The Next Generation of Nuclear Power Could Come Closer to Home

Nuclear regulators have recently given the green light to a new kind of nuclear reactor, the small modular reactor. A recent article in The Urbanist explains the case for a nuclear-powered urbanism.

December 10, 2020, 11:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Nuclear Power

Dobresum / Shutterstock

Shaun Kuo provides news and commentary about innovation in the nuclear power sector that might position nuclear power as a resource for the goals of urbanism.

First, the news: The "Department of Energy recently approved a multi-year cost share award of up $1.355 billion to a new entity, the Carbon Free Power Project, to demonstrate and deploy a 12-module small modular reactor (SMR) power plant," according to Kuo. That funding award follows additional news from August that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave first-ever design approval for an SMR for a power plant expected to be built by 2029. NuScale Power designed the 720-megawatt plant, and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), which owns the Carbon Free Power Project, hopes to begin construction on the SMR by 2025 at its planned location at the Idaho National Laboratory.

"UAMPS will be distributing energy from the plant to their participating public power utility customers in Utah, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming. UAMPS CEO noted that this project will complement and enable additional intermittent renewable energy, wind and solar that are a growing part of the agency’s portfolio," according to the article.

After explaining how SMRs differ from the nuclear reactors of history, Kuo ties those distinctions to a question of density, and suggests that SMRs enable a community-level approach to the future deployment of nuclear power. "Whether or not SMRs fit into the niches demanded by our urban areas, it will have to depend on the needs of each community to develop energy portfolios," writes Kuo.

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