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U.S. backs project for small nuclear reactors via CNN

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Unlike current designs, the units — shorthanded as SMRs — are designed to be installed underground instead of being located inside towering concrete buildings. They could run longer on the same nuclear fuel, and additional reactors could be added in a “plug and play” fashion, said Paul Genoa of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s trade association.

“You don’t have to build a 1,000- or 1,500-megawatt power plant and hope that demand catches up,” said Genoa, the NEI’s senior director of policy development. “You can build chunks of power to more closely meet your demand curve.”

Nuclear plants provide about 20% of the U.S. electric power supply, but most of the 104 operating reactors date back to the 1960s and ’70s. The Obama administration has supported the construction of the first new reactors since the 1979 partial meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island plant, providing $8 billion in federal support for two nuclear power plants in Georgia.

The industry and the Energy Department say that would make SMRs a good choice for small utilities. But the designs are still under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, whose approval is the worldwide “gold seal,” Genoa said.

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