Harvard Univ., Kennedy School, Belfer Center / by Laura Diaz Anadon, Valentina Bosetti, Matthew Bunn, Michela Catenacci and Audrey Lee (Policy Brief)
- On safety: The Fukushima accident highlights the need for improved preparedness for events beyond the design basis for nuclear reactors, strengthened emergency response, and safer management of spent nuclear fuel. The accident has had an impact on public and investor confidence in nuclear energy, but nuclear power is likely to continue to grow in the most important nuclear markets.
- On RD&D: Major reductions in the cost of nuclear energy are not a major goal of current RD&D programs. Rather, current RD&D programs are targeted on offering new capabilities (such as high-temperature process heat) and improving features such as safety, waste management, sustainability of fuel resources, and proliferation-resistance, while maintaining or improving cost competitiveness.
- On Gen IV: Gen IV systems will probably not be cheaper than Gen III/III+ (or light water reactor, LWR) designs. Instead, their value would come from the generation of by-products (i.e., hydrogen and process heat), the ability to extend uranium resources or minimize nuclear wastes, or from improved safety and proliferation-resistance.
- On small reactors: Small modular reactors (both LWR and Gen IV designs) may or may not be cost competitive with large Gen III/III+ designs, but could have other benefits, such as simpler financing, improved safety, or strengthened proliferation resistance. There was disagreement about their market potential.
- On barriers to large-scale deployment: For nuclear energy to play a major role in meeting the energy challenges of the 21st century, issues going well beyond RD&D need to be addressed, such as public acceptance, waste management, and government support for licensing and financing.