020. So, that’s the target. And within
their application, NuScale is asking the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a different
kind of zoning boundary. In the United States, there’s a requirement that you have an emergency
planning zone around your plant and that zone is a 10 mile radius. The reason we can request
a smaller emergency planning zone is because of the very high level of safety that we offer.
If we go back to their animation, the reactor’s sitting in a pool that’s below ground with
a biological shield on top of that and in a seismic category which is earthquake proof, hurricane proof type building. In our analysis, we show that we don’t exceed regulatory doses under the worst case accident conditions at the site boundary so that changes the game significantly in that we can be in closer proximity to population
centers. If you have an SMR and it has an accident, it would have less amount of radioactive
material to disperse it would have less energy to disperse. These are laws of physics in
certain complicated circumstances that are hard to predict in advance. If you think about
the kind of accidents we’ve seen in the past it is almost always been a bunch of circumstances
which nobody had envisioned. If you’re thinking about the community and you go and
say, “Look, we want to build this nuclear plant near you but there is a small chance
that something might go wrong it’s quite possible you might have to leave your house
and never come back because it’s going to be contaminated with radioactivity. How do
you feel about it?” Quite a few people would say, “No, I don’t think I would want that. Despite
this risk potential, the hundreds of reactors operating worldwide have had a pretty safe
track record, and overall have caused less loss of life than coal or natural gas. The
design & safety of future reactors in the US are assessed by the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission. But there’s some context to this agency that bears keeping in mind: The
NRC’s fortunes, in a sense, depend on the industry that it is regulating. If the nuclear
industry were to essentially shrink and vanish, the NRC would essentially have to vanish too.
The NRC and NuScale have been talking to each other for years now and trying to say, “Okay,
here’s our rules. Here’s how you interpret these rules. Here’s how we can modify our
design. All of which does not seem to me to be a thoroughly independent process. There’s
been a reported history of regulatory capture in the nuclear industry, but it shouldn’t
come as any surprise. What entity other than a state government can take on the capital
and risk associated with investing in nuclear? Government funding does play an important
part. The question, of course, to ask is whether the government should be spending its money
on this pursuit. Of course, that’s a different question. The new nuclear power movement
is appealing to governments who see the potential: One module could produce 60 million gallons of
clean desalinated water per day. So a 12 pack would be enough to provide all the water needs
for a city the size of Cape Town South Africa. On the flip side, SMRs could exacerbate
pre-existing geopolitical tensions. China has said they are also developing SMRs. The
first place that they want to deploy are on these deserted islands, in the South China
Sea that are in disputes. If you’re concerned about proliferation, then SMRs are not small
in any meaningful sense. With these forces ahead, eyes will be on NuScale as  they work
to reshape the industry and roll out what they are betting on to be a smart, scalable
model of nuclear power. Their hope is that a safer design, an automated control room, and other key features will overcome the hurdles that caused previous ventures to fail. However,
there are still open questions over nuclear waste, protecting against proliferation, and how a truly passive nuclear plant operates in real time. But until this model is put to the test, the ultimate question
for nuclear – of whether smaller really is better – remains an open one.

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100 thoughts on “Mini-Nuclear Reactors Are Coming, and They Could Reinvent the Energy Industry”

  1. Dick Ritchie says:

    I vote for three day work weeks. Just turn everything off and sleep.

  2. Jason Anderson says:


  3. Im Pulse says:

    So who is this guy and why should we listen to him

  4. Jose Garcia says:

    mental health of the current society requires ample space for security. regardless of size and containment, the larger the area the better…. No risk and no assumptions.

  5. Mucho Taco says:

    If your gonna try and tame fire, start small then work your way up to a bigger flame so you can somewhat control over it. Don't go big, so you can go home

  6. David Lindsey says:

    refueling these reactors still will be expensive

  7. Duste Dingmon says:

    Shoutout to the teenage who gave y’all this idea

  8. Kiril Valev says:

    Looks like Indian Ted from Scrubs

  9. Dr_Sami says:

    What do you do with the waste?

  10. Stefan Radman says:

    I am a nuclear engineer living in Switzerland and the Swiss are not planning on dismantling their reactors before the end of their operational lifetimes, it is a way different story when compared to Germany.

  11. 7X HARDER says:

    You already know that the people who don't accept nuclear power are the same people who believe that Demon water is filled with actual demons.

  12. Jon Donnelly says:

    Fusion is still 40 years away, we need this asap.

  13. D-One says:

    Here's a stupid question: if all we need is heat to turn water into steam why not make a power plant that drills a mechanism down to the magma and use that for steam?

  14. Daniel Gregson says:

    I need one of those desks

  15. Nicolas says:

    Real life pre war fallout is coming boys!

  16. Ged Woods says:

  17. Antikom Aktion says:

    Oh wow, it's not like the Geology and Earth Sciences departments haven't been advocating this for years. It can power poor countries with zero emissions with high energy releases. Nobody ever listens to Geologists.

  18. World Gamer says:

    Wouldnt it be a good idea to just…. blow it up? If the reaction and pressure of a nuclear reactor are what is dangerous, why don't we just blow the container wide open as soon as a failure is registered? This would keep the pressure from rising and maybe even scatter the uranium all over the pool making it impossible for it to react and explode.

  19. EdP IV says:

    Meerr. MSR for the win. Scrub this.

  20. Blank Blank says:

    More crap that'll be toxic for a quarter million years.

  21. Ainz x Aronn says:

    Why the hell is the thumbnail looks like a minecraft lets build

  22. Scott V says:

    Taylor Wilson?

  23. Imani Imani says:

    We dont want it

  24. Rabix says:

    I deadass thought the thumbnail was modded Minecraft

  25. Justus Languell says:

    It may be the most complicated way, but its the most efficient by far. 2174385 times more efficient

  26. Martin Lundblad says:

    Youtube: "Reinvent energy industry"
    Existing energy industry: "am i a joke to you?"

  27. Robin Gilliver says:

    You're missing an A there, pal.

  28. Elite Accord says:

    The Hazard stays for longer then some countries might.

  29. Anne Chester says:

    "Nuclear power has caused less deaths than coal" ??
    You trippin lady !!

  30. Dicky Strike says:

    0:05 Homer Simpson IRL

  31. Dan az says:

    Why aren't you using thorium?

  32. Wibble Wobble says:

    So you're creating several separate reactors rather than one larger reactor and that will somehow be cheaper to build and maintain? Good luck with that.

  33. phizzelout says:

    @ 8:04 this guy called me and said he was IRS and if I didn't pay up there was going to be arrest warrant issued in my name and they'll seize my bank account . Then right after that his brother called from the SSA and said there was a problem with my account and he needed all my personal info so he could fix it. Then his sister from Microsoft cyber security called to alert me that my computer was hacked and was full of VD and it cost me $499.99 to clean it.
    Then their dad called from BoA to tell me I was eligible for 0% on all my credit cards.
    WOW busy family…

  34. Louis Chakramakal says:

    Can't control a big one, looks for smaller ones 😁🤪

  35. el científico says:

    *Fallout music on the background"

  36. What do you do with the nuclear waste?

  37. AnalystPrime says:

    The most important thing about this is not actually the safety, our modern reactor designs are quite safe and they are already not going to have similar accidents as 3MI, Chernobyl or Fukushima.
    The important parts people should focus on are the low price, modularity and the smaller safety zone around the plant. Oil lobbyists keep claiming it is a bad thing that you need to build a bunch of windmills or solar panels to equal one big power plant, but while their company is still bribing politicians to get the permits a skilled crew can fit a house with PV panels in a day or two or put up a windmill in a couple weeks. As the power plant's budget overruns rise to tens of billions, the cost of building enough renewables to make a town self-sufficient is at most tens of millions. Even when the reactor is finally operational and produces cheap power, the actual daily expenses get pretty high and if you need to produce more power you need to start planning the next power plant, while the maintenance of renewables is pretty cheap and you can just keep building more capacity.
    These small reactors allow for getting the power plant done quickly, close to the consumers, and for far smaller price. Then another can be added to expand the plant as needed or as money becomes available, without needing to restart everything involved in building another plant, which would likely be undersized by the time it is finished anyway.

  38. Antares ൠ says:

    should make somewhere near 5k rf/t

  39. Shivansh Mehta says:

    A R C R E A C T O R !

  40. Madd Mack says:

    We can harness nuclear energy but still cant see past our very primal territorial type behaviour.
    Its a dangerous world we live in.

    No point having amazing tech if we cant all work together. Itll just be the demise of humans

  41. Doug G says:

    Shutting them down is an over reaction…. get it:)

  42. Roger Stacey says:

    When there is no nuclear waste generated, when there is absolutely no chance of catastrophic accidents, when it doesn't have to be heavily subsidized by government, only then would it be the desirable form of energy that dishonest propagandists claim it is now.


    When a nuclear reactor becomes so small we run it in a time traveling car.

  44. aryan bharti says:

    I still don't understand why it's not possible to get heat from radioactive waste, which still emits radioactive waves to convert water to steam and generate electricity.

  45. Mad T scientist says:

    If you were okay with having a reactor in the corner of your garage when it explodes for some stupid reason because everyone knows most people don't pay attention to something until it breaks down fusion fission nuclear energy is great but otherwise people will not be okay with it sitting in their house and may or will cause nuclear radiation to there family the nuclear energy will always be unsafe quite simply it is just a bomb

  46. MrYerak5 says:

    Which one in the begining of the video is homer simpson?

  47. Pedro Claramunt says:

    The first guy sound like Joe Rogan

  48. T.Watcher says:

    How much will it hurt the planet though?

  49. Electro Man says:

    So this is how
    Arc Reactor comes to reality……


  50. Toyota Supra says:

    Nuclear power is the only viable clean energy option we have at this time. Modern nuclear reactors are much safer than the old ones . Its pointless making all electric cars etc when they are powered by coal and oil burning power stations.

  51. Clint Davis says:

    What's your plan to overcome the uneducated fears of the population? As I see that's the biggest barrier to this getting accepted.

  52. PHeMoX says:

    Comeback? It never actually went away. And it's still the best source of energy we've got. Highest yield, pretty darn clean and what pollution is there can be stored safely.

  53. PHeMoX says:

    25m by 4m is considered 'small' here? That's just dumb. A reactor in a submarine is much smaller than that, despite being pretty much on the limits of how small it can get.

  54. Bishop Anderson says:

    on december first i'm gonna create a bigger explosion then Chernobyl reactor #4

  55. cujoe Mblakka says:

    Waste of money.

  56. Shant Centistoke says:

    Absolutely horrible.

  57. Jim Parker says:

    Sure, SMR's look safer than current fuel rod reactors, but they still haven't addressed the other bear in the room: fuel inefficiency. Solid radioactive fuel accumulates cracks that degrade neutron flow, rendering a fuel rod useless before it has converted even 1 percent of its fuel's potential fissile energy.
    That is why Molten Salt Reactors are a better idea. Aside from its own passive safety, an MSR can burn 99 percent of its fuel before it needs to be refreshed. From what I have seen online, it looks like MSR's are simpler and cheaper to build than modular solid fuel reactors. Plus, the fission byproducts of U233 are far less dangerous than from 235/238 solid fuel.
    Finally, Thorium is available worldwide, with generous concentrations in America, China and India. This stuff can fuel our energy-guzzling societies for thousands of years, certainly until nuclear fusion is perfected.
    Aside from squabbles over design, we should all agree that we just don't have time to waste getting Big Nuclear in gear. Well-meaning people talk about solar and wind, but those sources don't solve the climate crisis, which calls for enormous amounts of energy to drag carbon from the atmosphere and desalinate huge amounts of sea water. This stuff has to happen NOW NOW NOW, not when it's convenient for Big Oil and their well-bribed politicians. The planet is heating up far faster than predicted by conservative scientific estimates. The ice caps are melting. It's going to happen IN OUR LIFETIMES.
    We are in a desperate race against time, and almost nobody has raised a finger! Is everybody waiting for someone to say go?
    Okay: GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  58. Just Cookie! says:

    The guy at 2:24 looks like an Indian Ted from scrubs

  59. sciencified Human says:

    2035: dude my phone's reactor is not working properly. U got a spare?

  60. Shahriar Shahriary says:

    All this is useless, when magrav reactor is there.

  61. Hyper99 says:

    I'm still waiting for Fusion Reactors to become a thing

  62. lesmoor kelly says:

    how did i get here ???????

  63. DunnickFayuro says:

    We need a Seeker episode on how to use lasers to get rid of nuclear waste. Gérard Mourou won a Nobel prize for his research on eye surgery with a laser that he is now using to tackle the nuclear waste problem. I'd bet he will get a second Nobel prize for that too. This need more coverage.

  64. Robert Galletta says:


  65. Nick Gillotti says:

    Currently, the US is in an incredible position to extract large amounts of fossil fuels from the ground. For the time being this is great news because it keeps the US from being so dependent on foreign oil and keeps prices down. However this won't last forever. There will be a day in the future; not in our lifetime but within the next couple centuries or so, the world will run out of fossil fuels. At that point, you do not want to be the country that refused to embrace nuclear power. In fact, you are going to want to be decades ahead of the curve on this because as fossil fuel resources get smaller and smaller, the chances for conflict grow. There will be countries that go to war over energy, but those that converted to nuclear and renewable energy sources far in advance on this will come out on top.

  66. inuyasha says:

    Finally Nuclear Cell Phones that never need a recharge.

  67. Balsey Dean De Witt, Jr. says:

    I hate listening to any Indian trying to speak English correctly!

  68. Lofty says:

    We should just keep using coal and gas and polluting our atmosphere because never forget chernobyl right?

  69. Felipe Siqueira says:

    all i heard was demon water

  70. thinker says:

    The Rothschilds organized for the Fallen Angels the grid of nuclear plants when we could use cold fusion 17,000 peer-reviewed studies now show the coldfusion is real and shoe guys in the nucleus tree are there suckers Chumps or evil. We've had water engines and free energy of all kinds over 7,000 patents in the us alone people could be free but the Fallen Angels wants you dead. Nuclear industry has killed us the blackmail of Japan by the Rothschilds they used a Israeli submarine to create the earthquake that caused the tsunami that destroyed the Northern Hemisphere and the world it's just a matter of time before we're all dead here that's why the Bible says the Earth will wear out like a garment. And if God didn't cut the time short there would be no flesh left here alive. You dirt bags for using nuclear incorrectly you're opening wormholes two Dimensions were beings of evil or coming through you fools you will be held accountable on Judgment Day alone. Insoles for a paycheck you do this you kill yourself. Disgusting

  71. Alkeryn says:

    That outline miami 2 outro song rofl

  72. Robert Heath says:

    Did the first bloke make himself look like homer on purpose or?

  73. Dean Emil Esta says:

    Baka naman sa Pilipinas Pwede na to…

  74. Bryan Liggett says:

    Oh hell no I hope they take their little nuclear toy and go straight to hell

  75. Bryan Liggett says:

    Let them build them on their property in their own backyards or better yet put these guys out on the island somewhere at them live there with their little nuclear reactors

  76. Bryan Liggett says:

    Put your little nuclear waste in your own backyard let your children play with it keep it out of mine

  77. Bryan Liggett says:

    Get this garbage Out of the US these people lie it's all about greed and money everything sounds great until it's not great anymore something went wrong then who pays for all the countless lives in damaged properties

  78. Bryan Liggett says:

    This is all bullshit

  79. Bryan Liggett says:

    This thing will only kill 1 million people were the other ones killed 10 million people what a joke

  80. Daniel Jackson says:

    This is revolutionary

  81. Calvin Burton says:

    What about the electro magnets burning out? Every now and then electro magnets burn out, so if you were to turn them on, the rods won't rise, yes if something were to go wrong, it would automatically shut down, but think of how fast those atoms could become unstable and cause other system malfunctions and errors having an autonomous computer system, having a safety chamber over those smr reactors like mentioned might not hold up if not thoroughly tested safely to see if it holds up, yes it can hold up against a hurricane, but we are talking about a different kind of state or matter where it functions differently.

  82. Neeboopsh says:

    thorium and fusion. thorium not as a stop gap, we can use em to use up current waste and create useful medical/etc isotopes

  83. LaDonna Young says:

    Nuclear waste makes all of this untenable. The byproduct of conventional nuclear highly toxic to the environment. The half-life of nuclear waste is longer to amyone's lifetime.

  84. Karl Jensen says:

    Not a fan of small reactors. More targets for crazies.

  85. Minecrafter 3929 says:

    A “terbin” WHAT!!!! I think he means “turbine” LOL XD

  86. Sadhu Om says:

    It's Homer Simpson! 0:06

  87. Cloud Strife says:

    Holy shit free electricity for us.. Imagine.. that just on your backyard.. Well your risk is nuclear waste but man that is a step up

  88. Ryan says:

    It's amazing we have to jump through so many hoops to get our energy, Shame we don't have an enormous nuclear fission reactor in the sky we could harness.

  89. Tom says:

    The only REACTOR that must built is a Thorium Molten Salt REACTOR which is walk away safe they ran one four years. And they used to switch it off for the weekend.!

  90. iamchillydogg says:

    TMI was not a disaster!

  91. Roland Lawrence says:

    urgh. rods. so back to the stone age of zirconium cladding? i hope not. this is where you get all that "to be reprocessed" crap. liquid nuclear fuels are the way ahead or hybrid systems that you top up till end of life and then bury. its good to see innovation in nuclear though as it is the future. with more energy we could recycle so much more than we do today instead of just dumping it in landfills or out at sea.

  92. irena dubrovna says:

    Thorium is safer – but a thorium reactor will still produce nuclear waste, only not as much as a uranium based one. So, thorium is safer, but not safe. Nuclear Power is like Fracking – not politically viable, over the longrun, it would seem.

  93. Abdenacer Fodil says:

    nuclear does not produce CO2

  94. Youtube User says:

    Interesting. Remote access? My guess not recommended but, hey it's yours? :20 into video. Thanks man.

  95. will2see says:

    1:02 – Is it just me or is there also anyone else who sees the cooling towers move?

  96. Major Renegade says:

    1:50 china is so secretive about their reactors, if they even have any

  97. Bob Jimenez says:

    small turbines are easier to produce and maintain.

  98. RonPaul Revered says:

    Maybe if I could sell my solar/wind power to my neighbor with a battery bank legally there would be no need for an updated government monopolized energy grid.

  99. Yousuf Nazir says:

    RPS are the smallest size and the shape of the particles reactors useful for the deep space exploration and the energy uses according to the temperature and pressure of the spacecraft.

  100. eddie ed says:

    Why are thorium reactors not being built

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