The short answer is yes!
#Nuclear was actually trending on Twitter on August 3 following a series of positive developments within the nation’s nuclear energy sector.
From President Joe Biden signing the historic Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law to the certification of the first U.S. small modular reactor, nuclear is finally having a moment.
And this is just the beginning!
I’m extremely optimistic that we can build off these recent successes to help us create jobs, protect the environment, and enhance our energy security as we transition to a new clean energy economy.
Certifying the First Small Modular Reactor
On July 29, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced its intent to issue a final rule certifying NuScale Power’s small modular reactor (SMR).
The company’s 50 megawatt-electric power module will become the first SMR design approved by the NRC for use in the United States.
NuScale is currently seeking an uprate to enable each module to generate up to 77 megawatts. They plan to submit their application for NRC review later this year.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has invested more than $600 million in the development of NuScale’s SMR since 2014. We are currently working with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems to demonstrate the NuScale technology at Idaho National Laboratory by 2029.
The company has also signed several agreements to explore the possibility of deploying SMR plants in 11 different countries, including Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Jordan.
Companies can begin referencing the SMR design in their combined license applications 30 days after the NRC publishes its final rule in the Federal Register.
Deploying SMRs in Tennessee
On August 2, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced an agreement with GE-Hitachi to support planning and preliminary licensing efforts for the potential deployment of a BWRX-300 SMR at the Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
The new agreement will provide additional insights into the viability of deploying smaller reactors in the Tennessee valley and builds on a recent collaboration with Ontario Power Generation to develop SMRs in both the U.S. and Canada.
The Clinch River site currently holds the nation’s only early-site permit from the NRC for SMRs.
Fueling Plant Vogtle Unit 3
The next day, the NRC announced the authorization of Southern Nuclear to load nuclear fuel and begin operation at Vogtle Unit 3 in Georgia.
This is the first time ever the NRC authorized a reactor’s initial startup through their new “Part 52” licensing process and transitions the project out of the regulator’s construction reactor oversight program and into the operating reactor oversight process.
Unit 3 and Unit 4 are both expected to be operational in 2023 and will be the first U.S. reactors to use Westinghouse’s AP1000 technology.
Once the expansion project is complete, Plant Vogtle will be the largest single generator of clean power in the United States.
Fuel loading at Unit 3 is expected to begin this October.
X-energy and Dow bring the heat
On August 9, Dow agreed to deploy X-energy’s advanced reactor at one of its U.S. Gulf Coast sites by 2030.
Dow is the first U.S. manufacturer to announce its intention to use SMRs to provide clean process heat and power at one of its facilities.
X-energy is currently developing a Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactor that is expected to be operational by 2028 thanks to funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).
The company also recently completed a $40 million award with DOE to finalize the basic design of the Xe-100 nuclear power plant and further develop its TRISO-X particle fuel.
Historic Climate Legislation Signed
Finally, on August 16, history was made with President Joe Biden signing the Inflation Reduction Act into law.
IRA is the most significant piece of U.S. climate legislation and sends a strong signal to the nuclear energy industry that it will be counted on to help us achieve our net-zero ambitions.
IRA includes several tax credits and incentives to support the continued operation of the existing fleet (our nation’s largest source of clean energy) and the potential deployment of advanced reactors.
The legislation also includes $700 million for the Office of Nuclear Energy to support the development of a domestic supply chain for high-assay low-enriched uranium, and an extra $150 million for our office to improve the overall R&D infrastructure at our national labs.
Momentum Moving Forward
Recent DOE analysis estimates the clean energy provisions from IRA and BIL alone could reduce carbon emissions by 1 million metric tons as we create thousands of clean energy jobs in the process.
Yes, momentum is definitely on nuclear energy’s side, but we can’t rest on our laurels to make this clean energy transition happen.
Expect many more great months ahead for the U.S. nuclear energy sector as DOE continues to support the implementation of this Administration’s priorities to support a clean and just energy transition to net-zero.
Let’s get to work!