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Small Reactors Could Charge Trucks, Save Money

Refueling electric cargo and other heavy-duty trucks with small nuclear reactors would save the U.S. almost $2 billion annually, according to Department of Energy–backed research cited by E&E News’ ENERGYWIRE (subscription).

What’s going on: “A study, published last year in Applied Energy [and conducted by the University of Michigan], calculated potential nationwide savings of nearly $2 billion annually from installing on-site small modular reactors at hypothetical long-haul truck-charging stations as part of a distributed energy strategy.”

  • Instead of solely tapping into the electric grid, power supplies for the transport vehicles would include nuclear, solar and battery power, according to the study.

Why it’s important: Small modular reactors can be used to service smaller electricity grids.

  • “‘If you’ve got this new source of demand for electricity, and if it’s oftentimes in the middle of the country where … you don’t have lots of electrical power infrastructure around already, that could be a nice place to put a small modular reactor,’ [University of Michigan Assistant Professor Michael] Craig said.”
  • The Nuclear Energy Regulatory Commission certified the first U.S. small modular reactor design, by NuScale Power, just a few weeks ago.

However … Electrification of heavy-duty vehicles is still in its infancy.

  • “As of 2021, the International Energy Agency estimated that just 0.1 percent of the global heavy-duty truck fleet had been electrified.”

The NAM’s take: “Nuclear energy is critical as we pursue a clean-energy economy,” said NAM Director of Policy Energy and Resources Chris Morris.

  • “We must continue to bring the next generation of nuclear technologies to scale and integrate them into the grid. Small modular nuclear reactors provide dynamic options in terms of generating and supporting clean energy. Policymakers should streamline the permitting, siting and licensing of clean nuclear technologies.”
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