Small modular nuclear power reactors could have a strong economic future in Missouri, an Ameren official said.

“We see the emergence of this new technology as a real strong business development opportunity ...” said Mike Kearney with Ameren. “We see this as the next generation of nuclear energy.”

Kearney spoke to the 353 Redevelopment Corporation at Washington City Hall on Wednesday.

A statewide alliance that includes Westinghouse Electric Company, Ameren and the state of Missouri is working to bring the technology to the state.

U.S. Department of Energy grant funds may be secured to support design and commercialization of the technology. A Small Modular Reactor Economic Development Readiness Task Force is in place to capitalize on opportunities, he said.

Small modular reactors are smaller than nuclear power plants, such as Ameren’s Callaway nuclear facility. The modular units are built in a factory, delivered to a site and inserted into a facility, he said. The units, which can be around 225 megawatts, are fully contained and can take about two years to install.

Those working to bring the technology to Missouri have appeared at conferences in South Carolina and Washington, D.C., recently, he said.

Bill Miller Sr., president of the 353 Redevelopment Corporation, asked Kearney if much backlash would be expected from residents concerned about the safety of nuclear power. Kearney responded that he would anticipate substantial public comment.

Miller also asked if the end goal is to replace coal-fired plants as an energy source. Kearney said it is too premature to make that statement.

353 Board member Tim Unnerstall asked if there is anything that the community can do to support the initiative.

Local industries could possibly help in the manufacturing of the units. Obtaining a skilled work force for the technology is crucial, Kearney added.

“We know we’ve got some skill gaps in the state around this type of technology,” Kearney said.