Nuclear energy generation in the US is at a crossroads as the country grapples between a decade-old desire to denuclearise, and the recent US government approval of a newer, safer and simpler approach to nuclear power. The global commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is ambitious and requires a dialogue on how the latest nuclear innovative technology could help meet this goal.
The number of existing retired power plants can evoke memories of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima tragedies from the not-so-distant past. Nevertheless, could it be time to shift our perspective on nuclear power, framing it as a potential piece of the solution rather than a disaster waiting to happen?
Reaching net-zero emissions by this mid-century would place an obvious emphasis on wind and solar power, which are only intermittently reliable. These pre-existing obstacles to consistent renewable energy have been joined by a more ominous and immediate catalyst — the unrest in Ukraine following the Russian invasion, which has illuminated Western Europe’s heavy dependence on Russian natural gas. This confluence of factors piques our interest and suggests that we could be on the cusp of what many are hailing as a nuclear renaissance.
Today’s operating nuclear power plants are known as large fission reactors (generating 1,000 megawatts of power or more). However, research shows that small modular reactor (SMR) technology can be much safer than the large fission predecessor and largely represents the future of nuclear power over the next decade.
Raphael J. Lewis and Jack Encarnacao, research analysts at Newton Investment Management.
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