Innovation is exciting, alluring, and deeply human: but in the context of nuclear energy, it could be detrimental.
Nuclear energy is the answer to global energy security, and it has the capacity to stop climate change, and even reverse it. But if the nuclear industry continues to engage in needless innovation, it will lose its chance to deploy nuclear energy at scale. And as a global community, we’ll lose the only viable opportunity to achieve net-zero carbon emissions.
To effectively deploy nuclear, we simply need to innovate the delivery model – not the reactor technology. At Last Energy, this view defines our basic-yet-transformative mission: to use only proven, replicable nuclear technology, and to leverage the same business model and supply chains used across the rest of the energy industry.
After years of refining our design and selling dozens of nuclear plants in Europe, we’ve developed a streamlined process to deliver nuclear energy with a pressurized-water reactor (PWR), right-sized for private capital markets: the PWR-20.
The pieces of clean energy already exist: at Last Energy, we merely integrate them for customers with a scalable, easy-to-deploy model.
Among both scientists and environmental activists, a growing number acknowledge that nuclear must be part of our global energy solution. But why is nuclear energy the answer to energy security, and how can it prevent climate change?
For the answer, just look at your wrist. That amount of uranium contains enough energy for your entire lifetime of consumption. Uranium is abundant, productive, and it can fuel everything you’ve done and plan to do.
Beyond eliminating the costs of resource extraction, uranium delivers carbon-free, always-on energy, located at the site of demand. It might seem like a no-brainer – and indeed, major countries are catching on. Sweden, France, Ontario, and South Korea are global players with incredible decarbonization success stories: in under a decade, they’ve wiped their carbon emissions clean.
Nuclear energy is clean, powerful, safer than most energy sources, and plentiful: and, contrary to popular belief, its distribution doesn’t require rocket science. There is nothing broken with the nuclear technology already deployed around the world, which supplies 10% of global electricity today. It just needs to be packaged and sold in a modularized, standardized form that rolls off the assembly line and scales to meet global demand.
At Last Energy, the PWR-20 is the prototype of simplicity. It’s a modular, standard nuclear plant, and it’s the most common type of nuclear reactor: a PWR. But how does it work?
In simplest terms, a PWR pressurizes water so that it heats, but doesn’t boil. Pressurized water carries heat to the steam generator, and the production of steam produces electricity by turning the turbine generator inside the PWR.
All modules of our PWR-20 are factory-built and tested before integration inside standardized modules, using existing equipment from nuclear and thermal power plants. By simply resisting the desire to innovate nuclear technology, we hold the power to:
Using the PWR-20, we work toward these goals by deploying nuclear energy on time and on budget, without sacrificing quality or safety. Our miniature, modular solution is utilized and trusted by more than 300 global customers, and that number is rising.
Flashback to 1968, when energy suppliers needed to budget about 1 billion dollars to build a gigawatt of nuclear power: enough for a city of one million people. A decade later, the same gigawatt cost 10x as much. Why the massive jump?
We can attribute this inflation to unnecessary innovation, almost exclusively in the form of construction complexity. Bigger, more complex nuclear plants are often perceived as better, simply because they make more money. Naturally, more complicated plants make for complex regulatory challenges – and by the time we’re talking about regulation, nuclear projects are almost always over-schedule and overbudget.
These mistakes limit the potential for private financing as well as our capacity to schedule multiple, replicable projects at once. Today, in the name of bigness and newness, the U.S. is still completing its first nuclear plant under the Nuclear Regulatory Commission: 10 years over schedule and 20 billion dollars beyond its original budget.
For governments and companies seeking clean, affordable power, the failed history of nuclear informs the future. While the nuclear industry has not yet learned from its mistakes, energy suppliers have an opportunity to reinvent the narrative of nuclear, using only proven technology and replicable, manufacturable power plants.
It might not be the most exciting solution, nor the newest: but ultimately, it’s solving the right problem.
At Last Energy, the PRW-20 offers productized, replicable nuclear energy. This product is our answer to the “energy trilemma,” which consists of three dimensions: security, affordability, and sustainability. Globally, people need energy security, especially in times of desperate financial need and environmental instability. Without urgent intervention, existing climate crises will worsen, and new ones are well within view.
Researchers at the Energy Impact Center (EIC) – the research institute that launched Last Energy – tackle these crises with a spirit of generosity and urgency. EIC is focused on strategic climate solutions, such as OPEN100: the world’s first open-source development framework for a small, standard PWR. OPEN100 aimed to accelerate the distribution of nuclear energy, using an innovative platform for its implementation and deployment.
These efforts make the mechanics of nuclear available and transparent to customers of all backgrounds and sizes. At Last Energy, we embrace this perspective with a cost-effective, manufacturable reactor design: one that makes the delivery of nuclear energy scalable, affordable, and realistic.
When an energy product is not only effective, but accessible and hopeful, people will buy it and believe in it.
As part of our mission, we embrace the belief that simple is better. Accordingly, we limit the components and systems of nuclear energy production, which makes nuclear plants simpler and standardized, and we rely on established supply chains. After all: even after years of innovation, more than 90% of the world’s nuclear reactors are water-based, meaning that most operating reactors are, fundamentally, large kettles.
A modularized, standardized plant is easily constructed and quickly deployed wherever it is needed. This factory-made model simplifies the regulatory process, keeps project costs below $100 million, and unlocks both private financing and customer validation.
People demand and deserve the amount of energy required to live without limits – and Last Energy invites others to find unity in this shared vision. As researchers and scientists, we reject the urge to change what already works; and as an industry, we embrace the most basic but effective techniques, employed by other industries to hyperscale their products.
Because in the nuclear industry, seemingly boring decisions make for an exciting future: one that’s defined by clean energy, dependable resources, and embracing the science already available to us.
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