New Nuclear Is Catching On

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For years, Energy Fairness has argued that the U.S. needs new nuclear power construction if it hopes to meet energy demands and tackle carbon dioxide emission goals. We’ve supported, for example, nuclear construction at Plant Vogtle in Georgia, a project that will provide much needed power generation for a growing state and region. Now, it seems that much of the world, too, is catching on to the need for new nuclear technology.

In August, the U.S. and Canada formally entered into a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) that will allow both countries to collaborate on reviews of advanced reactor and small modular reactor technologies. The MOC is a first-of-its-kind agreement signed by U.S. and Canadian regulators that builds upon a joint memorandum of understanding signed by regulators in 2017. Kristine Svinicki, Chair of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Rumina Velshi, President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, signed the MOC in Ottawa “to increase regulatory effectiveness through collaborative work on the technical reviews of advanced reactor and small modular reactor technologies.”

“Signing of this memorandum further shapes our commitment to open and transformative thinking with our Canadian partners, enhancing our willingness to work together on matters of advanced nuclear power safety developments while increasing regulatory effectiveness,” Svinicki said. “Advanced technologies are emerging at a rapid pace, demanding that regulators keep in step with modernization initiatives and the technologies of the future.”

Today, one of the major hurdles to new nuclear designs is a shortage of staff to review them. The MOC could be a major factor in overcoming this obstacle, since both agencies would be able to collaborate to review and understand innovative new designs. A joint effort would allow for faster review and approval, as well as more expedient detection of flaws. In other words, new nuclear technology and construction could be getting a shot in the arm.

The good news doesn’t stop there. The U.S. has also entered into several similar agreements over the past year to promote nuclear power and encourage investment in new nuclear technologies. In addition to the new agreement with Canada, we’ve also signed pacts with Japan, Russia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Poland, Argentina, and Romania. Elsewhere, China and Russia have developed cooperative relationships with nations in Asia, Africa, and South America. Entering into these agreements underscores the depth of worldwide commitment to new nuclear technologies.

This newfound commitment to new nuclear technology could not have come at a better time. Just last week, Forbes reported that reaching global net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 would require building a new nuclear power plant every day. The scale of that challenge might seem extreme, but it starts with a commitment to new designs for harnessing the power of this important source of energy.

There can be no doubt that new nuclear is an essential part of a future that meets energy demands and reduces carbon intensity. We applaud these worldwide commitments to new nuclear technology and we’re excited to see what the future holds.