Going Modular

THE PROMISE AND UNTAPPED MARKETS

Published In: EnergyBiz Magazine September / October 2012

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THE U.S. NUCLEAR ENERGY INDUSTRY HAS enjoyed significant accomplishments in the last year, including the issuance of the first construction and operating licenses for nuclear power plants in the United States in over 30 years.

We've also been faced with major challenges, including economic uncertainties that are slowing domestic expansion of nuclear energy.

And today, foreign competitors are making rapid gains in emerging nuclear energy technologies. It is our view that the United States needs to make an emphatic statement that our country continue to lead the nuclear technology innovation race by becoming the first to market with an American-manufactured small modular reactor.

While SMR technology is not new, a new breed of small reactors has emerged. Smaller in scale, more compact, modular in fabrication and able to deliver up to 300 megawatts - this next wave of emissions-free technology is enough to power a U.S. residential community of about 45,000 homes. Deployment of this reactor holds promise to advance energy, economic and environmental benefits in new and untapped markets such as aging fossil plant replacement, district heating and remote and small-grid markets, and process heat applications in the United States and around the world.

The best opportunity for competitiveness is to maximize power output while using the least amount of reinforced concrete, heavy forgings and commodities required, thereby optimizing equipment costs per amount of power generated. And the use of proven and previously licensed components and the compactness of the reactor system, containment and plant footprint also add up to a design optimized for efficiency.

Westinghouse, founded in Pittsburgh in 1886, developed and deployed the world's first pressurized water reactor in Shippingport, Pa., in 1957. As a result of our years of experience in the nuclear energy industry, Westinghouse is convinced that there is a significant market opportunity to extend the reach of the positive attributes of nuclear into the energy market while driving economic development and job growth. Simply stated, we believe that SMR development and deployment will be a major U.S. economic stimulus package, creating thousands of well-paying engineering, construction and manufacturing jobs as well as up to 300 permanent operational and maintenance jobs at each operating SMR. In fact, 100 percent of the components for the SMR will be provided by domestic suppliers.

But there are other reasons to move forward with SMRs. Electricity demand in the United States is expected to grow sharply in the 21st century, by almost 50 percent by 2030, according to the Energy Information Administration. These projections could go even higher if electricity demand continues to grow at the rates experienced in recent years.

The United States must address growing energy needs with emission-free energy solutions and take a leading role in this area, including the implementation of a balanced portfolio of clean energy options including next-generation nuclear energy technologies like the SMR. Maintaining U.S. leadership allows influence over international standards for safety, operational excellence, standards. Losing this leadership will mean importing SMRs from other countries and exporting those jobs.

 

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