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Future of US energy is in small modular nuke reactors: deputy energy secretary

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette (Mainichi/Kenji Shimizu)

TOKYO -- The future of energy development for the United States government is fuel for small modular nuclear reactors, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette told the Mainichi Shimbun during an interview here on Oct. 22.

Emphasizing that the administration under President Donald Trump sees the smaller nuclear reactors as "the future of nuclear (power)," Brouillette added that the U.S. is hoping to work closely with the Japanese government and nuclear industry to meet these new energy goals.

With the expansion of renewable energy such as solar and wind power and the following drop in the cost of power generation, it is no longer in the U.S. government's best interests to build new large nuclear facilities, which require a longer period of time to construct and a large amount of funds to maintain. Thus, small modular reactors are expected to bring down the cost of power by mass production at factories, and nuclear power companies are looking to breathe new life into the industry through these smaller models.

"What does it look like in 20 years from now -- 25 (or) 30 years?" Brouillette asked of the nuclear industry. "It may look fundamentally different than it does today ... The market may have changed so that (large) facilities are no longer needed," he said, highlighting the importance of small modular reactors. He disclosed that the U.S. is looking to announce a plan in the near future to develop fuel for the use in such reactors that he believes will "jumpstart to some extent some of these technologies," adding that the administration is looking for cooperation from Japan and other nuclear power nations.

Meanwhile, amid the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing, China has raised tariffs on U.S. liquid natural gas, and there is concern that exports to China will drop. However, Brouillette is not worried. Pointing to demand from other countries such as Japan, India and European countries, he said that with the strength of international demand, the U.S. was not expecting any large impact on the market.

(Japanese original by Kenji Shimizu, Business News Department)

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