In the ever-escalating fight for climate change policy in the United States, it may be the policies themselves that are preventing valuable technology from being sewn into progress. Racked with climate lawsuits, protests, and befuddling bills languishing in bureaucratic red tape, the clean energy debate in this country consistently overlooks a major asset in lowering the dreaded CO2 emissions: that of nuclear energy, and in particular, small module reactors.
The emerging technology of small module reactors (SMRs) has enormous potential for both the nuclear industry itself, as well as for the overall climate change initiative spreading around the world. Here in the U.S., our vastly undermined electrical grid would reap immediate benefits from policies geared toward promoting research, development, and implementation of small module nuclear reactors. These reactors are cheaper (in terms of lower initial capital investment), safer (by way of utilizing non-light water coolants to minimize waste threats to the surrounding environment), and more versatile due to the compact and highly mobile nature of their design. SMRs can also pair with the more popular renewables, such as wind and solar power, to generate higher energy efficiency and electrical grid stability.
So what are these policies preventing what appears to be a very useful tool in the climate battle? Topically, there are two main hurdles to address: the standardized use of the “Liner No-Threshold” model, and the NRC-governed insurance pools that affect SMR’s ability to economically price themselves into the market.
Addressing the first, the Linear No-Threshold model stipulates that any level of radiation greater than zero is a danger to public health. Without needing to elaborate too far, this delineation places an enormous financial burden and procedural planning costs across the nuclear industry—and the science behind it simply isn’t justifiable. Research in the field of radiation shows that humans are exposed to various levels of radiation in medical procedures, airplane travel, and a host of other routine activities with no discernible health effects noticeable—which calls into question the need for resource allocation to a standard that isn’t accurate and is a rather large detriment to nuclear power’s image in the public eye.
Second, the inclusion of SMRs in an insurance pool with larger, traditional reactors casts an unfavorable shadow on the new technology in the eyes of potential investors. The gripe here is that because SMRs can’t be used in the existing American nuclear fleet of 30+-year-old reactors, they should be afforded their insurance pool at much lower premium levels which would, in turn, attract investors, thus promoting the development of the technology. By lumping them in with the older, expensive reactor fleet, makers of the SMRs argue they are losing out on potential resources to advance their much-needed technology.
Ultimately, this boils down to a legislative lagoon where progress seems to get mucked down in the bog of bureaucracy.
While OTEK cannot affect that fight, we can keep engineering our digital panel meter technology to help nuclear power plants make progress on the ground level. During our half-decade campaign to help the nuclear industry digitize, we’ve designed two of our flagship models to aid aging (30+ years) power plants as they seek to modernize and combat analog obsolescence.
Our New Technology Meter line (NTM) boasts 22 different models offering an array of features, including but not limited to: automatic tricolor bar display, loop, signal or external power, plastic or metal housings, our patented signal failure alarm, isolated serial I/O, 4 alarms output/channel, 4-20mA retransmission (see also our NTT transmitter series), math functions, and are applicable for Mil-Spec and Class 1E grades as well as being cybersecurity safe by design.
Our second prominent addition to OTEK’s nuclear strategy is our Solid State Analog Meter, the SSAM. Built with the cybersecurity ramifications of NEI 08-09 in mind, the SSAM was explicitly designed without any critical digital assets such as microprocessors and runs off CMOS logic—essentially rendering the SSAM invulnerable to the type of cybersecurity attack that just struck one of India’s leading nuclear power plants. Highlight features of the SSAM include: 100% signal powered for 4-20 and 10-50mA current loops, as well as V/A AC/DC Watts and Hertz for external power, 4 ½ digit ultra-white, LED display that can be easily changed out to an unlimited range of custom colors with our One Size Fits All scale plate design, OTEK’s signal failure alarm that alerts the operator in the event of a lost or dead signal, and less than a 5V loop burden.
OTEK’s long-standing tradition of bending our technology to consumer applications extends indefinitely to the nuclear industry. We recognize the dire planetary need for combative action against climate change and wholly believe nuclear energy must be a player in any successful effort. We’ll continue to supply our technology towards that end while the legalities sort themselves out.