Home' Technology Review : November December 2010 Contents Notebooks 13
Perhaps most important, it has moved
to support the development of small mod-
ular reactors that generate less than 300
megawatts, around a quarter the output
of U.S . plants under construction today.
Those reactors could address some of
the nuclear industry’s biggest challenges:
waste, safety, security and nonprolifera-
tion, and the capital cost of construction.
Small modular reactors require less
initial capital investment than conven-
tional ones and can have simpler, safer
designs. Their modules can be built in
factories (unlike the components of a
traditional plant, which must be built on
site) and can be deployed rapidly. Designs
being developed at Berkeley eliminate the
need for pumps and pipes. They could
run for 20 years on their initial fuel, thus
generating minimal waste.
Two U.S. firms, NuScale and Babcock
& Wilcox, have already submitted designs
to the Nuclear Regulatory Commis-
sion. That’s attracted venture capital and
opened new financing opportunities that
would have been unimaginable 10 years
ago. A recent meeting on small modular
reactors at Berkeley saw the presentation
of designs from the United States, Korea,
Japan, France, and Russia.
Those designs are still being refined
and are not close to being built. Even-
tually, however, these reactors could be
small enough to be transportable, and
they could be installed in isolated loca-
tions unsuited to traditional plants or
dedicated to specific tasks like water
desalination, district heating, or hydrogen
production. They have the potential to
change the face of nuclear energy.
jasm iNa vujiC i s a Professor at the u Niver sity of Cal-
i forN ia, Berkeley, aND C oDi reCtor of th e Be r keley
NuCl ear r e searCh CeNter.
outcry over the Google-verizon
“pact” on wireless broadband
overshadows valid debate, says
The net neutrality debate has the feel
of a religious war: the reactions to
Google and Verizon’s proposal to exempt
wireless connections from laws requiring
carriers to relay all data with equal prior-
ity were just a few decibels lower than
the reaction to building an Islamic center
near Ground Zero. Amid such evangelical
furor, it is tough to find pragmatic solu-
tions that reflect the legitimate points on
each side. This is why we have a Federal
Communications Commission to handle
complex questions like this one instead of
putting them to a public referendum.
Both sides can see that wireless net-
works will take a starring role in the Inter-
net’s future (see Briefing, p. 67). So it is
crucial to get the policy balance right.
For the wireless carriers, the first con-
cern is network congestion. Spectrum is
a limited resource, and networks must
rely on the government to make more
of it available. But that means taking
some from broadcasters and government
users—a long, difficult process.
Meanwhile, demand has reached stag-
gering levels with the advent of open net-
works and app stores. Carriers are finding
it more complicated to manage their net-
works, and they risk alienating custom-
ers through dropped calls and ineffective
applications. Verizon, which markets its
service on the quality of its network, is
understandably hesitant to see regulation
that limits its flexibility to manage traffic.
The industry’s second concern is eco-
nomics. Analysts predict that there will be
more mobile Internet users than desktop
users within five years, which might look
like a boon for carriers. But data minutes
yield much lower revenue than voice min-
utes do, creating a revenue shortfall as
voice use declines. Wireless businesses are
concerned that net neutrality rules may
prematurely bar the new business models
needed to address that shift.
Proponents of wireless net neutrality
have legitimate concerns as well. If wire-
less networks become the central Inter-
net platform, exempting them from the
rules could make protections for wired
broadband less meaningful. Entrepre-
neurs working on new wireless applica-
tions worry about maintaining access to
consumers. Broadband providers without
wireless businesses worry about having to
follow rules that competitors with such
services can dodge.
The truth is that wireless does have
unique challenges, but regulations can
be written so as to accommodate them.
Legitimate technical concerns, not
screaming zealots, must guide the FCC.
miChael Powell is CoChairmaN of B r oaDBaN D for
ameriCa aND was ChairmaN of the fCC from 2001 to
Nov10 Notebooks.indd 13
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