>5 GW of advanced nuclear plants built

In the early 2030s, we’ll see advanced nuclear power plant technology mature. This new generation of nuclear plants will provide inexpensive, round-the-clock heat and/or power for a variety of uses:

  • Power for data centers, military bases, and remote towns. Unlike previous nuclear reactors, advanced microreactors will be able to provide cost effective power at the 1-50 MW scale.
  • Heat and power to decarbonize industrial facilities. High-temperature gas reactors (HGTRs) are especially well suited to provide high-temperature heat!
  • Low-carbon power to the electric grid. Many advanced reactors will be able to ramp up power production by 30 percent or more when solar and wind are active.

Building 5 gigawatts (5000 MW) of nuclear energy in North America is what it will take for nuclear technologies to fully come down the production cost curve. It could look like 50 small microreactors (5-50 MW) plus 15 small modular reactors or SMRs (100-400 MW). While we don’t see advanced nuclear as a “winner takes all” race, a small number of players will likely dominate based on the specific features of their technology. For instance, one company may lead in microreactor deployments; another might lead in industrial applications requiring heat; a third might lead in reprocessing nuclear waste.

One of the technical improvements proposed for advanced reactors is TRISO nuclear fuel, which looks something like a Willy Wonka Gobstopper. In TRISO pellets, the uranium fuel is in a layer of tough silicon carbide, so that no radioactive material is released in the event of an accident. (Photo courtesy of X-Energy)