15.70. Within the nuclear power industry, the term commercialization is used somewhat loosely. A power plant is said to be in commercial service when, after a suitable startup period, it furnishes electricity on a regular basis to a utility’s distribution grid. On the other hand, a new reactor type reaches commercialized status only after an unsubsidized plant of a size appropriate for a given utility grid operates reliably and economically for sufficient time to convince utilities that another plant should be built with reasonable financial risk. Some feel that the demonstration can be accom­plished by a subsidized plant.

15.71. The willingness of a utility to accept the financial risk of a new nuclear plant depends on several considerations in addition to the technical and economic merits of the concept. Clearly, a need must exist for the new capacity. A stable regulatory picture over the lifetime of the plant is es­sential. This applies to both the NRC and state level. We have discussed the major responsibility of the NRC in the licensing and operation of the plant. State regulators are responsible for a rate structure that will permit a utility to recover the expenses of energy production. Public acceptance and associated political pressures can play a significant role in this picture. However, we will not consider such considerations further here.

15.72. The competitive cost of a fossil-fueled or other type of power plant would also logically be studied by an electric utility planning new generation capacity. A comparison with a nuclear option is likely to be complicated with environmental, financial risk, and regulatory factors rel­evant (§15.81). Therefore, for our purposes, we will assume that advanced nuclear plants and other types of generating plants will be “competitive,” and concentrate on the relative potential of advanced nuclear plant designs.

15.73. Now that we have described the evolutionary and important advanced nuclear plant passive designs, it is helpful to examine them from the viewpoint of their commercialization potential. For example, the evo­lutionary designs are large while the advanced passive concepts are smaller.

The question of reactor size is one important issue that is relevant to their commercialization.

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