Is smaller nuclear greener nuclear?

Europe Revisits Nuclear Power as Climate Deadlines Loom

In theory, electricity is the greenest way to apply energy to our daily tasks of moving stuff around, powering devices, etc. And in theory nuclear power is a green way to grab that energy. But the waste storage problem hasn’t been solved, and the accidents are dramatically horrendous. Having moved to a country where 75% of the electicity is already nuclear, and where the President is bullish on the future of nuclear, including the next generation of mini-plants (mini in the sense of being about 1/6th the size of current plants, but they still can service a million people), I have to give the matter some thought.

I want to believe that there’s more to the question than simply whether one would prefer to die by radiation poisoning over being baked to death by global warming. I do know from a personal anecdote that, considered as an engineering problem, creating a small and relatively safe nuclear reactor is a solved question.

I had a best friend in college who went from being a fellow hippie to being the nuclear powerplant officer on a US Navy submarine. He told me that the American approach was to make the shielding and safety measures on the submarine so strict that a seaman would have less exposure to radiation on a two-year tour of duty than he or she would have living in a brick basement in the Midwest. The Soviet approach at the time was to limit a sailor to one tour of duty, because at the end of that time they would have received a lifetime maximum dosage.