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Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMR’s) – last forlorn hope of the nuclear industry

There just isn’t any proof that small reactors are going to be any more economic than larger ones….  it’s all about hype and hope

Small nuclear reactors generate hype, questions about cost  STL Today 29 April 12, “…..Ameren Missouri and Westinghouse Electric Co. announced plans to pursue a $452 million federal subsidy to advance development of small modular reactors that could be built alongside the utility’s much larger Callaway nuclear plant near Fulton, Mo.
While some utilities are still pursuing full-scale plants, there is a parallel push for smaller reactors that could be easier for utilities to finance and minimize sticker shock for regulators and consumers.
But despite a lower total cost, there’s no evidence yet that tiny fission factories would be able to produce electricity at a competitive cost in an era of abundant, cheap natural gas.
There just isn’t any proof that small reactors are going to be any more economic than larger ones,” said Peter Bradford, an adjunct law professor at Vermont Law School and a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member. “At this point, it’s all about hype and hope.”….
more than half of the new reactors for which construction and
operating licenses were sought have been deferred or cancelled,
including Ameren Missouri’s proposed 1,600-megawatt Callaway 2
Last month, Obama proposed $452 million to help speed up development
of small modular reactors. The funding availability would come on top
of $8 billion in loan guarantees for the Vogtle twin-reactor nuclear
project in Georgia.
The federal funding, which has yet to be appropriated by Congress,
would support engineering, design certification and licensing of up to
two plant designs that have the potential to be licensed and in
commercial operation in a decade……
At least two other groups have indicated they will seek a share of the
federal grant. Both are eyeing the Department of Energy-owned Savannah
River site in South Carolina, and are being backed by NuHub, an
economic development initiative in South Carolina.
Holtec International Inc. on Tuesday said it intends to seek a share
of the federal funding to speed up development of its 160-megawatt
small modular reactor. Two weeks ago, NuScale Power, based in
Corvalis, Ore., announced plans to seek funding to accelerate
development of its 45-megawatt nuclear modules at Savannah River site.
Other nuclear industry players are pursuing modular designs. And at
least one other utility has publicly expressed interest in small
The Tennessee Valley Authority has said it is looking at Babcock &
Wilcox’s small reactor design for a project on a utility-owned site
near the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
For all the hype, small reactors, are still at least a decade away.
And that’s if design, licensing and commercial development go at the
pace hoped for by the nuclear industry.
And even then, the potential for small reactors hinges on how they
compete in the energy marketplace. More than concerns about nuclear
safety in the wake of Fukushima disaster in Japan or the dilemma of
where to dispose of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel, the
technology’s future will be dictated by economics.
Jackson said Westinghouse aspires to make small reactors whose costs
are equal to or less than full-size reactors.
For now, there’s no cost data for small reactors, and no firm evidence
they will produce electricity at a lower price than larger plants.


April 30, 2012 - Posted by | business and costs, Reference, technology, USA

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