By Rebecca Lordan

In their recent white paper “Small Modular Reactors—Key to Future Nuclear Power in the US,” Robert Rosner of the Energy Policy Institute at Chicago and Steven Goldberg of Argonne National Laboratory argue that America’s history with Small Modular Light Water Nuclear Reactors (SMRs), the growing demand for carbon-free energy sources, and a potential cost advantage make SMRs ready for prime time: the U.S. nuclear energy market.

While each module generates only 300 megawatts or less of power – a typical nuclear reactor generates approximately one gigawatt (1000 megawatts) – deploying a system of SMRs could have a dramatic effect on the domestic energy portfolio.

Light water SMRs are governed by the same physical principles as the aging fleet of traditional reactors. Atomic reactions generate heat that boils water into steam, which in turn drives electricity-generating steam turbines. However, the smaller size of SMRs allows these power plants to be placed underground, situated in more diverse geographical locations, and, potentially, manufactured in a standard, cost-effective way…

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