Thought Leadership

Optimism and Expectations High at International SMR and Advanced Reactor Summit

Category: News & Events
James Carter • April 6, 2018

Optimism for the nuclear sector’s future was felt throughout last week’s annual International SMR and Advanced Reactor Summit. That enthusiasm offset the recent bad news, including the canceling of the V.C. Summer project and additional threatened nuclear plant shutdowns in the U.S.

The conference, hosted by Nuclear Energy Insider, was truly global in scope. More than 250 people, including CEOs and executives, attended. Advanced reactor developers were present to tout their designs and potential owner/developers provided encouragement to advance these designs to commercially viable projects.

In addition to strong U.S. attendance, representatives from Canada – including utilities, government entities, trade organizations, contractors, consultants, engineers, and others – demonstrated significant interest in and support for SMRs there.

The presence of representatives from countries such Australia, Great Britain, Czech Republic, Argentina, and China indicated robust interest from those areas as well.

It’s clear that the industry has lofty expectations for SMR and advanced reactor technologies to succeed as cost-effective, safe, and reliable sources of baseload carbon-free power and process heat.

This is for good reason. The size and safety features of SMRs are well-suited for deployment at retired coal plant sites, in remote areas, near populated areas, and in areas with limited transmission capacity.

But there was also a strong recognition among conference attendees of the need to produce operating SMRs without budget overruns and schedule delays. My presentation, Avoiding Errors of Past Nuclear Projects when Deploying SMRs, appeared to resonate with the audience for this reason.

After I spoke, many attendees related their experiences in past nuclear projects and acknowledged the need to address the issues I discussed. One audience member asked if the nuclear industry has learned the lessons of the past yet. I had to answer candidly that no, I do not believe it has.

However, I remain hopeful that it can. A speaker from Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) told the audience that the organization plans to focus on reducing construction cost. Modus hopes to work alongside NEI with that important and achievable endeavor.

Advanced nuclear technologies are real and very promising. I believe that developers’ ability to stay in the game over a long and costly period of design, testing, licensing and deployment will determine the winners in the advanced reactor market.

At the same time, the industry’s ability to bring these technologies to market on time and within their budgets will determine whether they live up to their true potential as reliable sources of energy.