New, smaller nuclear reactors could be the future of clean energy

Intel’s decision to invest billions of dollars in Ohio for a high-quality, world-class manufacturing facility is great news for Buckeye State.

Looking for a location to install a major facility with national security products serving a global market valued at hundreds of billions of dollars for the foreseeable future, Intel settled on the crossroads of the Midwest and Appalachia, an abundance of skilled workers, favorable tax conditions and a history of manufacturing strength.

This announcement and Ohio’s status as a manufacturing leader presents an opportunity in an industry in a similar situation: clean energy – not wind or solar, but advanced nuclear power.

The United States has pledged to have a 100% clean electricity grid in place within 13 years. By then, fossil fuels – which represent 60% of our electricity production – will have to be replaced or have their emissions completely offset. We must continue to build renewable sources as quickly as possible, but eliminating emissions from electricity and transportation will require an extraordinary investment in our most reliable clean energy source.

Existing nuclear reactors are operating at more than 90% capacity, compared to 25-35% for renewables, and support half a million jobs with high wages and taxes that support robust local economies across the country .

Continued: Column: Ohio needs laws and regulators that support renewable energy

New nuclear reactors, usually referred to as small modular reactors, are related to traditional power plants like those at Davis-Besse and Perry, but are factory-built, flexible and capable of direct replacement for fossil fuel-fired power plants, bringing new jobs to high coal wages. cities and serving as economic sources for a century or more. Fortunately, Ohio already has an advantage in this developing market. Ohio manufactures small modular reactors for the US Navy.

The Navy has operated dozens of small, flexible modular reactors – turning teenage recruits into operators in just over a year – and has done so since the 1950s. The fact that we trust our sons and daughters to depend on these systems and live alongside them should be the only information any American needs to support their use.

Ohio’s long history of manufacturing reactors that power our ships makes it a de facto competitor to manufacture the reactors that will plug directly into shutting down fossil fuel power plants.

The momentum is already underway for new nuclear. Our neighbors Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia recently passed laws making them available for new nuclear energy. The coal town of Kemmerer, Wyoming will soon be home to a new reactor designed to store energy while burning nuclear waste. Alaska and Tennessee are implementing new construction.

Continued: Letter: State Energy Policy Must Prioritize Renewable Projects

Rolls Royce, the manufacturer of naval reactors in the United Kingdom, is currently looking for a manufacturing site for the small modular reactors in this country. Russia and China, arguably 15 years ahead of their nuclear technologies, are rapidly deploying new nuclear power plants and making economic deals with countries around the world that want nuclear power. Of more than 50 reactors under construction worldwide, only one is of American design.

Ending climate change in a way that does not completely disrupt the global economy will require a lot of nuclear energy and, as always, investments in innovative commercial technologies will have military significance.

Countries leading this effort have the upper hand in securing national security prerogatives, deciding safety standards and claiming a slice of the economic pie as capital from fossil fuels migrates to clean technologies.

The early engagement of organizations such as the Ohio Manufacturers Association and the Ohio Department of Development with reactor suppliers such as General Electric, X-Energy, BWXT and NuScale Power will ensure that Ohio is the leader in leader in the manufacture and deployment of clean energy. Ohio universities, community colleges and trade schools will play a central role in this effort.

Continued: Federal regulators launch special inspection of Davis-Besse nuclear power plant

When Ohioans think of nuclear power, the first thing to think about is legislation like the Fission for the Future Act of 2021 (Senate Bill 3428). Our manufacturers, energy workers and educators are on the verge of completely rebuilding the middle class and literally saving the world in the process.

Randall Reames is a nuclear engineer working in the global supply chain industry and a former quality engineer for the US Navy Reactor Program in Barberton, Ohio.

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