Driven largely by cheaper natural gas, coal-powered electricity generation in the United States has been on the decline. Across the globe, however, coal remains cheap and abundant. The International Energy Agency estimates that global coal consumption is set to hit an all-time high in the coming years, increasing especially in developing nations. What could reverse that trend? Nuclear power.
At least, that is the goal for Bret Kugelmass, the CEO and founder of Washington, D.C.-based Last Energy. The company has set out to change the way scaleable nuclear works and forever change global energy generation. As the company explains:
The power (pun fully intended) of Last Energy’s approach is that it is not creating a revolutionary new nuclear process. There is certainly a time and place for that, and recent announcements of fusion breakthroughs and nuclear innovation are most welcome. But Last Energy is aiming to streamline the delivery and operational process, not nuclear power as a whole.
“We’re not doing any new chemistry or reactor physics,” Kugelmass explained. “Our core innovation is the delivery model of a nuclear power plant. We’re just packaging it in a different way.”
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Last Energy will oversee the whole delivery and operational process for their customers, from design to system management. Relying upon scalability and proven technology, the company can essentially deliver ‘off-the-shelf’ reactors to locations worldwide.
Well, when they get their process fully up and running.
Kugelmass is one of many American innovators that is jumping through regulatory hoops. Despite its track record as one of the safest energy sources in the world, nuclear energy faces excessive and inefficient regulations. These regulations are also incredibly expensive, costing an average traditional nuclear reactor between $7.4 million and $15.5 million in annual regulatory costs. Kugelmass is still under some of the same regulatory pressures, but is saving some time (and money) by exporting the idea out of the states instead of starting out building in America. According to a report from Forbes:
Last Energy is not stopping with 10 reactors in Poland. Kugelmass dreams of having 10,000 scaleable nuclear reactors developed worldwide, forever changing the way we power our lives.
Kugelmass and the goal of Last Energy exemplify the sort of entrepreneurial dreaming and determination in the clean energy industry writ large. Big problems like energy poverty and climate change require innovative problem solvers.
Kelvey Vander Hart is a native Iowan, a member of the American Conservation Coalition, and a communications specialist at Reason Foundation.