US organisation calls for doubling of nuclear

14 April 2022

Doubling domestic nuclear energy production by 2050 is an "ambitious but achievable" national goal that would help the USA achieve 100% clean energy, US think-tank the Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) said. The organisation is calling for the US Department of Energy (DOE) to launch an Advanced Nuclear Energy Earthshot as part of its Energy Earthshots initiative to help achieve this.

Fission Vision sets out NIA's blueprint to double US nuclear generation (Image: NIA)

"Significant development of advanced nuclear technologies is needed for the United States to reach mid-century climate goals," NIA Executive Director Judi Greenwald said on the release of Fission Vision, the organisation's blueprint to achieve this goal. "Fission Vision answers the question: What is the role advanced nuclear energy could play at a scale and at a pace to help provide safe, reliable and affordable clean energy?"

Fission Vision has three objectives, Greenwald said: catalysing a robust US innovation and commercialisation ecosystem; ensuring "social licence" to operate advanced nuclear energy; and re-imagining and integrating advanced nuclear energy with other clean energy sources. "If we can achieve these objectives - and we think we can - advanced reactors will play a major role in meeting our climate and energy goals by at least doubling US nuclear energy production by 2050," she added.

Decarbonising the US economy means reducing carbon emissions from everything - not just the electric grid, but also transport, manufacturing, home heating, "and everything that heats, cools, lights, spins a motor, pumps a gallon of water or a gallon of sewage, ventilates a classroom or runs a hospital's heart-lung machine," the report notes. Low-carbon generating technologies like wind and solar have been deployed in increasing numbers in the past decade and will reduce emissions from fossil fuels, but these technologies alone will not suffice for an entire energy system which is a "complex web of production and consumption" that needs a dispatchable source of generation when "abundant but variable renewable energy isn't available, and when safety, economic activity, and human health and comfort demand energy."


Doubling nuclear energy production will catalyse deployment of advanced nuclear energy technologies and play a major role in transitioning the USA to 100% clean energy by 2050, the report says, with "crosscutting technical and policy leadership" from the DOE an essential first step towards realising that. "Creation of a new Advanced Nuclear Energy Earthshot at the Department of Energy, based on the DOE Earthshot initiative model pioneered for other technologies, could rapidly accelerate US development and deployment of advanced nuclear energy technologies," it adds.

The DOE's Energy Earthshots Initiative was launched in June 2021 to accelerate breakthroughs of more abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions within the decade, with the first - Hydrogen Shot - seeking to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80% to USD1 per kg in one decade. Long Duration Storage Shot - which aims to achieve affordable grid storage for clean power - was launched in July, and Carbon Negative Shot - focusing on innovative technologies to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it at meaningful scales - in November. In total, 6 to 8 Energy Earthshots are planned.

The DOE's Earthshots model should be used to organise an integrated, cross-cutting approach to achieve dramatic reductions in nuclear project costs and timelines this decade, Fission Vision says:

"An Advanced Nuclear Energy Earthshot would integrate DOE activities across multiple dimensions. It would integrate DOE Office of Nuclear Energy's more traditional R&D efforts with demonstrations in the new Office of Clean Energy Demonstration, innovative financing through the Loan Programs Office, and commercialisation and testing capabilities of the national laboratories. It would integrate innovation efforts from the front end through the back end of the fuel cycle. It would integrate advanced reactor innovation with supply chain innovation. It would also integrate DOE’s efforts with the broader innovation and commercialisation ecosystem that includes a wide array of private companies. This will likely require DOE to develop new skills, new contracting and financing mechanisms and new partnerships, as well as better utilise existing ones.

"Through an Advanced Nuclear Energy Earthshot, DOE would help create the conditions for success for Fission Vision."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News