Traditional nuclear power is bogged down by cost overruns and concerns about safety and waste. But does it have to be that way? Could we deploy scaleable reactors that are cheaper, safer, and that produce less waste? Advanced nuclear startups in the U.S. certainly think so.
In this episode, guest host Lara Pierpoint speaks with Jake DeWitte, co-founder and CEO of Oklo, one of many advanced nuclear companies that have emerged in recent years.
Lara and Jake survey the polarized landscape of nuclear development, with many countries shutting down plants and others planning to open new ones. They discuss the main problems with traditional nuclear, and examine some new ways companies are attempting to solve them.
They focus on the technologies that Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and microreactors could use, including liquid metal, liquid salt, and gas-cooled options, as well as fast reactors. They also talk about nuclear waste recycling, safer self-cooling designs, and nuclear direct heating.
Lara asks: Can advanced nuclear reactors scale in time to make a dent in global emissions? Jake says, in the medium term, yes. To get there, he says we need to build reactors like we build cars, planes, and wind turbines: by simplifying designs, pre-fabricating modules and taking advantage of existing supply chains. This modular approach could open up new business models, like nuclear as a service, and new financing options, like the power purchase agreements common in renewable energy.
But how will regulators respond? Just recently the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission rejected Oklo’s application to build and operate the company’s Aurora compact fast reactor in Idaho. Lara and Jake break down the decision and what it means for the future of advanced nuclear in the US.
Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you’re a startup, investor, enterprise, or innovation ecosystem that’s creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more.
Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world – with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nextracker.com/sustainability to learn more.