EAP Exchange: How do Microreactors Change the Conversation about Nuclear Energy?

The last 5 years have seen a rapid growth in the interest of private companies in developing micro-scale nuclear reactors. With power levels in the 1–10 MW range, these reactors target completely different markets from traditional large centralized nuclear reactors and come with a very different business model. While the technical details of these reactors may be of most interest to nuclear engineers, the way that these details translate into different roles for nuclear energy in our future energy system may change the conversation for nuclear energy as we pivot to a low-carbon future.

On April 23, 2021, Dr. Paul Wilson and Dr. Jessica Lovering discussed their recent independent findings in this area and contemplated what it means for the future of nuclear energy in the US and internationally in a webinar moderated by Mikhaila Calice. This conversation was part of the EAP Exchange Series, hosted by the Energy Analysis and Policy (EAP) program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. EAP is a graduate certificate program, open to students in almost any program on campus, that provides interdisciplinary education and trains the next generation of energy leaders.

  • Paul Wilson is the Grainger Professor of Nuclear Engineering and current department chair of the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Department of Engineering Physics. His research interests focus on developing improved tools for computational modeling of complex nuclear energy systems, with applications in radiation shielding, nuclear waste management, nuclear non-proliferation and energy policy. Paul joined the University of Wisconsin–Madison in August 2001 as part of the Energy Systems and Policy Hiring Initiative and has been active in the Energy Analysis & Policy program.
  • Jessica Lovering is the co-founder of the Good Energy Collective, a new organization working on progressive nuclear policy. She recently completed her PhD in Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. Her dissertation focused on how commercial nuclear trade affects international security standards and how very small nuclear reactors could be deployed at the community level. She is also a Fellow with the Energy for Growth Hub, looking at how advanced nuclear can be deployed in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Mikhaila Calice is a doctoral student in the Department of Life Sciences Communication and the Energy Analysis and Policy certificate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. With a background in energy policy, she is specifically interested in analyzing how controversial science and technology issues related to climate change and the energy transition are communicated to and perceived by the public and policymakers.