The head of the spear in America’s nuclear energy industry has just been sharpened, according to this article from the Washington Examiner.
“A new Trump administration policy enabling U.S. government financing for nuclear energy projects abroad could help accelerate the use of smaller reactors, a budding technology that supporters see as a lifeline for the struggling industry.
“The U.S. will have a whole suite of technologies in different sizes available in the next couple of years, and that really changes the game in terms of this modernization of policy,” said Rich Powell, executive director of ClearPath, a conservative clean energy group.
“The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation proposed this week to reverse an Obama-era ban that prevents it from funding civil nuclear projects overseas, a development first reported by the Washington Examiner.
“The corporation’s press release announcing the policy change specifically touts how it can help promote advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors and microreactors that “will have significantly lower costs than traditional nuclear power plants, and may be well-suited for developing countries.”
“The United States has not built a traditional large nuclear reactor since the 1970s, with recent projects canceled or delayed because of mounting expenses. Existing plants are closing at a rapid rate due to competition from cheaper natural gas and renewables.
“But the industry is banking on developing smaller, cheaper reactors. Policymakers in both parties support the technology as a zero-carbon alternative that can supplement intermittent wind and solar in the power grid of the future.
“The U.S. is developing more of these new reactors than any country in the world, but analysts say they are still a decade or so away from being widely operational.
“The future of the nuclear industry, especially in the U.S., is going to be in next-generation reactors,” said Jackie Kempfer, a nuclear energy policy adviser at Third Way, a center-left think tank. “With the DFC policy change, we finally have momentum on all the moving pieces that we need to commercialize these technologies.”
“Other nuclear powers such as China and Russia are investing in smaller reactors, too, with the advantage of being backed by state governments.
“Developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have less sophisticated grids that are largely unable to accommodate large nuclear plants, but could make use of smaller reactors that are easier and cheaper to build, safer to run, and more flexible to use.
“Smaller reactors can be used not just for electricity, the main use of nuclear today, but also in manufacturing and for process heating, so they can also serve an economic development function for poor countries looking to do more than just keep the lights on.
“Todd Moss, the executive director of the Energy for Growth Hub, said the U.S. is at least two years behind Russia in its commercial nuclear diplomacy efforts, with the Kremlin already engaging in agreements with developing countries that see nuclear as a clean energy alternative.
“We are some ways out until we are breaking ground on SMRs, but right now, the Russians are aggressively selling their SMR models in a whole range of countries,” Moss said.
“NuScale, the company racing to be the first to operate a small modular nuclear reactor, has agreements (memos of understanding) with companies in many countries, says its CEO John Hopkins. But deals take a long time to finalize. Hopkins said the new DFC policy would help his company overcome financing challenges in developing countries.”
Retrieved June 123, 2020 from https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/energy/trump-policy-change-could-be-game-changer-for-small-nuclear-reactors
Be well everyone.