Skip to Content

U.S. Government Wants to Jump-Start Next-Generation Nuclear Reactors

The Department of Energy’s $82 million in funding is a small step in commercializing advanced reactors, and much more is needed.

Attempting to jump-start technology that could provide abundant, zero-carbon energy, the Department of Energy just announced $82 million in funding for advanced nuclear reactor research and development. A total of 93 projects will receive funding “that will help push innovative nuclear technologies toward commercialization and into the market,” the department said in a statement.

It’s not a ton of money, considering that developing new reactor technology will cost billions. But it’s the most tangible sign yet of U.S. support for advanced nuclear technology being developed on American soil. About $7 million in funding and technical assistance will come under the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear initiative, which is designed to streamline the process for private companies to win approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for new reactors. The lengthy and expensive NRC licensing process has caused several new nuclear startups to look overseas to license and build their reactors. The companies receiving GAIN awards include GE Hitachi, Westinghouse, Terrestrial Energy USA, and Transatomic Power Corporation. Terrestrial Energy has also received a grant from the Canadian government to build a prototype of its integral molten salt reactor.

Nearly half the money will go to universities to fund basic research on the challenges around developing new nuclear technology, including materials science, nuclear waste disposal, advanced manufacturing techniques, and fuel fabrication.

This week’s announcement is important, but it’s not nearly enough to bring new nuclear plants online in time to limit climate change. The International Energy Agency says that global nuclear capacity needs to more than double, to 930 gigawatts, by midcentury in order to play a significant role in limiting global warming.

While countries such as China and India have embarked on major nuclear plant construction programs, most new plants are based on conventional technology that was developed in the 1970s. Such plants have long been plagued with cost overruns, public opposition, and safety concerns. A new generation of nuclear reactors could address those problems. This week’s funding marks a small first step in developing and commercializing those reactors.

(Read more: “White House Strikes a Blow for Advanced Nuclear Reactors”)

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.