Smaller nuclear reactors, more cost efficiency on horizon for DoE
The current Energy Department administration is more invested in nuclear power options than ever before, according to one insider.
“The health of the nuclear sector is good,” Ed McGinnis, principle deputy assistant secretary for nuclear energy at the Department of Energy, said on Energy Department Month. “I can assure you after 26 years in the federal government, I have never seen a time where the administration is more strongly supportive of the role of nuclear energy as a clean base-load source of energy to complement the other sources of electricity in our nation.”
The U.S. has the largest nuclear fleet in the world with 99 nuclear power plants operated at the highest performance level, according to McGinnis.
But turning the spotlight on any government sector may highlight the positives, but also shines a light on its challenges.
McGinnis said one challenge the DoE faces, along with both industry and the independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission responsible for issuing licenses for plant operators, is the need for more innovative ideas to streamline efficiency, lessen cost and bring in more revenue for the government and industry.
One solution is currently in a development stage. McGinnis spoke highly of smaller nuclear reactors called Advanced Small Modular Reactors, or SMRs.
“The small module reactors are exciting in many ways. For once, they’re much smaller, some of these are units of 50 megawatts that can be brought together,” McGinnis said on Federal Drive with Tom Temin. “It allows utilities that have smaller capital wherewithal, where they may have difficulty financing an $8 billion per unit … class reactor, and rather have a [smaller] unit to start with — a smaller bite at the apple — which seems very reasonable.”
In other words, it could provide an outlet for industry and plant owners to be able to get a smaller unit online generating electricity much sooner at much less of a cost.