Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Oklo (YC S14), maker of 'micro' nuclear reactor, aims to prove doubters wrong (washingtonexaminer.com)
30 points by jseliger 1 day ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments

The whole article reads like the punchline for another joke involving Admiral Rickover's famous letter. (We had a thread on this same topic, involving a company mentioned in this article, not three months ago, and a thread on Admiral Rickover's letter two weeks before that!)

"An academic reactor or reactor plant almost always has the following basic characteristics: (1) It is simple. (2) It is small. (3) It is cheap (4) It is light. (5) It can be built very quickly. (6) It is very flexible in purpose (’omnibus reactor’). (7) Very little development is required. It will use mostly off-the-shelf components. (8) The reactor is in the study phase. It is not being built now."

Link to the other thread here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22851622

Link to the recent HN discussion of said letter by Admiral Rickover here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22715730

Rickover joke was pointed at the competition that could take away resources from him to do R&D for his nuclear submarines.

In this context, Oklo uses private funds. Simple, small, cheap, light, quick to build, flexible, little development are all irrelevant. Safety is the only relevant thing as far as the NRC approval is concerned.

If it turns out NRC deems this reactor safe, and Oklo manages to work out the economics so they make a profit, Rickover for once will not have the last lough.

I wish them luck, and hope they come up with a stellar energy source. However, I'm not optimistic, and I think most pursuit of nuclear is stubbornness to finally prove the misinformed yokels wrong.

The 80% renewables feasibility study will quickly be out of date, and we will get to 90% or 95% with pure renewables and short term storage. That's because we haven't even really considered much demand side management, and most of the studies vastly underestimate the pace of price decline. And when we have a grid powered by 70%-95% renewables we will find an energy market with a ton of electricity that's getting curtailed--ie energy that is essentially free.

IMHO more promising climate bets would likely be: 1) low capital cost hydrogen production that is cost effective when used highly intermittently, 2) atmospheric carbon capture and conversion to carbon chains for synthetic fuels. The second route is already being pursued by some startups, and they think that they will be able to match the current cost of gasoline with gasoline made from atmospheric CO2 and solar power within 5-10 years.

Atmospheric carbon capture is going to be necessary in a few decades, so we need to start developing the tech now and make it as cheap as possible.

If nuclear could be no mode than 2x the cost of solar, I think there may be some use cases for it, but I don't think there will be much of an economic case for it. If we could site it right next to residential or offices, we could perhaps use the waste heat for space heating, but I can't see that being popular.

> He said he thinks that nuclear power will be necessary in any zero-emissions scenario.

The question in mind is whether there is product-market fit for a small/reliable nuclear reactor that competes directly with mature diesel generators. It sounds like interesting technology; I hope they succeed.

You know what would be cool? Aircraft super-carrier sized aircaft that uses battery power for takeoff/landing and a few of these reactors for nuclear powered propulsion. Ideallt takeoff/landing from coastal areas away from populated areas but even in case if failure, using multiple small reactors could mean less fallout.

Imagine mach-6+ flights carrying 20K passengers at a time going NYC --> South Asia within an hour or two. Entire town populations commuting to a diffefent continent every day!

I can imagine the embarkation/disembarkation time for something that big :) Its a known problem for flying wing passenger aircraft.

More seriously, if you want to learn more about the history of aircraft nuclear propulsion research, the HTRE reactivity excursion report contains quite a bit of design overview in it as background for the rest of the report.


Nah those things belong in high orbit. IMO anyways

What could possibly go wrong?

But I am forced to admit that airborne aircraft carriers like in Sky Captain would be very cool. (I guess some people like to call those "helicarriers", but I can't get past the busted etymology.)

Airborne aircraft carriers were pretty cool when they were operating 90 years ago:


I mean the risks are obvious, what I meant was small reactors,reactor operated only over low population are at 70k feet and short flight time could maybe reduce the risk enough to make it a practical idea? Instead of thousands of intercontinental flights, small number of arterial flights like this and fast/electric ground transport could help carbon emissions greatly.

My general impression of the original nuclear powered aircraft project in the US is that it wasn't necessarily infeasible to make a flying reactor, but shielding for anyone on board would be too heavy, and ultimately there was no real mission that required it so it was cancelled.

If you suspend the reactor from a cable 1000 feet below the aircraft, it doesn't need shielding. That might be more practical for an aircraft above Venus. It could keep the air in a balloon warm.

A helicopter or balloon with an unshielded nuke reactor hanging below it, that never needs to land, seems pretty cool.

"Oklo" is a cute name, but I don't like that it pollutes search terms for https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oklo in Gabon, where evidence for a natural nuclear reactor was found.

I wish people were more creative with naming things. The other day I searched the letter S and the first thing that came up was some Swedish singer. Or at least have search engines understand guillemets.

At least for Google, putting in "X" (with the quotes) used to mean: Search for things containing exactly X. This was one of the best ways to search for technical information (for example error messages) after they made the default search algorithm less precise.

Then later they butchered/removed that too - so all you get now is some generalized garbage for results that is not really relevant to your specific problem.

I guess the problem they wanted to combat is that Google would deliver no useful results at all for overly specific queries, so they made it "generalize" always.

Software development is not really the only sector that has this problem with Google now though, it's just that devs can usually tell that Google is the problem.

Searching for anything specific and technical has become hard.

Google used to be great at finding stuff you needed for work in your field, and sometimes bad at finding everyday everybody stuff. Now it's reversed.

disclaimer: I am usually critical of google and for the most part, for bland generic search, have moved away to ddg (usually end up using the 'g!' for technical searches).

Silently depricating bolean operators and quotes was definitely bad for power users but let's be realistic these queries are probably the most resource intensive for google and equally not likely to bring ad revenue.

The bigger issue to me is that even a company like google, with near unlimited resources, seems to be unable to fight off SEO/spam/bots in order to show content with substance to end users. In the last 10 or 15 years this has become scaringly noticeable. The spammers have won the war.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact