Scientists have touted small modular nuclear reactors as a silver-bullet solution to the United States’ ageing and ailing nuclear energy industry. Biden’s energy plan mentions them by name, saying that his pathway to 100% clean energy will include “small modular nuclear reactors at half the construction cost of today’s reactors.” But now, after years of promotion, some drawbacks to these safer, cheaper, and more efficient small reactors are beginning to emerge just as the industry starts to get off the ground. “Nuclear advocates fret as first maker of small reactors encounters trouble,” a Washington Examiner headline stated this week. The article tells the story of NuScale Power, an Oregon-based nuclear company, which is getting a rocky start as their first customers have asked to push back timelines and bristled at rising costs, which is a small enough story, but ultimately could set back the entire industry. “The company expected to be the first in the United States to operate a small nuclear reactor is facing setbacks that have caused supporters to question whether the novel technology will ever realize its potential as a tool to combat climate change,” writes the Examiner.
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