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Utilities Considering Mini Nuclear Reactors

August 6, 2021

As the climate crisis accelerates, utilities in the U.S are looking to acquire miniature nuclear reactors called SMRs (Small Modular Reactors) to secure a reliable energy source and lower emissions associated to climate change. Over the past decade companies have stopped building nuclear due to rising costs of maintenance and delays. Some utilities interested in mini nuclear reactors include Energy Northwest, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, and PacificCorp.

Some of the main benefits of nuclear power include a steady production 24/7, and emission free energy generation. A main benefit of SMRs are that these can be located anywhere and are easier to maintain than larger nuclear plants. These reactors have not yet gone through the regulatory review process so it is estimated these won’t be operational until the end of the decade. Additionally, it is not yet known if these will stop the shortcomings and address other issues related to nuclear generation.

Costs for these reactors are not yet known due to competitive reasons but are estimated to range between tens of millions to low billions. As an example, TerraPower’s 345MW reactor is estimated to cost around $1B, with a LCOE around the $50 – $60 range. Currently there is only one full size nuclear plant under construction which is the Southern Co. which has already been delayed by 5 years.