Though most of the 99 operating nuclear reactors in the United States are likely to be retired by 2050, only four new nuclear plants are currently under construction. Since nuclear accounts for 20 percent of all U.S. electricity generation, significant new investment in nuclear generating technology is needed if the United States and the world are to keep a key source of no-carbon power generation. Doing so will require addressing cost, safety, waste, and proliferation concerns and a keen assessment of new reactor designs, technology development needs, new business models, and regulatory barriers.
This grant provides partial support to MIT to examine the potential of alternative nuclear generation technologies from cost, safety, reliability, waste, and proliferation perspectives. The study will also examine the associated research and development needs, regulatory reforms, and industrial support infrastructure needed to commercialize these new technologies. A faculty committee of top researchers from multiple disciplines has been assembled for the study, including Jacopo Buongiorno, Dennis Whyte, and Richard Lester of MIT and Michael Corradini of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. David Petti, of Idaho National Laboratory, will oversee the operational and management dimensions of the study as its executive director. An expert advisory board comprised of senior scholars and practitioners in the field will provide regular oversight of the overall project. The study is a crucial and necessary step in evaluating what role nuclear should play in the future of U.S. electricity generation.