Small reactor technology in Aiken County
It was encouraging to see the article announcing SRNL’s participation in a study of natural gas as a fuel for automobiles. The DOE grant was due partly to knowledge SRNL researchers have in storing hydrogen, showcased at Aiken County’s Center for Hydrogen Research.
Aiken County established its research campus adjacent to SRS several years ago to facilitate the practical application of Savannah River Site technology.
While previous letter-writers have noted the lack of support by DOE for a government-sponsored program at SRS to explore use of small nuclear reactors for energy production, there may be an alternative.
Aiken County has land close by, and laboratories, for exploring alternative sources of energy. While we still have corporate experience in nuclear energy here, it may be time to apply this knowledge to the small reactor market privately.
If there is a need for small reactor technology, experience has shown that private industry will be successful. Government funding doesn’t guarantee commercial success, as we’ve seen with the solar panel industry.
This technology would need to utilize reprocessed nuclear material, or at least fuel that cannot be diverted to destructive purposes.
Through a number of private companies, our nation has been manufacturing small reactors for naval vessels for many years. During this time we’ve sent men to the moon and back. It would seem possible to engineer and manufacture a safe nuclear reactor to produce power for growing economies such as India, which support much of our information technology, but can’t manage to provide 24 hours of electric service to large areas of their country.
One of the automakers partnering with SRNL to study natural gas for autos made a business decision not long ago to pass on the bailout offer. And that automaker seems to be doing just fine.