The Global Nuclear Landscape Is Changing And America Better Get On Board – Forbes

You wouldn’t know it from the press, but nuclear energy is actually moving forward around the world, even in the United States. Third Way recently surveyed the North American landscape and found 60 companies and research organizations developing advanced nuclear technologies.

Figure Caption: The advanced nuclear landscape includes over a hundred advanced nuclear reactor projects under development in more than 20 countries, including small modular, molten salt, pebble bad and others.

Even more surprising, is that there are 81 advanced nuclear reactor projects in 20 other countries (see figures). The United States leads in the number of technologies being developed, and there is little doubt our designs are better, so why do we seem to be behind in the race to capture the nuclear market?

Most U.S. developers compete with foreign companies that have their governments as backers and investors and who clear the way for them politically and regulatorily, hoping to get their designs into the global marketplace ahead of everyone else.

The U.S. government needs to get on board with this, and help our companies, for a few really good reasons.

We did nuclear first, we did it most and we did it best.

Sixty years ago, the United States began the civilian nuclear power industry. Exporting nuclear technologies and reactors gave the U.S. significant economic and national security leverage. It enabled us to establish the fundamental nuclear safety standards that have made nuclear the safest of all energy sources. The standards that almost everyone else in the world that has nuclear power follows today.

This leadership provided major benefits to the American economy and our foreign policy interests. But over the past two decades, the U.S. has lost its ability to compete in the global market, even as climate change and energy-hungry developing nations make civilian nuclear power even more important.

Instead, China and Russia are moving to become the global leaders. This would have grave consequences for our country and for global security. The post-WWII world order based primarily on American democratic principles and supported by our economic and military power is changing. China threatens our economic power and Russia is testing our military and security abilities.

This is not a time to relinquish our lead in nuclear energy.

While our companies continue to offer top-tier goods and services, the low-cost, ‘sign and go’ financing packages being offered by state-owned foreign competitors are slowly pushing America out of this multi-billion dollar global market.

Reactors Planned and Under Construction by Home Country Vendor, as of October 2015. ROW = Rest of World. These totals include reactor deals that are currently being negotiated as well as domestic projects.

Source: World Nuclear Association.

Reactors Planned and Under Construction by Home Country Vendor, as of October 2015. ROW = Rest of World. These totals include reactor deals that are currently being negotiated as well as domestic projects.

Figure Caption: Reactors Planned and Under Construction by Home Country Vendor, as of October 2015. ROW = Rest of World. These totals include reactor deals that are currently being negotiated as well as domestic projects.

The global market for nuclear reactors is at least $75 billion per year, even more if you include lucrative fuel and maintenance contracts (see figure). American products use to dominate this sector, but Russia, Korea, and China have passed us. The U.S. could easily compete for these billion-dollar contracts using advanced reactors. This would employ tens of thousands of American engineers, manufacturers, and tradesmen, and open up entirely new markets for the United States. But only if we move fast to finish development and construction of these new designs.

Advanced reactors are key to this effort because they simultaneously solve the problems of safety, security and cost.

We have led the development of international non-proliferation standards but as our global market share dwindles, so too does our ability to influence agreements that effect national and international security.

The U.S. must reprioritize American nuclear exports as a key element of its domestic and foreign policy. We need to re-establish leadership in civilian nuclear power in Washington D.C., provide new financing tools for civilian nuclear exports, and invest in innovative nuclear technologies.

Ceding the upper hand on nuclear security to Russia is concerning enough. But each new reactor Russia builds outside of its borders creates an influential, century-long relationship with that country. Vladimir Putin has demonstrated his willingness to use this international influence over energy, with both nuclear and Oil&Gas, to advance his strategic goals at the expense of the West.

But as the recent Saudi-U.S. Oil War has shown, America’s innovation infrastructure is unparalleled. New nuclear technologies have the potential to help the world meet its climate goals, and help the U.S. regain its leadership in global markets and international negotiations.

But only if Washington helps get our most promising technologies over the finish line in time.

This is not a trivial issue. The Department of Commerce predicts that global demand for nuclear energy technology will total $500‐$740 billion over the next decade. The International Energy Agency expect the world’s nuclear capacity to double by 2050, as developing economies try to keep pace with growing energy demand and most nations turn increasingly to low-carbon sources to meet emission targets. Capturing even a portion of a market this size would produce enormous rewards for American businesses and workers.

Also of interest for the United States, nuclear collaborations create strong geopolitical ties between the selling country and the host country, a commitment lasting as long as the life of the project – often between fifty and a hundred years.

The good news is, we’re well positioned to deliver these new nuclear technologies and are further along in their development than China and Russia, though both countries will soon overtake us if we fail to act.

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow – The GeoPolitics Of The Global Nuclear Landscape

Dr. James Conca is an expert on energy, nuclear and dirty bombs, a planetary geologist, and a professional speaker. Follow him on Twitter @jimconca and see his book at Amazon.com

The Global Nuclear Landscape Is Changing And America Better Get On Board – Forbes

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