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February 21, 2013
Comments by Brattle Principal Marc Chupka Featured in New York Times Article on Nuclear Reactor Development

Brattle principal Marc Chupka was quoted in a February 20, 2013 New York Times article on the financial commitment associated with a recent deal by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to apply for permission to build a smaller type of nuclear reactor at a site in Oak Ridge, TN. TVA recently announced that it reached an agreement with a nuclear equipment company to complete extensive design work on a “small modular reactor,” which will be funded partly by the U.S. Department of Energy under a program to encourage nuclear innovation. The development of this type of reactor is seen as a direct challenge to natural gas generators and shares two characteristics that make gas an attractive option: the reactors can be constructed quickly and added onto later, lessening the risk of building too much capacity or running short; and they can also change power output rapidly. A nuclear reactor of this size, with an anticipated cost of approximately $900 million per unit, has not been constructed in the United States since the 1960s. This concept of a small reactor has recently emerged as the most popular one in the field, two years after the Fukushima incident and in an era of low natural gas prices. In the article, Mr. Chupka comments that “one of the impediments to new nuclear is the sheer scale of the financial commitment.” He opines that constructing a small reactor is an attempt to sidestep that problem, but “it’s still going to boil down to money and the relative cost of these things,” which is currently unknown since none have been built to date. The article, “Deal Advances Development of a Smaller Nuclear Reactor,” is available on The New York Times website.