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Will Small Modular Reactors Transform the Nuclear Industry

Will Small Modular Reactors Transform the Nuclear Industry?

By Kristy Hartman and Lauren Rodman | Vol . 22, No. 22 / June 2014

NCSL News

Today, 100 large commercial nuclear reactors in 31 states generate approximately 20 percent of the nation’s electricity and contribute 60 percent of the nation’s carbon-free electricity. Growing domestic electricity demand—increasing by as much as 29 percent from 2012 to 2040, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates—and a drive to use low-emission technologies bode well for the future of the domestic nuclear energy industry. But an aging reactor fleet, rising construction and maintenance costs, safety concerns, the lack of a national radioactive waste storage site and increasing pressure from low-cost natural gas all pose challenges for the industry. Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), one of the latest nuclear energy technology innovations, offer the potential to mitigate some of these challenges. Currently in their design phase, SMRs are being developed primarily by private companies— including Babcock & Wilcox and NuScale Power—but have also received federal support. These new reactors are inspiring renewed interest and investment, which could lead to a revival of the U.S. nuclear industry.

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