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The Obama administration's Department of Energy, led by Steven Chu, has taken a "portfolio" approach to easing the country into a future in which we're less reliant on fossil fuels. Instead of betting on a single technology to solve all our problems, the DOE has been pushing a mix of renewables, efficiency measures, and nuclear power. After having licensed the first new nuclear plant in decades, the DOE has now reached agreements with companies that are trying to develop an alternative to these large facilities.

Rather than building large, Gigawatt-scale reactor buildings, several companies are developing what are termed small, modular nuclear reactors that produce a few hundred Megawatts of power. These are typically designed to be sealed units that simply deliver heat for use either directly or to generate electricity. When the fuel starts to run down, the reactors will be shipped back to a central facility for refueling. Since they will never be opened on site, many of the issues associated with large plants don't come into play.

The new agreements, set up with Hyperion Power Generation, SMR, and NuScale Power, will give the companies access to the DOE's Savannah River National Lab, with the intention of having them develop sites there for a test installation. Ultimately, the test installations are intended to provide data that will go into the licensing of these new designs. Chu, in announcing the agreement, stated, "We are committed to restarting the nation’s nuclear industry and advancing the next generation of these technologies."

We'll be running a feature on the future of nuclear power in the US early next week.

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TEDx Youth@Academy 2011 Simanta Das: Being Wrong: the great source of knowledge

Simanta Das is Physicist, founder and Chairman of Stalhmarg Capital in Netherlands and Ayursundra HealthCare Group in India. Simanta is focusing on creating long term sustainable solutions through effective use of capital in Healthcare, Technology, Renewable Energy and Tacit Knoweldge Services. He is also developing a HealthCare delivery solution in India, to make quality healthcare affordable by enhancing efficiency and improving productivity, to include the less privileged. Simanta has been the Chief Strategy and Technology Officer for Kempen Merchant Bank and the Global Head of the Healthcare Innovation Group, Investment Banking at ABN AMRO in the Netherlands. He remains an eternal student of Physics, Philsophy and Logic having studied Experimental High Energy Physics.
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Patrik Stollarz / AFP - Getty Images

A merry-go-round turns inside the cooling tower of the former nuclear power plant in Kalkar, western Germany, on May 28. The plant was constructed from 1977 to 1986. Now it has been converted to a leisure park and receives some 600,000 visitors a year.

Patrik Stollarz/ AFP - Getty Images

Visitors sit in a merry-go-round in front of the cooling tower of the former nuclear power plant in Kalkar, western Germany, near the border with the Netherlands, on May 28. The plant was constructed from 1977 to 1986, but was never operating as nuclear power plant.

Patrik Stollarz/ AFP - Getty Images

Visitors sit in a merry-go-round turning on the compound of the former nuclear power plant in Kalkar, western Germany, near the border with the Netherlands, on May 28. The plant was constructed from 1977 to 1986, but was never operating as nuclear power plant. Today, the plant, built at a cost of some 7 billion Deutsche Mark, was converted to a leisure fun park "Wunderland Kalkar" and receives some 600,000 visitors a year and employs about 550 people on the high season

The German government announced Monday that it would shut down all 17 of its nuclear power plants by 2022, which means that this incongruous sight could become the norm across the country.

Read an analysis of the German decision and the likelihood of other nations following suit.

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 Posts Post Full 1281657631Turbine

This is a photo of the Atlantis AK1000, a 130 ton, 74-foot-tall tidal turbine that will be installed underwater off the cost of Scotland. It is designed to supply electrical power for 1,000 households.

Sea water, which is 832 times denser than air, gives a 5 knot ocean current more kinetic energy than a 350 km/h wind; therefore ocean currents have a very high energy density. Hence a smaller device is required to harness tidal current energy than to harness wind energy.

Tidal current energy takes the kinetic energy available in currents and converts it into renewable electricity. As oceans cover over 70% of Earth’s surface, ocean energy (including wave power, tidal current power and ocean thermal energy conversion) represents a vast source of energy, estimated at between 2,000 and 4,000 TWh per year, enough energy to continuously light between 2 and 4 billion 11W low-energy light bulbs.

Both the U.S. and the U.K., for example, have enough ocean power potential to meet around 15% of their total power needs.

Good: The World's Largest Tidal Turbine, Unveiled

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