Nuclear power plants, whether you like them or not, produce a significant portion of the carbon-free electricity at the moment worldwide. With a wave of highly secure, waste-minimizing, and meltdown-free reactor technology underway, nuclear power could become an important source of green energy soon.
But building a nuclear plant is undeniably expensive. Governments and industry alike have difficulty finding cash for such a construction project, despite its positive economic and environmental outcomes for the long term. The project's costliness is often due to proprietary designs, lengthy and inefficient construction, and bureaucratic procedures.
Energy Impact Center (EIC), a non-profit institute based in Washington, DC, came up with an intriguing solution that's similar to the strategy from Google's Android smartphone system. The research-based thinktank offers an open-sourced blueprint for building a nuclear plant, with the intention to lower the cost, standardize the platform, and still allow customization to the complete site.
With a mandate to decarbonize the global economy in the next two decades, EIC developed with the OPEN100 project, a construction masterplan that allows one to visualize the plant and its various engineering components and trace the sequence of construction. It even breaks down the economics of running the finished plant. This maste plan is the result of two years of research and consultation, as well as visits to over 100 reactor sites around the globe.
OPEN100 - Opening the future to limitless clean energy (Titans of Nuclear/EIC)
The construction plant is based on a 100 MWe pressurized water reactor. Depending on the specific reactor sub-type, certain details such as fuel, coolant, and neutron moderators could vary. But they all shared common components such as a pressurizer, coolant pumps, a steam generator, control rods, and a fuel-housing core chamber.
The finished nuclear plant costs around 50 million U.S. dollars. Although the price sounds rather steep, compared to planned and ongoing construction, such as the notoriously delayed, $25 billion Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia, it may look like a great bargain.
The proponents behind this masterplan hope that EIC's open-source approach can standardize the industrial platform and help streamline rules for such projects. Once safe, eco-friendly nuclear reactors could start to compete with other sustainable energy, our society may have a better fighting chance against climate change.
"We only just launched and in the last two weeks we've been flooded with inbound interest from individual engineers, industrial partners, and even international developers," said Bret Kugelmass, managing director of the EIC in an interview with Digital Trend.
"Even more promising, however, is the attention we've been receiving from National Laboratories around the world, who are eager to build upon the precedent of the early U.S. nuclear industry when scientific institutions aided private industry in a rapid scale-up of nuclear energy."