Energy Transition Handbook 2021 - Flipbook - Page 44
Nuclear energy plays an important role for countries around the world that are striving
for a zero-carbon emissions future, and those struggling to balance a need for greater
energy production while curbing pollution. With its promise to help combat climate
change and provide reliable power, nuclear technologies, especially advanced nuclear,
have been recognized by environmentalists, governments, and climate scientists alike as
playing a key role in our global energy future.
Globally, some 440 reactors are in operation
with about 50 reactors under construction in 16
countries. There are also 130 advanced reactor
projects under development, using cutting-edge
technologies and capabilities that range from tiny
(less than one megawatt) to large (over a thousand
megawatts). Advanced reactors’ distant cousin,
nuclear fusion, doesn’t produce carbon or other
greenhouse gases and shows a promising future,
with commercial-scale fusion generation expected
in the next 20 years.
On the back end, innovations in nuclear
decommissioning continue apace, with over 180
commercial and prototype reactors and over 500
research reactors retired and at varying levels of
decommissioning worldwide. There are a number
of plants retiring in the U.S. and Germany in
particular, which in the U.S. are generally older
and less economic plants, while in Germany, they
are being retired as a matter of government policy.
A variety of common trends are woven
throughout these developments regarding
regulatory compliance (e.g., licensing,
compliance, export controls), nuclear policy
matters (e.g., nuclear waste, “first of a kind”
construction), and nuclear business matters
(e.g., nuclear EPCs, JVs, nuclear liability).
Some Recent Global Developments:
the U.S. has had a flurry of Advanced Reactor
activities. Designs by TerraPower and
X-energy were awarded $80 million each in
funding from the U.S. Department of Energy
DOE set aside $29 million in funding for
selected projects to close fusion-specific
technological gaps, and the U.S. Nuclear
Regulatory Commission (NRC) is evaluating
the appropriate regulatory framework for fusion
in anticipation of forthcoming applications.
the NRC also approved a design for a small
modular reactor (SMR) for the first time,
the NuScale reactor design, which boasts
12 modules each producing up to 77 MWe.
The NRC also accepted an application
for the first-of-its-kind Oklo Aurora
microreactor, capable of producing 1.5 MWe
of electrical power and heat. A number of
other companies are expected to submit
applications to the NRC in the near term.
Canada’s SMR Action Plan promotes advanced
nuclear to help achieve a zero-emission
economy by 2050. The Canadian nuclear
regulator is reviewing 10 advanced reactor
design applications, with two more under
development. The Canadian Nuclear Research
Initiative program recently solicited proposals
for SMR development and deployment,
advanced reactors, and fusion research.