Companies interested in building small-scale nuclear reactors are getting attention at the Department of Energy (DOE) after Secretary of Energy Rick Perry endorsed the idea in a speech in late September, the Washington Examiner reports.
Perry spoke of the concept in a speech to the National Clean Energy Week conference. He said the crisis in Puerto Rico showed the potential benefits of creating a transportable, long lasting source of energy.
Small reactors could serve tens of thousands of people “very quickly,” helping the island recover from “maybe one of the most tragic events in history,” Perry said according to the Washington Examiner.
Aside from their convenience during a disaster like a hurricane, small nuclear power reactors are also a way of cutting capital costs and supplying power to remote area from large power grids, according to the World Nuclear Association (WNA).
Former President George W. Bush’s assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations William C. Anderson was one of the tech’s earliest supporters.
“Any time you have one of these natural disasters, these kinds of discussions [over small nuclear reactors] seem to rear their ugly head. I mean that in a good way. This is a good conversation to have,” Anderson told the Washington Examiner. “Secretary Perry may be on to something here in terms of looking at this for natural disaster relief.”
Licensing and regulations are currently major roadblocks for development. Most attempts at building mini reactors haven’t proceeded past the blueprint phase, according to the WNA.
While the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is mainly responsible for holding back any further development, the commission “is talking to several potential reactor designers in what we term ‘pre-application’ activities,” NRC spokesman Scott Burnell told the Washington Examiner.
“The secretary can move the attention from one place to another and it sounds like Secretary Perry has decided that this is a really important area for [the Energy Department] to consider,” Anderson said.
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