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The Role of Small Modular Reactors in Decarbonization

Paul A. DeCotis's picture
Senior Partner, Head East Coast Energy & Utilities West Monroe

Paul A. DeCotis is senior partner and east coast lead for West Monroe's Energy & Utilities practice, based in New York City. He leads the firm’s executive advisory and regulatory offerings...

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  • May 18, 2022

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The Role of Small Modular Reactors in Decarbonization

Abstract: Decarbonization efforts underway to meet climate mitigation goals worldwide are forcing regulators, policymakers, electric grid operators, and parts of the scientific community to reconsider the role of nuclear power in the transition. Many proponents of nuclear power argue that nuclear technologies can play a role in advancing a clean energy economy, while others argue that it has no role in such an economy until treatment and disposal of nuclear waste can be safely managed. The US Department of Energy (DOE), for example, has been supporting research and development (R&D) in advanced small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) for some time and is hopeful that nuclear power in the form of SMRs can play a role.

DeCotis, Paul A., Cartwright, Echo D. (June (2022). “The Role of Small Modular Reactors in Decarbonization.” Climate and Energy Journal. Vol. 38 No. 11, ©2022 Wiley Periodicals, LLC. a Wiley company.

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Thank Paul A. for the Post!
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Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on May 20, 2022

«No company, utility, consortium, or national government is currently considering building the massive supply chain that is at the very essence
of the concept of SMRs—mass modular factory construction . Yet without that supply chain, SMRs will continue to be expensive . In early 2019, North American Project Director for Nuclear Energy Insider Kevin Anderson, said that there “is un- precedented growth in companies proposing design alternatives for the future of nuclear, but precious little progress in terms of market-ready solutions .”

Thanks for what appears to me to be quite a well balanced discussion of the status of SMR development.  I think it is a very useful basis for discussion for the immediate future.

Would you care to hazard an estimate of a possible time frame for when we might have answers to the most important remaining questions regarding the viability of SMRs as a means of effective decarbonization?

Paul A. DeCotis's picture
Paul A. DeCotis on Jun 2, 2022

Thanks for the commentary Mark. And appreciate the kind words about the article being well balanced and a useful basis for discussion. The authors are not aware of a firm or timeframe for the potential commercialization of SMRs. Nonetheless as the federal government and more states across the US and nations across the globe seek alternatives to achieve decarbonization at scale, and show progress toward energy independence, more incentives, R&D and pioneers advocating for SMRs will certainly help focus attention on the needed supply chain. We see the possibility of SMRs adding to the mix of available options for a cleaner energy future. As with most innovations, there is a bit of a circular argument over what must come first. In our experience, typically it's a bit of a push and pull challenge with both commercialization and supply chain development occurring somewhat simultaneously but awkwardly not always in lock-step.

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