Golly, nukes for everybody!
The "innovative" proposal for many small "pocket" nuclear reactors sounds like the gee-whiz propaganda from the 1950s that every modern family would own a personal atomic car and reactors would produce power "too cheap to meter" (HCN, 3/16 & 3/30/09). In reality, it is an attempt to greenwash a failed technology.
One lesson I have learned in my 30-year career is that it is not possible to design a system that will never fail. Despite our best efforts, the multitude of nuclear plant mishaps have been caused by unpredicted failures and human error.
Building these pocket reactors would multiply our safety problems. The federal government can barely provide for adequate oversight of the few reactors we have now — where will the new resources and inspectors come from? An on-site waste repository will still have to be created for each reactor, with high-level waste stored in tanks and pools. Fuel and waste will be transported on public highways, increasing the chances for accidents. Terrorists will have lots of new targets to choose from. We'll have to mine and refine lots more uranium, a polluting industry that generates large amounts of greenhouse gases. Hard evidence shows that radiation leaks, demonstrably causing harm, are happening all the time at nuclear power plants and cannot be completely prevented.
Sounds like an innovation we can do without.