An artist’s rendition of the NuScale nuclear power project planned for construction in Idaho.

Small modular reactors, like those Oregon-based NuScale Power plans to build at the U.S. Department of Energy desert site west of Idaho Falls, have been described by the DOE as a "key part" of its "goal to develop safe, clean, and affordable nuclear power options."

But a study published Tuesday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences casts doubt on the technology's clean-energy claims. The study was published by a team of researchers from Stanford University and the University of British Columbia. The co-authors include Allison Macfarlane, the former head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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