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Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Next Generation Nuclear Reactors

The following report was prepared and published by our sister platform SPEEDA—May 2023.

Trend Overview

Next-Generation Nuclear Reactors Recognised for Improved Safety and Cost Efficiency but Environmental Concerns Remain

Nuclear power is a fast-growing field in the energy sector, garnering global attention in recent years for its potential as a low-carbon energy solution, with the EU conditionally recognising nuclear power as a “green” source of energy and a number of countries beginning to reconsider their energy policies in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Such developments, meanwhile, have led to a greater push for the development of next-generation nuclear reactors, including a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on joint development signed by TerraPower (USA)—led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates—and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (JPN) in 2022. In addition to impacting the extensive supply chains topped by manufacturers of heavy electrical equipment, the emergence of next-generation nuclear reactors could potentially offer a new avenue for decarbonisation to whole countries and separate corporations that have previously been hesitant to adopt nuclear power for various reasons.
While the definition of next-generation nuclear reactors remains unspecific, it generally encompasses small modular reactors (SMRs), which are significantly smaller than conventional nuclear reactors, and improved Generation IV (Gen IV) reactors that use new types of fuel. Compared to conventional nuclear reactors, these reactors are expected to address the issues facing the entire energy field, as they have been improved to tackle the key “3E+S” focus area of Japan’s energy policy (3E+S = Energy Security, Economic Efficiency, Environment + Safety), with a particular focus on the areas of safety and economic efficiency. However, opinion is easily divided on the environmental friendliness of next-generation nuclear reactors, owing to concerns surrounding nuclear waste and the threat of radioactive contamination in the event of an accident.
This report will take a closer look at the types and features of various next-generation nuclear reactors under development. It will also examine trends in recent government policies and the possibilities and outlook for the use of next-generation nuclear reactors as a source of energy.

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