America's New Nuclear Option: Small modular reactors

Energy secretary Steven Chu risks a pro-nuclear op-ed in the WSJ.

(…)  If we are serious about cutting carbon pollution then nuclear power must be part of the solution. Countries such as China, South Korea and India have recognized this and are making investments in nuclear power that are driving demand for nuclear technologies. Our choice is clear: Develop these technologies today or import them tomorrow.

That is why—even as we build a new generation of clean and safe nuclear plants—we are constantly looking ahead to the future of nuclear power. As this paper recently reported, one of the most promising areas is small modular reactors (SMRs). If we can develop this technology in the U.S. and build these reactors with American workers, we will have a key competitive edge.

Op-eds have to be very short, so hopefully that’s why Dr. Chu did not highlight e.g., the enhanced safety at lower cost that comes from shifting oversight resources away from on-site plant-specific inspections and on to approving and monitoring manufacturing processes.

(…) These efforts are restarting the nuclear power industry in the U.S. But to truly promote nuclear power and other forms of carbon-free electricity, we need long-term incentives. The single most effective step we could take is to put a price on carbon by passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation. Requiring a gradual reduction in carbon emissions will make clean energy profitable—and will fuel investment in nuclear power.