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Small reactors called U.S. nuclear future

  |   Dec. 13, 2011 at 6:59 PM
CHICAGO, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- The future of U.S. nuclear power generation could lie in small, modular reactors rather than the giant facilities common today, energy researchers say.

A report by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago assessed the economic feasibility of classical, gigawatt-scale reactors and a possible new generation of modular reactors.

Small modular reactors, or SMRs, would have a generating capacity of 600 megawatts or less. They would be factory-built as modular components and then shipped to their desired location for assembly, a University of Chicago release said Tuesday.

"Clearly, a robust commercial SMR industry is highly advantageous to many sectors in the United States," the report said.

"It would be a huge stimulus for high-valued job growth, restore U.S. leadership in nuclear reactor technology and, most importantly, strengthen U.S. leadership in a post-Fukushima world, on matters of nuclear safety, nuclear security, nonproliferation, and nuclear waste management," it said, referring to the nuclear crisis in Japan where an earthquake and tsunami severely damaged a nuclear power plant.

The economic viability of small modular reactors would depend partly on how quickly manufacturers can learn to build them efficiently, the head of the policy institute said.

"The faster you learn, the better off you are in the long term because you get to the point where you actually start making money faster," Robert Rosner said.

Getting the first modular reactors built would likely require the federal government to step up as the first customer, he said.

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