Welcome to “New Nuclear,” a blog following legal and policy issues pertaining to the development of next generation nuclear power reactors in the United States. This blog is written by lawyers from Hogan Lovells who work in the nuclear industry, believe in its mission, and are passionate about seeing the nuclear dream of ubiquitous, affordable, safe, reliable, zero-carbon energy come to pass. We hope what we write about will be useful to designers and technical leaders trying to stay up to date on legal developments that affect them, but we also want our posts to help inform members of the public interested in nuclear power generally.
More about “New Nuclear” and its authors can be found in our About page. We have been at this for a while, writing on legal issues dealing with next-generation nuclear power technologies on the Hogan Lovells’ Focus on Regulation blog for some time—many of those posts have been transferred over to our new platform. But for the inaugural post of the new blog, we wanted answer a simple question: what is “New Nuclear”?
It is known to many that nuclear power generates roughly 60% of the United States’ zero-carbon energy, is a reliable source of power that can operate in conditions that require other plants to shut down, and provides for thousands of high-paying jobs. But what is perhaps less known is that today’s nuclear industry is undergoing dramatic change behind the scenes. It is being reinvigorated by dozens of new entrants, large and small, each bringing new designs and new purpose to what used to be an sector dominated in the United States, and for the most part globally, by only two reactor designs—generally known as pressurized water reactors (PWRs) and boiling water reactors (BWRs). Both designs use fundamentally the same reactor technology that relies on water cooling, active power core cooling systems and plant construction on-site.
In the United States and around the world today, there are well over fifty new ventures to develop nuclear power reactors, covering a variety of designs. Some are government, some privately-funded. Some want to use liquid metal coolants, and some want to use gaseous helium. Some want to have liquid uranium (or thorium) fuel, and some want to use nuclear waste as fuel. There are numerous fusion ventures as well. These ventures have moved from the whiteboard to the machine shop. Terrapower, which promises to use nuclear waste to power its reactors, is supported by Bill Gates and has garnered multiple rounds of financing. NuScale, which promotes a factory-built-and-shipped small modular reactor design, has submitted a design certification application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Lightbridge, which is debuting a completely new type of uranium fuel rod, is publicly listed and has entered into joint development agreements with large nuclear service providers. Tri Alpha Energy has raised 500 million dollars for its fusion energy start-up.
What they all have in common, and what “New Nuclear” covers, is that they are all firsts in nuclear power. There are a number of outlets that cover important events affecting the current fleet of nuclear power reactors or the industry generally, such as the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Nuclear Notes. We aim to serve as a legal-focused complement covering activities and events that could affect first-movers like those above, in the United States and around the world. We hope it will be useful to those that participate in this area, and enjoyable for everyone.
If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact the authors.