The US government’s Department of Energy (DOE) has just announced $3.5 million for research into four advanced nuclear reactor projects that go beyond traditional light water designs. According to the announcement, the projects are led by General Atomics, GE Hitachi, Gen4 Energy and Westinghouse and will address “key technical challenges to designing, building and operating the next generation of nuclear reactors.” According to R&D magazine, the funding is part of the current administration’s strategy to accelerate clean energy and to enable a low-carbon economy.
For a while now, energy talk in the US has tended to focus on all the natural gas currently being produced by fracking. So much so that people forget that with 100 operable reactors, the US has the largest fleet of nuclear reactors in the world.
Of course, with the number of reactors under construction and planned in China (not to mention Russia and India) it’s hard to say how long that will
remain the situation and I don’t doubt that’s part of what is on the government’s mind. It also fits with the fact that in 2012 the US nuclear regulator gave the green light to applications for the first new reactors in 30 years. The US is not alone in directing more money towards nuclear energy research. The UK, France, Russia and China have all made announcements in the last eighteen months along similar lines.
The US can sometimes take a while to choose the direction they want to go but when they do it happens in a big way. Just ask how they ended up with the world’s largest reactor fleet in the first place. With permission to start building new reactors and nuclear technology investment increasing, I’d say things are headed in the right direction for the nuclear and uranium sectors.
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