An article in the Los Angeles Times looks at a company called NuScale Power (http://www.nuscalepower.com/ ) which is working on developing small (50 MW) nuclear fission reactors that they hope will prove to form nuclear power plants of the future. The reactors are designed to be modular, so multiple reactors can be combined together to make plants of a desired size.
With nuclear power, safety is always paramount, and the article states that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given the NuScale reactor its blessing. From the article:
In January, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled that the design of the NuScale reactor — which relies on air circulation for cooling — is so safe that it does not need the expensive emergency pumps and backup electrical systems required of big conventional reactors. The decision brings NuScale closer than any company in decades to gaining a license to operate an entirely new reactor design in the U.S. for commercial use.
According to the article, there is already a customer in place for a NuScale reactor — a consortium of utilities in six states in the western US plan to install 15 of these reactors at a power plant in Idaho which they expect to complete in 2027.
The cost estimate to build this NuScale plant is estimated at $5 million per megawatt which is substantially more than for natural gas or solar plants, but the utility thinks the cost to operate the plant will be less than other power plants.
While the reactors themselves are considered safe to operate, they have the same issue of radioactive waste that any nuclear fission plant has; the plan is to store the waste on site until the government figures out a way to deal with it.