Perry wants DOE to support small modular nuclear reactors

SMRs are a kind of fission reactor that use a smaller scale than conventional nuclear power plants

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Energy Secretary Rick Perry told lawmakers Thursday he wants to help revive the U.S. nuclear power industry with a focus on small modular nuclear reactors.

The former Texas governor testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources primarily on his department's budget request, but touched upon topics such as nuclear power, cybersecurity and energy research and development.

The budget provides $703 million for nuclear energy, $313 million below the FY 2017 level, to continue innovating new and improved ways to generate nuclear power, Perry said according to a transcript of his prepared remarks.

Perry noted the DOE spent $390 million on supporting small modular reactors over the past 5 years, and also approved Oregon-based NuScale Power's application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The DOE has closed its SMR Licensing Technical Support program, Perry said, because the program achieved the goal of commercializing SMR technology.

SMRs are a kind of fission reactor that use a smaller scale than conventional nuclear power plants. They are fabricated at a manufacturing facility and brought to a site to be constructed.

Proponents say SMRs are easier to build, safer, produce less waste and are more cost effective. The technology is still in the experimental stages, however.

"Given the ongoing promise of SMR technology, the FY 2018 budget includes $20 million for early-stage R&D supporting advanced SMR designs," Perry told the committee.

The budget also funds renewable energy, advanced fossil fuel technology, battery energy storage, energy efficiency, next-generation transportation, fusion energy science, cybersecurity, electricity delivery and advanced computing, among other things.

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