Implications for the Nuclear Power Industry: New Alloy Might Help Avoid Fukushima Disaster

As mentioned in my earlier post on this blog, the Obama Administration is taking steps to force electric utilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While most of the administration’s efforts are focused on imposing restrictions on the sources of pollution, the White House has also announced through its “all of the above” approach to energy that alternatives to fossil fuels – including nuclear – should be encouraged. Nevertheless, 2011’s Fukushima-Daiichi disaster and the June 7 announcement by Southern California Edison that it will permanently retire its troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant have set the nuclear power industry on its heels.

New research at MIT may signal a positive turn in the industry’s fortunes. According to an article published in the July 2013 edition of Nuclear Technology, researchers at MIT are working on a promising nuclear fuel rod coating that may dramatically reduce the buildup of hydrogen gas – the principle cause of the explosions that occurred at Fukushima.

The new alloy still must undergo significant testing before it might be used in a commercial application. Still, the preliminary research provides a glimmer of hope to an industry that many have declared dead and buried. In addition to potentially reducing the risk of fire and explosion and nuclear reactors, the new alloy may also enable fuel rods to remain in the reactor for longer periods of time, thereby reducing the expense associated with refueling while decreasing the number of spent fuel rods and the attendant challenges of spent fuel rod storage.

To learn more about how STAR Group is helping clients understand the potential risks and opportunities associated with this new technology – and to review a completed Implications Wheel devoted specifically to the Fukushima disaster – please fill out the form on the right side of this page.