First "Small Modular" Nuclear Reactors Planned for Tennessee
A U.S. government-supported project in Tennessee seeks to launch a new kind of nuclear plant—a "small modular reactor." Can downsizing address both cost and safety concerns?
Once before, there was an effort to hatch a nuclear power breakthrough along the Clinch River, which happens to meander through the U.S. government's largest science and technology campus, Oak Ridge, on its path from the Appalachian Mountains to the Tennessee River.
In the 1970s, the U.S. government and private industry partners sought to build the nation's first commercial-scale "fast breeder" reactor here, an effort abandoned amid concerns about costs and safety. Today, nuclear energy's future still hinges on the same two issues, and advocates argue that SMRs provide the best hope of delivering new nuclear plants that are both affordable and protective of people and the environment. And even amid Washington, D.C.'s budget angst, there was bipartisan support for a