U.S. Department of Energy rushes to build advanced new nuclear reactors

May 20, 2020

In the latest effort to revive the United States’s flagging nuclear industry, the country’s Department of Energy (DOE) is aiming to select and help build two new prototype nuclear reactors within 7 years. The reactors would be the centerpiece of DOE’s new Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, which will receive $230 million this fiscal year. Each would be built as a 50-50 collaboration with an industrial partner and ultimately could receive up to $4 billion in funding from DOE.

But some observers say the initiative is unrealistic. Science Magazine interviewed incoming 2020 Wall Scholar M.V. Ramana, who says DOE officials may struggle to identify the most promising of the many disparate designs and that the 7-year time frame strains credulity.

Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security and Director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs. As a Wall Scholar, he hopes to explore nuclear energy from many different directions and intellectual perspectives to come up with a comprehensive and interdisciplinary picture of the nuclear energy sector, and engage policy making more generally.