• Nuclear Power
  • Low Carbon
  • Utilities
  • Policy and Regulation
  • Energy Technologies

Legislative Push and Innovation Spur Interest in Nuclear

Pritil Gunjan
Jun 09, 2021

Guidehouse Insights

There is a resurgence of interest in nuclear energy and the innovations that fuel the technology. This resurgence is driving public and private interests for new solutions to harness the power of low carbon nuclear power to meet growing energy demands. For these innovations to eventually achieve commercialization, four key market drivers will help pave the way to increased nuclear power generation: supportive policy and regulations, innovative technology, sustainable resources, and the persistence and growth of public-private partnerships.

The global electric power industry is evolving from a model that relies on large fossil-fueled centralized power plants owned by utilities to one that is more diverse in generation sources and generation asset ownership. As this evolution occurs, price deceleration and regulatory and legislative incentives continue to encourage deployments as clean energy technology penetration increases. Historically, nuclear power has been cost prohibitive and has not provided an economic proposition to match carbon-based energy sources such as coal and natural gas. However, there is renewed interest in greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, energy security, and economic growth within governmental landscapes. 

Nuclear Power Could Deliver Low Carbon Energy

The US has expressed interest to reestablish US leadership in nuclear power generation by incorporating advanced nuclear reactor technologies. R&D efforts are expected to bring about innovation that enables the deployment of newer, more advanced nuclear reactors. The benefits of advanced nuclear technologies include increased operating temperatures leading to cogeneration, improved safety, the flexibility to react to changes in electricity demand, and smaller, more modular designs. Advanced nuclear reactors are mechanically and operationally simpler than conventional nuclear reactors. Operationally, they have more passive safety systems, involve more natural circulation, and contain fewer components than the existing (mainly pressurized water and boiling water) reactors. 

The current and near-term electric power supplied by nuclear energy delivers low carbon energy against the backdrop of climate change, with the knowledge that the power generation sector has historically been a top pollutant. However, moving forward with advanced nuclear technology does require the industry to overcome several key challenges around cost overruns; available technology; training, operations, and maintenance; an outdated regulatory framework; and social/public perception and discourse. With advancements in nuclear reactor technology, operational capabilities, safety measures, regulatory frameworks, and available funding, nuclear could see a promising future in its role of electric power generation.