These small reactors have gained quite a support from the government and the corporate sector, as the US Department of Energy (DoE) launched their program to provide $452 million in grants to companies that can match the funds.
The first winner of the US DoE grant was announced in November last year. The company, Babcock & Wilcox, has already been investing in the development of a 180-megawatt reactor and its operational system.
The fear of shutting down coal power plants in the US due to new carbon emission regulations, was the main driving force behind the urge for companies to invest in alternative energy sources. Small nuclear reactors were considered the most suitable replacement, since wind and solar require fossil-fuel backup.
In addition, small nuclear reactors are much more affordable than larger ones, which minimizes the risk for the companies.
Another main advantage of the small nuclear reactors, is the fact that they do not require extensive planning zones, which already makes handling logistics and construction much easier. Moreover, these reactors can be built much faster.
It is still debatable, however, whether the lower cost in the beginning will not result in higher energy prices. John Kelly, a deputy assistant secretary for nuclear reactor technologies at the Department of Energy is convinced that these will bring down the cost, because of the anticipated mass production in factories.
However, in the US, natural gas power plants are the major competitor of nuclear. The success of the project will strongly depend on the prices of natural gas and the belief that emissions should be reduced.