New paradigms emerge for innovation and investment in advanced nuclear energy reactor designs
(Updated October 2020) Designers of advanced nuclear reactors seek to bridge the gap between concept and prototype. While it is too early for investors and potential customers to easily pick winners from an increasingly crowded field of advanced reactor projects, new patterns of investment, including public/private partnerships, are creating opportunities for entrepreneurial developers. A key area of interest is in small modular reactors, e.g., with electrical power ratings of less than 300 Mw.
The Idaho National Laboratory (INL), Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) has published a directory of developers of advanced nuclear energy technologies, suppliers, and national labs. (Updated several times a year)
This directory by INL/GAIN was created in partnership between the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) and Third Way, with the help of the United States Nuclear Infrastructure Council (USNIC).
Scroll down to the image on the page like the one on the right. The link to the full directory (large PDF file for download) is there and is updated from time-to-time. It offers a listing of companies engaged in the development of advanced nuclear technologies. It also has supplier listings.
If you are a developer or a supplier to the advanced nuclear market, there are forms on the same page on this website you can fill out to get listed in the directory.
If you are interested in additional information please go to the contact tab for GAIN and leave a message.
Lists of Advanced Nuclear Reactor Development Efforts
- Third Way Update (February 2018), Interactive Map , and a detailed spreadsheet listing of North American advanced reactor projects with links to their websites.
- See also from Third Way selected listings in a 65 page directory (PDF file) of developers, suppliers, and national laboratories. Pages 1-29 lists the developers. (2017)
- IAEA Readers may also want to check out the IAEA ARIS Database for a deeper dive into the technologies for each design and work in other countries. Bear in mind that the data here is updated by developers and may not be current. IAEA does not check claims made by developers for performance or technical specifications.
- IAEA Small Modular Reactors – 2020: “Advances in Small Modular Reactor Technology Developments: Technical Profiles of 70+ SMRs. A Supplement to: IAEA Advanced Reactors Information System (ARIS) 2020 Edition.” (PDF file – 354 pages)
Commercial Prospects for Three GEN IV Reactor Designs
(February 2020) Designers of advanced nuclear reactors that are moving beyond the conceptual phase and are now deeply invested in hardware design are seeking to bridge the gap between design concept and working prototype.
The problem for developers of Generation IV nuclear power plants in western industrialized countries is that it may still be too early in the development process for investors and potential customers to bet significant money on the winners from an increasingly crowded field.
New patterns of investment could help. Public-private cost sharing partnerships with the US Department of Energy (DOE), for reactor development, of the type formed by NuScale, a light water small modular reactor and TerraPower, which is a sodium-cooled 1,100 MW design, are creating similar opportunities for entrepreneurial developers who can harness the know how and get access to government funds which is also a confidence builder for investors.
A working prototype for any of the Gen IV designs built by any of the developers would attract the interest of potential customers.
The three reactor types are molten salt, pebble bed, and sodium-cooled designs.
This is a long article. Readers can access it at this web link or download a PDF file of the full text. PDF file: http://bit.ly/39wkAjV
Success Factors for
Advanced Nuclear Reactor Developers
Investment Issues – The missing piece is a nuclear energy investment bank. The nation needs a government backed investment bank to secure capital at reasonable interest rates for development of advanced nuclear reactors. See this blog’s proposal to create one.
Policy Issues – A good place to start is the report by the Breakthrough Institute How to Make Nuclear Innovative. Read the executive summary and watch the brief video on YouTube that covers the report’s key findings.
The report’s mainstream recommendations for modernizing nuclear innovation in the United States, include;
- Licensing reform. Licensing of new nuclear technologies will need to be reformed in order to support smaller, entrepreneurial firms and to build investor confidence as key design and testing benchmarks are achieved.
- Public-private partnerships. National laboratories will need to provide private companies with access to equipment, technical resources, and expertise in order to lower costs and promote greater knowledge spillover in the testing and licensing process.
- Targeted public funding for R&D. Significant and sustained research funding should be directed toward solving shared technical challenges.
- Inter-firm collaboration. Policy and funding should be designed to encourage knowledge spillover and collaboration between companies.
- Private-sector leadership. Public investment in demonstration and commercialization should follow private investment and avoid early down-selection of technologies.
See also the Third Way, October 2019. paper: Raising the Next Generation of Nuclear: A Road Map for Deployment
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