The United States, with a firm resolve, is aiming to deploy the first American-made small modular nuclear reactor in Romania and Czechia by the end of the decade. A US official stated that the projected timeline for deployment is 2029.
Romania is the first country in line for this endeavor, with US company NuScale partnering with the national company Nuclear Electrica to develop the country’s inaugural small modular reactors (SMRs). During a recent visit to Bucharest, US Assistant Secretary of State Geoffrey Pyatt commended the “civil nuclear alliance with Romania” and the plans to construct a small modular reactor in the country.
Pyatt emphasized that no one has yet deployed such a technology. He stated in a video briefing with journalists that the forecasted deployment timeline is 2029. He expressed confidence in achieving this goal, highlighting the significance of the civil nuclear partnership with Romania.
SMRs are significantly smaller in size compared to traditional nuclear reactors, with a capacity of up to 300 MW(e) per unit. One of their main advantages is the ability to be factory-assembled and transported to areas with limited grid coverage.
During his visit, Pyatt announced US funding for the construction of a simulator at Bucharest’s Polytechnic University. This simulator aims to build the necessary capacity so that when Nuclear Electrica’s new SMR becomes operational, Romania will have the skilled technicians required to operate the facility.
The Romanian SMR project is part of a broader US initiative called “Project Phoenix.” This initiative aims to replace coal-fired power plants in central and eastern Europe with small modular reactors. Project proposals from Czechia, Slovakia, and Poland have been selected to participate in Project Phoenix and will receive support for feasibility studies on transitioning from coal to SMRs.
Furthermore, Kerry launched the Nuclear Expediting the Energy Transition (NEXT) program, which acts as a one-stop-shop for SMR support, providing training and advice to European and Eurasian countries on deploying SMRs.
Pyatt emphasized the importance of nuclear power in the energy transition, stating that Project Phoenix demonstrates the repurposing of past infrastructure to support cleaner, greener, and more resilient technologies.
The US’s commitment to small modular reactors was highlighted during the Three Seas initiative summit in Bucharest. The US announced a $300 million contribution to the Three Seas investment fund, which will be used to enhance connectivity and accelerate the clean energy transition in participating countries. Civil nuclear technology, along with wind, solar, and geothermal, is eligible for support.
While it is assumed that the funding from the US will be directed towards SMR projects utilizing American technology, Pyatt dismissed the notion that Project Phoenix is solely driven by US interests. He emphasized the international nature of the undertaking and cited interest in SMRs from various countries, including Bulgaria, Ukraine, Japan, Korea, and Ghana.
Pyatt also mentioned that NuScale is not the only US company developing SMRs. Larger groups like Westinghouse and GE, as well as innovative companies like TerraPower and X energy, are also involved in the development of different SMR concepts.
While acknowledging the hope that American companies will be chosen for Czechia’s large civil nuclear tender, Pyatt emphasized the enduring commitment of the US to its alliance with the Czech Republic.
The objective in both Romania and Czechia is to expedite the completion of SMR projects, moving the anticipated deployment from the 2030s to the late 2020s. This acceleration aligns with the urgency demanded by the climate crisis.