The Vogtle Unit 3 nuclear reactor began its commercial operations at the end of July. Based in Georgia, the facility will provide clean electricity to the southeast U.S. for likely longer than the next half-century. This marks the first U.S. deployment of Westinghouse’s AP1000 Generation III+ reactor. Its completion represents a significant milestone in the U.S. nuclear industry, being the first reactor to be built from scratch in more than a decade. Detractors will point to the massively over-budget and over-time project completion, though the next generation of nuclear technology is leaps ahead regarding safety and project standup time. If a resurgence is to occur, the ability of new advanced nuclear reactors to provide low-emissions baseload power with a fraction of the footprint of renewables (Figure 1) positions them well for the grid of the future.
Are we on the brink of a potential resurgence of nuclear deployments? Microsoft and Nucor are among the major U.S. companies to have initiated equity partnerships with advanced reactor companies, signaling an interest and commitment to exploring the potential of utilizing nuclear energy in their operations. Additionally, representatives of eastern European nations have committed to the deployment of dozens of advanced reactors before the end of the decade. Suppliers in the U.S. and abroad look to Europe’s favorable regulatory frameworks and approval processes to lead the adoption of new reactor technologies, expecting that once ground is broken on initial facility sites the North American market will change its tune.
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