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Construction at Vogtle Nuclear Plant

Nuclear Energy Innovation Big and Small Important to Climate Change

In the last week, two news stories really captured the potential future for nuclear energy. The New York Times Matthew Wald reported from Georgia, where construction crews are slowly building the first two new nuclear reactors in thirty years. And National Geographic’s Will Ferguson reported from Tennessee that engineers and scientists are taking core samples and mapping regional geology as part of the early planning stages of building the first small modular nuclear reactor in the world. Both projects face unique challenges, yet they both represent the beginning of two potential nuclear paths for reducing climate-warming carbon emissions in the United States (and potentially the world).

Big-Box Nuclear Energy Innovation in Georgia

The nuclear generators we are all familiar with is physically recognized by large, curved cooling towers and billowing white steam, and pragmatically recognized as a significant source of carbon-free electricity. Big-box nuclear reactors across the United States provide about 19 percent of all electricity.

But for thirty years, the nuclear energy industry has remained stagnant. Due to a mix of factors including more stringent regulation, rising construction costs, falling fossil fuel prices, and the Three Mile Island meltdown,

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Unanswered EI 2013 Questions on Nuclear and Energy Storage

During the Energy Innovation 2013 conference at the end of January, panel moderators fielded hand-written questions submitted by the audience. Time was limited and many questions went unasked. Fortunately, the moderator of the panel on nuclear power and energy storage, IEEE Spectrum Associate Editor Eliza Strickland, as well as two of her panelists, author Gwyneth Cravens and Ambri CEO Phil Giudice, have since taken the time to respond to a few of them.

What are the cost differences between new nuclear in the U.S. v. China? What explains the difference? What if anything can be learned from China’s nuclear development?


It’s impossible to compare the costs of nuclear development in the US vs China, because the Chinese government is not at all transparent about its nuclear policies or practices. Analysts are forced to cobble together an understanding based on talks at international conferences, articles in the Chinese newspapers, and the occasional official pronouncement. The World Nuclear Association does a great job of keeping track of the situation, and updates its China page regularly:

As for what, if anything, can be learned from China’s example,

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