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Green transition: Nuclear ‘really has a seat at the table,’ NuScale CEO says

NuScale Corp CEO and President John Hopkins joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss small nuclear modules, how the Inflation Reduction Act affects the nuclear industry, and the outlook for nuclear throughout the green energy transition.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

AKIKO FUJITA: Nuclear power is expected to get a big lift from the New Inflation Reduction Act. The law sets aside $30 billion in tax credits to existing nuclear power plants, extending the life of more than 60% of US reactors, a threat of being decommissioned. Our next guest is leading the development on the next generation of those reactors, and recently became the first in the US to get regulatory approval for its design of small modular reactors. Let's bring in John Hopkins. He is the CEO and President of NuScale. John, let's start with what exactly SMRs are. I mean, in the simplest terms, how are small modular reactors different from existing reactors that are online?

JOHN HOPKINS: Well, small from a new scale module, it's the entire package including containments, it's 77 feet tall, 15 feet in diameter. It generates 77 megawatts of electricity, and they're scalable. So the definition of small is generally below 300 megawatts. We're at 77, but we [INAUDIBLE] and we have the capacity to go up to 900 megawatts with 12 modules.

AKIKO FUJITA: When you think about the criticism against nuclear power, historically, it has been about the concerns around safety, but also cost. So how do SMRs improve that?

JOHN HOPKINS: Well, what we call it is economies of small. 2/3 of the components of a large gigawatt side reactor, NuScale does not require. And also, our modules will actually be built in a factory as the construction is being built in the field, and once the construction is completed, then we bring our modules in for deployment. And at the end of the lifecycle of six years, we could decommission and take them out the same way we brought them back in. A significant reduction in cost and labor.

BRIAN CHEUNG: John, Brian Cheung here. I want to ask about the kind of immediate political news coming out of DC that is, of course, the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act. Give us a little bit of preview on how that is expected to affect your corner of the industry. I understand tax credits funding for nuclear are actually a part of that.

JOHN HOPKINS: Absolutely. Our industry is extremely excited about the IRA. The tax benefits really available to our customers is going to be critically important to get costs down as you just commented on, and also, there's a phase out period as you know, 2032, I believe it is. I think that's going to promote many of the our current customer base even to think about deploying sooner, particularly in areas where utilities have a lot of coal refurbishment or coal coming offline.

AKIKO FUJITA: So you think this is going to accelerate that? That you can--

JOHN HOPKINS: I do believe that.

AKIKO FUJITA: This, of course-- Oh, go ahead.

JOHN HOPKINS: I'm sorry. No, no, I was just saying, because of that phase out period, it will prompt others I think to move quicker than maybe otherwise, they had planned to do.

AKIKO FUJITA: This, of course, comes at a time where we have seen not just in the US, but around the world, a lot of lawmakers give a second look to nuclear at a time. We've seen a big crunch in oil, as well as natural gas, the thinking is that of course, nuclear is the one clean form of energy that can come online. How has that been a boost to you? I mean, you still haven't deployed your technology, but have you gotten more interest as people starts to think about what that clean energy mix should look like in the future?

JOHN HOPKINS: Absolutely, I spoke at COP26, and I felt for the first time, that advanced nuclear really has a seat at the table now. What they were talking about is hydrogen production, or direct air capture sequestration, or clean water, utilizing desalinization. If you think of those, all of those require a lot of energy. And that energy could be produced and provided by advanced nuclear. We also have the ability to complement renewables, we're 24/7 clean, and do the intermittency until storage capacity comes online. When the sun's not shining, the wind's not blowing, we could help complement and keep and get them at 24/7. We're excited.

BRIAN CHEUNG: John, in terms of just the commercial applications, because maybe some of our viewers are wondering, what can nuclear do for my home, for example, or my EV in the future. I mean, are there commercial applications there, or will would Americans experience that in different ways, in different corners, I guess, of their daily lives?

JOHN HOPKINS: No, we're getting interest from all over the world. And I mentioned earlier, there are each module scale but we just had the Singaporean government visit us. What they want is electricity for their homes, in their country, but they also want energy for reverse osmosis desalinization for clean potable water. So the applications, because of the scalability in each unit, each NuScale module is a separate unit in itself. And it could offer electricity to providing working with an end user as an example, for hydrogen production.

BRIAN CHEUNG: All right, John Hopkins, NuScale CEO and President, really appreciate you stopping by Yahoo Finance today. Have a great one.

JOHN HOPKINS: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it as well.