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Four Cool Concepts For A Nuclear Powered Future

From rewilding to district heating, these kickass concepts offer a glimpse of how nuclear power might shape our lives.

Photo by Fábio Lucas on Unsplash

The below concepts were originally developed for my Instagram channel, atomic trends, as part of a series featuring digital artists working in sci-fi, movie and video game design.

Concept 1: The Deep Future

What will the Deep Future look like?

Food. Water. Energy. Minerals. Medicine. Manufactured goods. Many things humans need place a strain on the natural world. And as populations grow, impacts grow. Only technology breaks the cycle and decouples prosperity from environmental destruction while ensuring human prosperity. This is the beating heart of ecomodernism.

The Deep Future will not look like today. We will see the Earth rewilded. From monoculture cropland will rise virgin forest. From cattle pasture, new sweeping grasslands grazed by wild herds. Dams will be broken and migrating fish will once again bless headwaters.

Today, half the Earth’s habitable land is used for farming. In the future, we will grow much of what we need under electric light and using engineered bacteria (like how insulin is produced today).

What about our energy? Oil, gas, coal, solar, wind, hydro; all are forms of energy recycled from the light of our nuclear-powered Sun*. Each has its benefits, each its drawbacks.

Nuclear energy cuts out the middle man; the power of the Sun in our hands. We don’t burn the remains of creatures that died millions of years ago. We don’t need disruptive collectors to harvest water, wind and sun. Nuclear is compact, scalable, sustainable. And that’s just today’s technology. Fast reactors and fusion will take that a step further. Nuclear, along with geothermal where viable, will form the backbone of the new energy system.

The Deep Future will be sci-fi, but it will also be green.

*Check out Nick Touran’s “Origin of Energy” to understand why.

Concept 1: The Deep Future (“Scifi Complex”, with permission from Alexey Rubakin).

Concept 2: Low Impact Living.

Going offgrid

Many of us would like to live closer to nature. Some take this further than most by moving to a remote area and trying to live off the land (AKA “homesteading”). This often includes living “offgrid” without an electrical grid connection, instead relying on solar panels, batteries and diesel generators. The problem comes when hard weather sets in, the solar panels aren’t producing and topping up your diesel tank might be out of the question. Relying on diesels is also not very green.

That’s why this smarthome comes with a nuclear battery buried away in the basement. It puts out enough power to run the lights, heat, water purification, treatment and recovery, as well as a small hydroponic indoor, vertical farm. All that with zero emissions and practically no maintenance for 20 years (after which time the power module is replaced with a fresh battery). Fitting this kind of power source is a bit like installing a septic tank for wastewater — buy it, plumb it in, forget it.

Concept 2: Low Impact Living (“Solitude”, with permission from William Baldwin, AKA widoba).

Concept 3: Wilderness Power

When resilience matters

Who knows what goes on inside the Tower, or where it’s located. Maybe it’s a research station high in the mountains. Maybe it’s an outpost on a yet undiscovered planet. The Tower’s challenging and remote environment means it needs a reliable and independent source of power. That’s why a microreactor is buried in the Tower’s basement, giving light and power through the cold night. If it weren’t for the reactor, there’d be no way to melt ice and purify drinking water. There’d be no way to power the UV lights in the vertical farm. There’d be no way to treat the sewage and provide fertilizer for crops. Nuclear technology is at the heart of the Tower’s sustainable, circular economy, and allows for truly offgrid living in the long periods between supply runs.

Concept 3: Wilderness Power (“Tower” with permission from Baptiste Forey).

Concept 4: Your Local Microreactor

Community scale clean heat

Microreactors would allow every community to have its own source of clean electricity and heat (a combined heat and power, or CHP, plant). Heating makes up more of total energy use than electricity in many countries, and unlike electricity it must be generated close to where it is consumed. This means clean district heating (where heat is generated at a community scale) will likely be part of a successful decarbonisation plan.

Concept 4: Your Local Microreactor (“Apex” with permission from Jerric Cayas).

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If you’re an artist or a designer and would be interested in creating futuristic concepts about nuclear, then let me know in the comments or via Twitter.

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David de Caires Watson

Nuclear futurist, chartered physicist, safety engineer, amateur birder and pedal power enthusiast. Writer for The Kernel mag. Founder of Atomic Trends.