America Invests Millions in “Tiny” Nuclear Reactors
The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) has launched a new program to fund the development of two “tiny” nuclear reactors called “NuScale”. The cost of the program reaches a total of $230 million and can be considered a pilot testing project.
For starters, two of these modular nuclear reactors will be built for purposes of demonstrating the technology. For now, the NuScale reactor, which is 1/100th of the size of a traditional reactor works only in the minds of the engineers of an Oregon energy startup, so things will have to be proven in real-world application scenarios.
NuScale categorizes its reactor design as a next-generation system (III) and claims that it’s far safer than generation II, which is the type that is currently powering nuclear plants in America (and the rest of the world). Due to the smaller size, it can only produce about 60 megawatt of electrical power, which is about forty times less than the typical nominal power output of the gen-II reactors used today. However, the new and tiny reactors could be deployed in numerous small nuclear plants around the country, possibly in the hundreds. Moreover, they won’t have to be deployed far from inhabited areas, so the transit, storage, and various energy costs will be brought down.
The DoE envisions NuScale’s tiny reactors to power smaller communities that have lower power needs, and this is why it decided to approve the funding of the new program. In about a year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will give the required approvals and certification for the small reactor to move forward. At the same time, the DoE will run another program calling engineers to present a new light reactor design that could be functional within seven years. The projected timeline for the first commercial deployment of whatever other modular reactor is approved by the U.S. state is in the mid-2030s. Hopefully, the nuclear power generation scene in the country will have changed fundamentally by then, thanks to initiatives like this one.