U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Nuclear Innovation Week 2019: Promoting Industry Progress and Potential

By Matt Letourneau

This week marks the Nuclear Energy Institute’s (NEI’s) second annual Nuclear Innovation Week, when top industry experts gather in Washington, D.C., to discuss and celebrate the international research, development and deployment of advanced nuclear technologies.

This year’s event touches upon geopolitics and United States’ leadership in the global nuclear energy market.  It also examines the challenges associated with commercializing nuclear research, and the importance of  accelerated efforts to develop partnership opportunities in the nuclear energy space.

Understanding the potential for growth in nuclear technology is at the center of the industry’s discussion.  Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is among those advocating for and investing in advancing the nuclear conversation. 

In his 2018 year-in-review blog post, Gates said his to-do list for 2019 includes persuading U.S. lawmakers to regain America’s leading role in nuclear energy research and embrace advanced nuclear technologies.  He wrote:

“The world needs to be working on lots of solutions to stop climate change. Advanced nuclear is one, and I hope to persuade U.S. leaders to get into the game. (…) Nuclear is ideal for dealing with climate change, because it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day. The problems with today’s reactors, such as the risk of accidents, can be solved through innovation.”

Through his own venture, TerraPower, Gates has put his money where his mouth is in developing the advanced technologies.

In his view, investing in advanced nuclear technology will not only help us meet climate change goals; it could also reduce global poverty. Gates noted that if we can expand access to affordable and clean electricity, it would drastically improve living conditions for millions and would ultimately be a catalyst to reducing poverty.

Along these lines, we at GEI recently highlighted a company that is changing the way we think about nuclear energy, as part of our EnergyInnovates initiative. Oregon-based NuScale developed a small modular reactor (SMR) that can be built quickly at a competitive cost.  It is the first SMR being reviewed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a design certification. The NuScale reactor can also be used to support renewable resources, desalinate water and provide reliable, emissions-free baseload power. In short, this game-changing nuclear innovation has the potential to provide clean water and electricity, reliably and affordably, in the U.S. and around the world.

Nuclear energy is America’s largest source of emissions-free power – and with innovators like NuScale and TerraPower already pioneering technology that is both energy and cost efficient, we’re encouraged by the industry’s progress and potential. 

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