The threat of climate change has given the United States an opportunity to be a technological leader and set a global example of how to transition towards a clean energy economy. As U.S. policymakers begin to consider policies like the Green New Deal, we encourage them not to overlook a key tool for reaching climate goals: nuclear energy.
Today, fossil fuels fulfill roughly two-thirds of our country’s energy needs, emitting carbon and harmful air pollutants. Although renewable energy is growing and new technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration are being tested, these trends alone won’t be enough to decarbonize our economy. Advanced nuclear technology like NuScale Power’s small modular reactor (SMR) provides reliable, baseload power that, unlike fossil fuels, emits zero carbon. Indeed, a recent MIT study confirmed that combating climate change will be difficult and expensive without nuclear energy.
Furthermore, SMRs can enable greater deployment of variable renewables, like wind and solar, by having the capacity to load follow and meet energy needs when renewables can’t. Energy infrastructure that integrates SMRs for load-following power can be renewables-heavy and remain zero carbon without sacrificing flexibility and reliability.
Nuclear power is critical for achieving deep decarbonization, particularly for the hard-to-tackle emissions of the industrial sector. A single NuScale power module produces 60 megawatts of clean, affordable and reliable energy, enough to power 45,000 American homes with carbon-free electricity or to provide process heat for applications, such as desalination, hydrogen production, and other industrial and manufacturing processes.
Fortunately, SMRs are on track to becoming a reality in the United States. Last year, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) completed the first and most intensive phase of review for NuScale’s design certification application—the first and only SMR ever to undergo NRC review. By 2026, NuScale and the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) will commercialize the first SMR nuclear power plant in the United States.
Now is the time to help policymakers understand that nuclear power is a critical piece of our future clean energy puzzle. Forward-looking energy policies should prioritize clean energy solutions while remaining technology agnostic so that innovation and economics can deliver the most efficient and effective energy infrastructure. Such an approach will allow us to harness the full power of SMR technology to meet clean energy goals and mitigate climate change.