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Climate change and energy

Small nuclear reactors—now with 20 percent more power!

NuScale Power announced today that its small modular nuclear reactors can generate 20 percent more power than the company initially estimated.

Big news for small nukes: The Oregon-based firm hasn’t said much about how the reactors achieved their gains—something about “advanced testing and modeling tools.” But it insists its first planned plant, slated to be built in the next few years, will reap the benefits of the upgrade.

How small is “small”? NuScale Power’s reactors are about 74 feet tall and 15 feet wide—actually a lot smaller than traditional nukes (that’s a traditional plant pictured above), but you still definitely need a crane to lift them.

Why it matters: SMRs, as they’re called, could be a BFD. NuScale’s reactors were the first new designs to reach the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s formal review process in decades. And SMRs in general promise a future in which nuclear power is cheap and easy to export around the world, without fear of weaponization (though admittedly it’s a dream that’s been long deferred). For its part, NuScale says its advance will save costs and put SMRs on a more level playing field with other energy sources.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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