Informal survey asks when the next U.S. nuclear plant will come on line

January 23, 2024, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe


According to an admittedly informal and unscientific survey of people from online “nuclear affinity groups” conducted by Eric Wesoff, the editorial director for clean energy newsroom Canary Media, there is no consensus regarding when the next nuclear power plant will come on line in the United States. Wesoff recently reported that upon polling his nuclear-connected network on LinkedIn, X, and Reddit, he found that “the responses were all over the map.”

Nuclear renaissance? Wesoff was prompted to try his survey about the expected date for the next nuclear plant because “conditions are perfect for the American nuclear renaissance.” He cited strong support for the nuclear industry from the Department of Energy as well as from public opinion polls and online “influencers.” He thought therefore that he would find confident predictions for when the next new U.S. reactor would go on line. Instead, he found uncertainty and varied responses.

Top responses: The leading answer Wesoff received was for the reopening of Michigan’s Palisades plant, which was closed in 2022 due to financial problems and is currently slated for decommissioning. The next most common responses were for the startup of TerraPower’s Natrium sodium-cooled fast reactor in Wyoming and the Tennessee Valley Authority’s deployment of a GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 small modular reactor.

Additional possibilities, according to Wesoff’s survey responses, include the microreactors at the heart of the DOE’s MARVEL project and the Department of Defense’s Project Pele, as well as those being advanced by Aalo Atomics and Oklo; X-energy’s high-temperature, gas-cooled SMR at the Dow site in Texas; a NuScale Power SMR; and Kairos Power’s Hermes fluoride salt–cooled test reactor.

Palisades: In the article, Wesoff offered his evaluations about these survey predictions. He noted that Holtec International has announced plans to restart the shuttered Palisades plant by the end of 2025. If that happens, it would mark the first time that a U.S. nuclear plant was reopened after being closed for decommissioning. However, Wesoff noted that Holtec lacks experience in operating nuclear power plants.

TerraPower: As for TerraPower’s Natrium reactor, Wesoff reminded his readers that Russia is currently the only commercial supplier of the HALEU fuel needed for this reactor. He added that Centrus Energy began demonstration-scale enrichment operations for HALEU fuel at its Piketon, Ohio, facility last October.

TVA: TVA’s plans for a GE-Hitachi light water SMR at the Clinch River site may benefit from “a shorter path to market than the advanced designs developed by Natrium, X-energy, and Oklo,” in Wesoff’s opinion.

No single answer: “No one seems to have a convincing answer” for when the next nuclear power plant will come on line in the United States, was the conclusion of Wesoff’s informal survey.

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