If your image of nuclear power is giant, cylindrical concrete cooling towers pouring out steam on a site that takes up hundreds of acres of land, soon there will be an alternative: tiny nuclear reactors that produce only one-hundredth the electricity and can even be delivered on a truck.
Small but meaningful amounts of electricity — nearly enough to run a small campus, a hospital or a military complex, for example — will pulse from a new generation of micronuclear reactors. Now, some universities are taking interest.
“What we see is these advanced reactor technologies having a real future in decarbonizing the energy landscape in the U.S. and around the world,” said Caleb Brooks, a nuclear engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The tiny reactors carry some of the same challenges as large-scale nuclear, such as how to dispose of radioactive waste and how to make sure they are secure. Supporters say those issues can be managed and the benefits outweigh any risks.
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