- Society is out of time and options to build resilience to climate change and volatility. The need is urgent.
- Volatility is already here, populations are exposed to climate change, power supply is vulnerable, resources are unstable, and there is no credible plan or policy to address these challenges.
- The current symbiosis of fossil fuels, intermittent renewables, and the electric grid is inherently inefficient, polluting, and laden with vulnerabilities.
- Coupling of nuclear batteries (i.e., micro-reactors) and advanced production (e.g., containerized agro, pharma, additive manufacturing, data processing, drop-in fuels) fundamentally changes the paradigm by which foods, fuels, and goods are produced and brought to markets.
- An advanced NB & production system can do this for 1/10th the resources (land, cement, metal, pipelines/transmission, etc.) of fossil systems and 1/100th of current renewable systems.
- Benefits to the economy, environment/climate, urban decongestion, and water, energy, food, income, and national security could be substantial.
The current energy-market system induces increasing exposure of citizens, businesses, and assets by driving ever higher levels of volatility, clustering, trade and travel network interconnection, and consumption intensity. Megacities are the inevitable result of the desire to increase productivity per m2 to maximize land owner revenue and urban taxes. As urban sprawl increases, adaptation to this new normal will be powered by the very fossil fuels (natural gas in the U.S.) that are inducing our urban intensity and climate risk.
To date there has been no alternative to this mad dash toward tipping points. There has been no solution that could outcompete the fossil-grid symbiosis in a market framework and begin to address the fundamental problems we face. Renewables only aggravated the problem by introducing higher volatility in the system. That is about to change.Change #1:
Nuclear fission technologies have reached their own tipping point, sufficient to enable the rapid development of small, mobile, plug-and-play Nuclear Batteries (NBs). The NBs use a standardized, mass produced and fueled, intrinsically safe micro-reactor design with power ranges from 1-20 MW. The reactor is compact enough to fit in a standard shipping container, and is a semi-autonomous, remotely-monitored system, with no moving parts. This approach eliminates (by design) the likelihood of accident initiators, protects the plant if an accident does occur, and drastically reduces the radiological consequences of major accidents, critical safety features for modern nuclear systems post-Fukushima. The system uses low-enriched uranium and a fuel take-back scheme (no storage of radioactive material at the site of use).Change #2:
The markets are in the first stages of a new industrial transformation. Advanced modular production systems for additive and standard manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, digital and materials processing, aquaculture, agriculture, and even truly carbon-neutral fuels and plastics are either already operating successfully in the market (e.g., GE KUbio, Freight Farms, crate-based digital systems, modular desalinization) or are within reach of market readiness (e.g., synthetic fuels, metal and composite 3D printing)
Co-location of NBs and advanced production facilities avoid the losses and inefficiencies of the fossil-grid system, because an NB does not need complex and expensive infrastructure for fuel delivery, and energy transmission and distribution. This changes nuclear’s economics dramatically. When co-location of NBs and advanced production is integrated within floating structures the system can be further optimized without geospatial constraints. Then the potential to create a clean global economic system with high industrial intensity, while providing viable standard and quality of living options for the global population, becomes a foreseeable reality. The new paradigm can apply across every sector, from agriculture to aerospace, from shipping to transportation, from industry to buildings, and represents a sea change in modern industrialized activity and its impact on our society, the climate, and the environment.
The Advanced Nuclear and Production Experts Group is addressing a policy and business opportunity that could change the nature of our energy-industrial systems and address climate adaptation simultaneously while creating new markets on the order of trillions in annual revenue. The trends in industrial and infrastructure technologies also present a unique opportunity if guided by the right planning and policy. Instead of volatility and risk, resilience and security can be established.
The structure and scope of ANPEG has a successful precedent in the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) effort that replaced the analogue mass communications system globally in 5 years. Like MPEG, ANPEG is structured as a cooperative effort between academia, government, and private entities and establish a platform or foundation above which all participants can compete. Without MPEG’ the digital market, Netflix, Itunes, Tik-Tok, or Vizio are not possible. We anticipate a similar, but much broader, effect from ANPEG.
The initial phase of ANPEG was to analyze and formulate the new paradigms and strategies necessary to create a clean, low resource use, high standard of living globally. These new paradigms and strategies address network interconnectedness, climate adaptation, and current income/market/industrial asymmetries in the same effort.
ANPEG is moving to the next phases. The future is now.