NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 5, 2006

A revolutionary nuclear energy technology is being designed and built in South Africa, but with suppliers and partners in many other nations, says Paul Driessen, a senior policy adviser for the Congress of Racial Equality and Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT). 

The 165-megawatt Pebble Bed Modular Reactors (PBMR) are small and inexpensive enough to provide electrical power for emerging economies, individual cities or large industrial complexes.  However, multiple units can be connected and operated from one control room, to meet the needs of large or growing communities.

Process heat from PBMR reactors can also be used directly to desalinate sea water, produce hydrogen from water, turn coal, oil shale and tar sands into liquid petroleum, and power refineries, chemical plants and tertiary recovery operations at mature oil fields.

  • The fuel comes in the form of baseball-sized graphite balls, each containing sugar-grain-sized particles of uranium encapsulated in high-temperature graphite and ceramic; this makes them easier and safer to handle than conventional fuel rods, says Pretoria-based nuclear physicist Dr. Kelvin Kemm.
  • It also reduces waste disposal problems and the danger of nuclear weapons proliferation; conventional fuel rod assemblies are removed long before complete burn-up, to avoid damage to their housings; but PBMR fuel balls are burnt to depletion.
  • Because they are cooled by helium, the modules can be sited anywhere, not just near bodies of water, and reactors cannot suffer meltdowns.
  • Since PBMRs can be built where needed, long, expensive power lines are unnecessary; moreover, the simple design permits rapid construction (in about 24 months), and the plants don't emit carbon dioxide.

PBMR technology could soon generate millions of jobs in research, design and construction industries -- and millions in industries that will prosper from having plentiful low-cost heat and electricity.   It will help save habitats that are now being chopped into firewood -- and improve health and living standards for countless families, says Driessen.

Source: Paul Driessen, "Nuclear power to the rescue," Washington Times, September 5, 2006.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues