Nuclear Power Can Save the Poor and the Planet | James Walker | EP 447

Added: May 10, 2024

James Walker, CEO of Nano Nuclear, is leading the development of portable micro reactors that have the potential to provide low-cost, resilient, widely distributable nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels. These micro reactors are designed to be easily transportable on the back of trucks and can be used in various settings such as remote communities, mining sites, and desalination plants. Walker believes that providing low-cost energy can help alleviate poverty, leading to a more environmentally conscious population.

Key takeaways


Nano Nuclear's micro reactors offer a portable, low-cost alternative to traditional nuclear power, producing less than 20 megawatts of power and designed for easy transportation to remote locations.


James Walker emphasizes the safety of nuclear power, highlighting it as the safest form of energy based on deaths per gigawatt-hour and addressing common misconceptions about nuclear accidents.


The introduction of micro reactors in off-grid communities, particularly in Africa, could replace diesel generators, providing consistent power for up to 15 years and significantly improving living conditions and economic growth.


Nano Nuclear is developing innovative uranium technology for safe transportation and is working towards deploying a transportation business for enriched uranium gas in North America by 2026 or earlier.


There is a need for a streamlined regulatory framework specifically designed for micro reactors to overcome the current lengthy approval process, with Walker advocating for legislative changes to support nuclear energy innovation.

Nano Nuclear's Portable Micro Reactors

Nano Nuclear's micro reactors are differentiated from small modular reactors (SMRs) by their smaller size, producing less than 20 megawatts of power compared to SMRs which typically range from 20 to 300 megawatts. The company's focus is on creating reactors that are portable and simple in design, with the ability to fit within an ISO container for easy transportation by truck, train, or maritime vessel. Two technical teams within Nano Nuclear are working on different designs, one using a solid core design with air circulation for heat removal, and the other using uranium dioxide fuel rods surrounded by a salt-based solution for heat transfer.

Nuclear Power Safety and Perception

Walker emphasizes the safety of nuclear power, stating that it is the safest form of energy when considering deaths per gigawatt-hour. He addresses common concerns about nuclear accidents, such as those at Fukushima, pointing out that no one died in those incidents and that the cleanup operation was the main focus. He believes that public perception of nuclear power has been negatively influenced by fear of radiation, which is not always well understood.

Infrastructure Challenges in Nuclear Industry

One of the challenges faced by the nuclear industry, particularly in the US, is infrastructure issues. Companies like NuScale have encountered difficulties due to high initial costs, which could have been mitigated with better infrastructure support. Walker sees an opportunity for Nano Nuclear to be part of a nuclear renaissance by addressing these infrastructure gaps and making nuclear power more accessible and affordable.

Marketing Potential of Nuclear Power

From a marketing perspective, Walker sees potential in promoting nuclear power as a green and sustainable energy source. He also highlights the potential for nuclear power to lift people out of poverty, leading to a more environmentally conscious population. By providing reliable and affordable energy to underserved communities, micro reactors could contribute to economic development and long-term strategic thinking.

Benefits of Micro Reactors in Africa

Walker mentions discussions with African diplomats about the benefits of micro reactors for off-grid communities in Africa. These communities currently rely on diesel generators, which require constant fuel supply. By introducing micro reactors, these communities could have access to consistent power for up to 15 years, leading to improved living conditions and economic growth.

Nano Nuclear's Innovative Uranium Technology

Nano Nuclear has developed patented technology for transporting enriched uranium gas safely, addressing technical and regulatory challenges. They are also working on deconversion plants to convert the gas back into solid form for fabrication into fuel tailored for specific reactors. Additionally, they are building a transportation company to move the fuel around North America.

Anticipated Timeline for Transportation Deployment

In terms of progress, Walker anticipates that the transportation aspect will be the first commercially deployable business, with a potential timeline of being ready by 2026 or earlier. The company is in discussions with the Department of Energy in the United States to address regulatory hurdles and create a new framework for approving micro reactors, which currently face a lengthy four-year regulatory process designed for larger civil power plants.

Streamlined Regulatory Framework for Micro Reactors

Walker emphasizes the need for a legislative jurisdiction that understands the unique nature of micro reactors and is willing to create a streamlined regulatory framework based on safety criteria rather than applying traditional civil power plant regulations. While there is bipartisan support for nuclear energy in the United States, funding is required to implement new legislation and gain approval from Congress for regulatory changes.

Safety and Security of Micro Reactors

The conversation also delves into the safety and security aspects of micro reactors. Walker addresses concerns about terrorism and accidents, explaining that the uranium used in micro reactors is not enriched to weapons-grade levels, making it unsuitable for creating nuclear weapons. He also points out that the risk of accidents or sabotage with micro reactors is lower compared to traditional reactors due to their design and size.

Environmental Benefits of Micro Reactors

The potential environmental benefits of micro reactors are highlighted, with Walker emphasizing that providing access to energy can lift people out of poverty and make them more environmentally conscious. He agrees with the idea that resilient wealth, which is dependent on energy, is crucial for a sustainable future. The discussion concludes with a focus on the moral imperative of improving the lives of current generations while considering the well-being of future generations.


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