Big fusion moment coming soon, Popular Mechanics says

January 29, 2021, 10:19AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Rendering of SPARC, a compact, high-field, DT burning tokamak, currently under design by a team from MIT and CFS. Source: CFS/MIT-PSFC - CAD Rendering by T. Henderson

The fusion community is reaching a "Kitty Hawk moment" as early as 2025, according to the Popular Mechanics story, "Jeff Bezos Is Backing an Ancient Kind of Nuclear Fusion."

That moment will come from magnetized target fusion (MTF), the January 25 story notes, a technology that dates back to the 1970s when the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory first proposed it. Now, however, MTF’s proponents say that the technology is bearing down to reach the commercial power market. The question is, Will it be viable before the competing fusion model of tokamaks, such as ITER, start operations?

Advanced reactors take center stage in Popular Mechanics

December 17, 2020, 6:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The January/February 2021 issue of Popular Mechanics hit subscriber mailboxes this week with a stark cover image of a single small reactor under the headline, “Tiny nuclear reactors are about to revolutionize American energy.” The story looks at advanced reactors as a pivotal step to “redeem nuclear’s stature in American energy.”

A good primer: The article does a good job introducing the casual reader to the idea that “bigger is no longer better” and that the future of nuclear power in the United States will most likely be “a combination of traditional large plants and smaller, safer megawatt reactors.”

Advanced reactors, including small modular reactors, show that nuclear is no longer a one-size-fits-all operation, the article notes. The industry now “is all about personalization,” says Ken Canavan, Westinghouse’s chief technical officer, who is quoted in the article. The capacity and scalability of SMRs “is just irreplaceable,” he adds.

The article explains that SMRs, microreactors, and other advanced reactor designs will be able to bring reliable, carbon-free power to small or remote locations, replacing fossil fuel power plants and supplementing the “resource-sucking downtimes left by renewables.”

Popular Mechanics takes the wind out of renewables study

October 9, 2020, 7:01AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A wind farm in East Sussex, England, is flanked by 400-kV power lines from the Dungeness nuclear power plant. Photo: David Iliff/Wikimedia Commons

A paper out of the University of Sussex that correlates the carbon output of 123 countries with their nuclear power programs has received a critical look from Popular Mechanics, which takes to task some of the researchers’ premises in an article by Caroline Delbert.

In the paper, the researchers make the claim that nuclear and renewable energy programs do not tend to coexist well together in national low-carbon energy systems but instead crowd each other out and limit effectiveness. Delbert, however, points out that suggesting that nuclear power plants don’t play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions is “wild and baseless.”