Those include small modular reactors that can be bolted together to form larger units, Terrapower's traveling wave reactor backed by Bill Gates and microreactors meant to provide enough power for a few thousand homes.
Altogether, there are about two dozen serious designs for advanced nuclear reactors trying to break into the market, said McGinnis. Under McGinnis and Secretary Rick Perry, one of the Energy Department's top priorities is facilitating the development of these new technologies.
"We still lead the world in nuclear technology innovation," he said. "Our big challenge is taking that incredible IP and those incredible technological innovative breakthroughs and bringing them to market. That's been our challenge."
On Tuesday, NuScale Energy signed a memorandum to explore deploying its small modular reactors in Romania, after signing similar agreements with Canada and Jordan.
The U.S. will still have to reach so-called 123 Agreements with foreign countries before American firms can sell nuclear reactors overseas. These agreements place limits on the use of nuclear technology and must be approved by Congress.
These agreements have recently drawn scrutiny from Democratic and Republican lawmakers as Westinghouse bids for nuclear power contracts in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have long insisted on their right to enrich uranium, something the U.S. usually opposes. The bidding also comes as tension between Riyadh and Capitol Hill has escalated after Saudi agents killed Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October.
The United States has signed about two dozen 123 Agreements, but Jones says those don't come close to addressing the potential global market for next generation technology, especially as smaller reactors make nuclear energy more accessible.
There are currently about 30 countries considering adopting nuclear energy, according to the World Nuclear Association.
"Given that Russia and China are aggressively seeking to tie up commitments from countries in these future markets, it behooves the United States to take an active role in nuclear cooperation before countries are ready to engage in 123 agreements," Jones said.