Advanced Nuclear Technology Will Bring Critical Climate and Energy Benefits to America’s Future Clean Energy System

Bold investments in advanced nuclear energy will foster technological innovation, secure American leadership in international nuclear markets, foster high-quality American energy jobs, and support national energy security and electric grid resilience, while improving environmental health and accelerating U.S. climate action.

Advance nuclear energy


Berkeley, Calif., July 06 10, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Today, the Breakthrough Institute released a groundbreaking new report detailing how the deployment of advanced nuclear technology will bring clear climate and energy benefits to the United States in a transition to a clean energy system.

The report, Advancing Nuclear Energy: Evaluating Deployment, Investment, and Impact In America’s Clean Energy Future, concludes:

  • There is strong demand for advanced nuclear in a lower-cost decarbonization pathway for the U.S. power sector, provided political and policy hurdles can be overcome.

  • The demand for advanced nuclear power is strong and inelastic across a wide range of constraining cost scenarios, showing that advanced nuclear power can bring high value to the grid.

  • Advanced nuclear power complements and balances the variable output of other clean energy sources, including wind and solar, to reliably meet the electricity needs of the United States.

  • The successful commercialization of advanced nuclear reactors could lower the total cost as the United States transitions to a clean energy system.

  • Advanced nuclear reactors could provide other essential benefits such as process heat, high-quality jobs, hydrogen production and a transition for communities from fossil fuels

For years, advanced nuclear power has been proposed as a key clean energy solution. As a result of conversations between the Breakthrough Institute and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Lending Programs, this report assesses the potential role of advanced nuclear power in a future clean energy system. This report is the first to calculate, using Vibrant Clean Energy’s WIS:dom-P model, the specifics of how the deployment of several new advanced reactor technologies can be achieved.

Unlike previous modeling work, this report leverages the latest unpublished project cost projections while accounting for deployment-related cost improvements, planned and expected demonstration projects, and technology-specific operational parameters. The research used a national, high-resolution model of the U.S. electricity sector to demonstrate how advanced nuclear power features provide significant value in transitioning the electric grid to clean energy sources by 2050.

Report authors available for interview
Click here to read the full report and factsheet

Dr. Adam Stein, Director of Innovation in Nuclear Energy: “This report provides a more comprehensive and realistic estimate of the potential for advanced nuclear power in a decarbonized energy system. Typically, the reports do not account for advanced nuclear reactors at all, and if they do, it is the operational capabilities that are modeled in the same way as conventional reactors. This study goes beyond typical limitations by considering the characteristics and costs of several categories of advanced reactors to estimate upper and lower bounds for the deployment of advanced reactors in a decarbonized U.S. power sector. We find that when these characteristics of advanced reactors are taken into account, they can provide a large portion of electricity in all boundary scenarios while enabling variable clean energy sources like wind and solar, and reducing overall system costs.

Jonah Messinger, Energy Analyst: “This study uses many innovative methods to rigorously assess the potential role of advanced nuclear power on a low-carbon grid. We are the first to incorporate endogenous learning for advanced nuclear units into a complete power system model, where subsequent deployments decrease in cost as more reactors are installed, as opposed to predetermined cost reduction assumptions. We find that a clean electricity system strongly enhances the characteristics of advanced nuclear, even in scenarios with high and unprecedented costs. »

Advanced nuclear deployment and capital investment:

This modeling study shows that a clean energy transition in the United States incorporating advanced nuclear power could require cumulative capital investments for the construction of advanced nuclear power plants on the order of $150 billion to $220 billion. by 2035, reaching a total of $830–1.1 trillion by 2050 (Figure 2). Early capital investment and learning-by-doing results in substantial reductions in project costs and levelized electricity costs for advanced nuclear technologies, driving large-scale deployment of new reactors nationwide .

Widespread commercial deployment of the advanced reactors in this study begins in the early 2030s and rapidly accelerates as the electricity sector expands over time, potentially supplying around 20-48% of national electricity generation. clean electricity in 2050, which would be 1,400 to 3,600 terawatt hours. per year (TWh/year). Total deployed national advanced nuclear capacity reaches 19–48 gigawatts electric (GWe) in 2035, accumulates to 54–150 GWe in 2040, and increases to 190–470 GWe by 2050.

The economic and climate benefits of advanced deployment of nuclear power potentially include the following:

  • An energy transition in the United States that incorporates advanced nuclear power can help reduce the costs of a future national clean energy system.

  • The low-emission heat and steam from advanced nuclear power plants can provide reliable, clean power to hard-to-decarbonise sectors such as heavy industry and chemicals.

  • Clean advanced nuclear reactors can refuel fossil fuel power plants using readily available infrastructure, increasing economic investments and promoting a just transition for local communities.

  • A prosperous future nuclear sector will create new job opportunities in the manufacture, construction, operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants, creating between 74,000 and 223,000 permanent jobs in operation and maintenance by 2050 alone .

  • The successful demonstration and commercialization of advanced nuclear energy will competitively position the United States as a clean technology leader at a critical time in the global transition to clean energy.

How barriers to advanced deployment of nuclear power can potentially be overcome:

  • Immediate capital investment can improve the potential for cost reduction and overall domestic market opportunities.

  • Avoiding cost overruns on early projects and improving costs over time will increase the speed and scale of advanced nuclear deployment.

  • The development of supply chains for the manufacture of fuels and components is essential for the large-scale deployment of advanced nuclear reactors.

  • New federal regulatory frameworks being developed and the streamlining of existing rules will be key to ensuring the timely licensing and construction of new advanced nuclear projects.

  • Lifting state-level moratoriums and restrictions on nuclear projects will expand market opportunities and attract new capital investment to states that reform existing legislation.

Opportunities for public policy support include the following:

  • Federal loan guarantees.

  • Pre-qualification of environmental impact and feasibility studies.

  • Modernization of licensing regulations and fee reform.

  • Technology neutral clean energy tax credits.

  • Inclusion of nuclear energy in the national clean energy portfolio standards.

  • Export support for advanced nuclear projects.

Report authors: Dr. Adam Stein, Director of Nuclear Energy Innovation, Jonah Messinger, Energy Analyst, Seaver Wang, Co-Director of Climate and Energy, Juzel Lloyd, Climate and Energy Analyst, and Rani Franovich, Senior Policy Advisor.


About the Revolutionary Institute
The Breakthrough Institute is an environmental research center based in Berkeley, California. Our research focuses on identifying and promoting technological solutions to environmental and human development challenges in three areas: energy, conservation, food and agriculture.


CONTACT: Sean Trambley Breakthrough Institute (925)250-3174 [email protected]