New nuclear technologies hold promise for smaller-scale, carbon-free energy

An energy sector that had been falling out of favor in recent years is making a bit of a technological resurgence: nuclear. Instead of utility-scale power generation plants, the technology du jour is microreactors, mini nuclear reactors for commercial-scale applications that could be coupled with energy storage solutions.


  • Seattle-based Ultra Safe Nuclear aims to partner with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to use and test microreactors, including for experimental applications. The university would develop the first generation commercial microreactor and it would be used to partially power the campus with carbon-free energy, replacing coal power.
  • Microreactors developed by a team of engineers at Argonne National Laboratory could help with charging cross-country electric trucks. The microreactors are about the size of two residential water heaters and exhibit a novel mode of power generation that links a nuclear reactor to an energy storage system


  • The director of Michigan’s Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy discusses new climate goals released last month by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the effects of the pandemic on cleantech, in an interview with MiBiz. Mobility innovation is a big part of achieving sustainability goals.
  • DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy issued a request for information regarding research needs and opportunities for medium- and heavy-duty truck innovations, especially those that reduce energy consumption and emissions in freight transport.

💧 HYDROGEN: The U.S. Department of Energy launched two consortia —Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck (­M2FCT) and H2NEW — to advance fuel cell truck and hydrogen production research and development. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will receive $50 million over five years to lead H2NEW, and Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois is among the project collaborators.

🌞 SOLAR: President Donald Trump signed a proclamation that includes plans to repeal the tariff exemption on some imported bifacial solar panels, Reuters reports. Chicago-based Invenergy Renewables is among the domestic companies that sued to maintain the exemption but later rescinded when it became aware the exemptions led to an increase in solar panel imports.


    • Michigan State University researchers received nearly $2.6 million to work with farmers nationwide to increase their crops’ eco-friendliness through Precision Conservation, which incorporates data-centric “digital agriculture” innovations such as drone-captured images for crop mapping.
Maps showing different levels of crop yield, the associated profit or loss, and the application of Precision Conservation. Image courtesy of Bruno Basso.
  • An Indianapolis entrepreneur is on the team behind the Environmentally Sourced Retailers Certification Program, an idea that came from the Forbes AgTech Hackathon. The technology fills gaps between producers and retailers to promote sustainable farming without sacrificing profits, efficiency, or quality, Forbes reports.

🔌 EFFICIENCY: A report from Advanced Energy Economy indicates that Illinois could experience an eight-fold return to the state’s economy by investing in advanced energy technologies, such as energy efficiency innovations and renewable energy, reports Solar Power World.

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