Generation IV nuclear power plant designs, that is. Popular Mechanics examines the future of nuclear power in this story and accompanying podcast. Current plants in the United States are Gen II, and many are nearing the end of their operating life. As energy demand rises — and various concerns about emissions continue — researchers are looking beyond even Gen III plants to the fourth generation, technologies like pebble-bed reactors and fast breeders. One promising aspect to these designs is they produce higher levels of heat, making it cost-effective to produce hydrogen from water.
The article represents the kind of high-quality explanatory journalism Popular Mechanics is producing. (For another energy-related example, see this special report on the comparative efficiency of biofuels.) We’ve been especially impressed by and thankful for the magazine’s work debunking the malevolent conspiracy theorists who believe the 9/11 terrorist attacks originated in U.S. corridors of power. Relying on science, engineering and Occam’s razor, the magazine has devoted a book and blog to refuting the arguments of the benighted souls.