Small Reactors May Be Nuclear Power’s Future
From The National Journal
By Clare Foran
While countries such as Japan and Germany are moving away from nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima reactor meltdown in 2011, the United States is taking a different tack.
“The promise of nuclear power is clear,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in July at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, adding, “Nuclear power has an important role in President Obama’s all-of-the-above approach to energy.”
For the White House, part of nuclear energy’s promise comes in the form of scaled-down facilities called small modular reactors, or SMRs. The average U.S. nuclear reactor has an operating capacity of 1,000 megawatts or more; SMRs, by contrast, have a generating capacity of less than 300 megawatts. They have yet to be deployed on a commercial scale, but the administration is betting on this option as a way to diversify the nation’s energy portfolio and rein in carbon emissions.
Obama has put the Energy Department at the helm of a $452 million public-private partnership to finance SMR construction. In November, DOE awarded a grant to U.S-based Babcock & Wilcox to create a 180-megawatt SMR in cooperation with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel. The reactor is slated to be up and running by 2022.
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