Climate Lab is a six-part series produced by the University of California in partnership with Vox, exploring global climate change and UC’s groundbreaking work to mitigate its effects. The fifth episode of the series—an investigation of how and whether we can rethink and reinvent nuclear power—features comments from professor Dan Kammen of the Energy & Resources Group on developing technologies in the field.
Kammen describes new small, modular reactors that can be applied at different scales than traditional power plants. “The whole nuclear power plant comes on the back of a flatbed truck or arrives on a barge, gets parked, plugged in—and when the fuel is used up, it simply gets taken away as a unit to be reprocessed,” he says.
The episode also highlights Per Peterson, a UC Berkley professor of nuclear engineering who is working on a next-generation reactor design that uses a new form of fuel that can withstand higher temperatures than conventional fuel rods and is much safer to use.
In a related article published on the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative website, Kammen cites issues of time and cost as reasons why, even though new technologies are promising, nuclear energy may not be the most immediately important source of energy in the fight against climate change. “We're seeing solar plants installed for under three cents a kilowatt hour, while the comparative price for nuclear in the best situation is well over ten cents a kilowatt hour—more than three times as expensive as a no-risk alternative,” he explained.
About Climate Lab
Featuring conversations with experts, scientists, thought leaders and activists, the Climate Lab series takes what can seem like an overwhelming problem and breaks it down into manageable parts: from clean energy to food waste, religion to smartphones. Each video is hosted by Emmy-nominated conservation scientist Dr. M. Sanjayan, an alum of UC Santa Cruz and a visiting researcher at UCLA. Visit the Climate Lab website for more information and other videos in the series.