The primary reason for the current nuclear renaissance is because of the “fear of climate change.” It is so ironic that the “fear of nuclear” was the primary reason for continued use of fossil fuels that eventually caused our alleged climate concerns. The shift to renewable wind and solar to address climate change will eventually have an unintended “favorable” consequence for more nuclear energy.
The U.S. produces the most nuclear reactor net capacity of clean commercial electrical power (30%) worldwide with France a distance second. Based on the documented 55 Gen3+ nuclear reactors currently under construction around the world, the United States’ clean nuclear electrical capacity will drop all the way down to 8th place on the list of countries that will outproduce us. Of course, China will lead the world in clean nuclear energy capacity.
After a 40-year absence from building nuclear reactors in the U.S., it is still the leader in designing nuclear reactors for the future. The next generation, referred to as Gen4, are walk-away safe small modular reactors (SMR) still based on solid fuel rods like the existing nuclear fleet, except they are self contained factory-built vessels that won’t melt down. Another Gen4 reactor design is the use of liquid fuel instead of solid fuel rods.
The U.S. is now on a fast track with NuScale’s first SMR nuclear power facility (with 12 small reactors) scheduled for 2026. The plant will be owned by Utah Associated Municipal Power System, built at Idaho National Labs and could generate enough power for about 540,000 homes. Terrestrial Energy is also on a fast track with Canada’s first Integrate Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) power plant being sited at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories near Montreal.
This “new-wave” of nuclear power has already pushed into the GEN5 development cycle with Molten Chloride Salt Fast Reactors (MCSFR), scheduled for the 2030s. These MCSFR power plants will use existing spent and depleted uranium fuels in liquid form and will completely eliminate stored solid fuel rods and the long term need for the proposed interim storage facility known as HI-STORE CISF in Carlsbad.