There’s no getting around it: The news that someone has posted open-source blueprints for a functional nuclear power plant online sounds like the evil scheme of a James Bond villain. In fact, it could turn out to be a game-changer for affordable, clean, sustainable nuclear energy.
Created by Energy Impact Center, a research institute with the mission to decarbonize the global economy by 2040, the so-called OPEN100 project aims to be a one-stop-shop for everything needed for new power plant construction. That includes resources ranging from a web interface for visualizing plant and component design to detailed construction plans. It is the culmination of two years of research, including more than 1,500 interviews with experts and more than 100 site visits across 15 countries. The open-source format is intended to allow startups, engineering firms, global utilities, and capital markets to work together around a common goal.
“The nuclear industry, over the last five decades, has engaged in a spiral of ever-escalating costs, where their preferred solution has been to earn more revenue by building bigger, only further exacerbating their woes,” Bret Kugelmass, managing director of the Energy Impact Center, told Digital Trends. “For the first time ever there is a clear way out: OPEN100 paves the way towards standardization, simplification, and cost-effective nuclear energy – the ultimate solution for climate change.”
As Kugelmass, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, explained, complex and proprietary plant designs have led the nuclear industry to become niche, expensive, and slow to adapt. The goal of this project is to unite vendors, developers and other interested parties in establishing a common platform for design, construction, and financing of future plants.
“We only just launched and in the last two weeks we’ve been flooded with inbound interest from individual engineers, industrial partners, and even international developers,” Kugelmass said. “Even more promising, however, is the attention we’ve been receiving from National Laboratories around the world, who are eager to build upon the precedent of the early U.S. nuclear industry when scientific institutions aided private industry in a rapid scale-up of nuclear energy.”
Standardized nuclear power plants may not sound like a big deal. But, when it comes to helping fight back against climate change, it could be a massive step in the right direction.