There are a fair amount of ex-nuclear sub staff who work in data centers. It is possible the idea of a small nuclear plant could follow at some part far in the future. MIT Review discusses the current state of small nuclear reactors.
Nuclear option:Babcock & Wilcox’s proposed power plant is based on two small modular nuclear reactors.
Small, modular nuclear reactor designs could be relatively cheap to build and safe to operate, and there’s plenty of corporate and government momentum behind a push to develop and license them. But will they be able to offer power cheap enough to compete with natural gas? And will they really help revive the moribund nuclear industry in the United States?
Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that it would provide $452 million in grants to companies developing small modular reactors, provided the companies matched the funds (bringing the total to $900 million). In November it announced the first grant winner—Babcock & Wilcox, a maker of reactors for nuclear ships and submarines—and this month it requested applications for a second round of funding. The program funding is expected to be enough to certify two or three designs.
Natural gas is so cheap it is hard to imagine a small nuclear plant being deployed any time soon for a data center.
Even if small reactors can compete with conventional nuclear power, they still might not be able to compete with natural-gas power plants, especially in the United States, where natural gas is cheap (see “Safer Nuclear Power, at Half the Price”). Their success will depend on how much utilities think they need to hedge against a possible rise in natural-gas prices over the lifetime of a plant—and how much they believe they’ll be required to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
“At the end of the day, we’ll build the lowest-cost option for ratepayers,” Cryderman says. “If it’s too expensive, we won’t build it.” The challenge, he says, is predicting what the lowest-cost options will be over the decades new plants will operate.
One of these days natural gas will not be plentiful and nuclear is going to be one of those options that may make sense.