Nuclear, but better

Following listener requests of discussing nuclear, the Marketplace podcast-Make Me Smart with Kai and Mollybrought on Suzy Hobbs Baker as their nuclear energy expert. Baker is the creative director for the Fastest Path to Zero Initiative at the University of Michigan. The hosts, Kai and Molly, begin the show by admitting that they are completely uninformed about nuclear energy. Unsurprisingly, the first issue that comes to mind are accidents: Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island, and Fukushima.

She points out how there have been 3 accidents in the 60 year history of nuclear. She concedes that nuclear does have more work to do to minimize waste and damages from meltdowns. However, every energy source has an output. Even if the wind does output anything generating energy, materials still have to be mined to construct the wind turbine. Kai, also, brings up a legitimate concern about nuclear power plant being too expensive to construct. In turn, Suzy explains how nuclear energy has an issue with economically competing with natural gas. It is not that nuclear cost more in the long-run, it is that the price of producing natural-gas in the long-run is payed through natural disasters, rising sea-levels, and so forth.

Suzy, then, discusses the company NuScale and their small modular reactors which will be deployable by the mid 2020’s. She also briefly mentions miniature reactors that are in development which can power remote neighborhoods of 100 people. Finally, Suzy highlight how scientists and industry specialists need to build trust with the public. She says there are real hurdles in deploying these technologies: economically, socially, politically, etc. Furthermore, Baker argues that it is the nuclear industry’s job to jump those hurdles. By the end of the interview, Holly (one of the unknowing hosts) says “it sounds like the whole nuclear conversation is not particularly pro or con; it is mostly just how… It is a necessity, now how do we get everyone on board and make it safe? The end!”

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