A Nuclear Renaissance in the Making?

Nuclear Energy Could Accelerate Decarbonization and Address Energy Crisis

By: John Funk

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8 Hours with the USNIC

“We have a renaissance in investment in the nuclear industry today, with record amounts of private capital being invested …  about $4 billion last year,” said André Pienaar, CEO of C5 Capital, a venture capital firm with offices in London, Washington and Luxembourg.

C5 focuses on cybersecurity, space and nuclear energy. Investors are looking across “the whole spectrum of innovation, from small modular nuclear companies, all the way through to the promise of nuclear fusion,” Pienaar said.

The mention of fusion was a reference to U.S.-based developers of fusion reactors, which create energy by fusing helium atoms rather than splitting enriched uranium.

More immediately, Pienaar was referring to fission reactors of 300 MW and smaller, down to those as small as 50 MW, some using technology like the large traditional light water reactors now in commercial service, others designed around more exotic technologies with passive safety systems to make them “walk away safe.”

Small modular reactors (SMR) are factory-built, enabling the manufacturer to increase quality control while providing faster installation than traditional large reactors at a lower cost.

“The investments in SMRs are not limited to private capital,” Pienaar said, referring to NuScale Power (NYSE:SMR), an early developer of small modular reactor design. NuScale has been publicly traded since its merger last spring with Spring Valley Acquisition, a special purpose acquisition company created by banks, institutional funds and private investment groups.

“We’ve also seen significant cross-border investment. Constellation Energy invested in the Rolls Royce SMR consortium in the UK,” Pienaar said, adding that Cameco and Brookfield Renewable Partners this month purchased Westinghouse Electric in a deal valued at $7.87 billion.

Cameco (NYSE: CCJ) is a Canadian uranium mining company. Brookfield (NYSE: BEP) is a publicly traded limited partnership headquartered in Canada that owns hydroelectric, wind, solar and power storage facilities in North America as well as South America, Europe and Asia.

Westinghouse manufactures equipment for nuclear reactors operating around the globe and provides services to U.S. reactors as well.