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Nuclear industry’s frantic campaign for Small Modular Reactors as solution to climate chnage




 Mark Cooper, Ph.D.  Senior Fellow for Economic Analysis  Institute for Energy and the Environment  Vermont Law School  May 2014 


The ongoing collapse of nuclear power in the U.S. is readily apparent in the failure to launch 90 percent of “nuclear renaissance” reactors, delays and cost overruns for those that got started, the cancellation of projects to increase the capacity of existing reactors, and the early retirement of aging reactors. To reverse its fate, the U.S. nuclear industry has
• gone in search of a new technology to champion (small modular reactor [SMR]),
• launched an aggressive campaign to sell nuclear power as the primary solution to
climate change, and
• sought to slow the growth of alternatives with vigorous attacks on the policies
that have enabled renewable resources to grow at record levels.
 Thus the collapse has lent greater intensity and significance to the 50-year debate over the economic viability and safety of commercial nuclear power:
• It is not only the fate of nuclear power at stake, but also the fundamental
direction of the policy response to climate change.
This paper examines the fundamental choice policymakers are being asked to make. It
reviews the prospects for nuclear technology in light of the past and present performance of nuclear power (Section I), assesses the economic and safety challenges that SMR technology faces (Section II) when confronting the alternatives that are available today (Section III), and the trends that are
transforming the electricity sector (Section IV).
• The paper shows that nuclear power is among the least attractive climate change
policy options (too costly, too slow, and too uncertain) and is likely to remain so
for the foreseeable.
• The paper demonstrates that, worse still, pursuing nuclear power as a focal point
of climate policy diverts economic resources and policy development from
critically important efforts to accelerate the deployment of solutions that are
much more attractive – less costly, less risky, more environmentally benign……


May 17, 2014 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, spinbuster

1 Comment »

  1. The analysis contains a recurring flaw. Namely, a proper comparison between options on an apples-apples basis. Comparing $/KW build costs is more-or-less meaningless if energy production is omitted. A wind turbine operating at 25% of the time cannot be compared to a plant operating at say 90% of the time, as the impact on debt repayment/fixed costs is proportionally higher as production decreases. A much better approach would be “all-in” overnight production cost which can accommodate options that do not operate much.

    That being said, the analysis fails to identify how the intermittent nature of renewable energy is accommodated in terms of economics. Something has to cover the load when green energy units are unavailable and power is required by the grid. That “something” has a cost. Ostensibly that cost element should be covered on the “renewable energy” side of the ledger. On the flip side, the other “something” incurs higher costs when not running because “green energy” has displaced the more reliable asset. The ultimate point is that bottom-line costs for the consumer are inevitably higher when erratic energy shows up. Ordinarily, market mechanisms put a price on such erratic energy (it is not particularly valuable, but does have a price), but the government has perverted the markets by forcing the use of heavily subsidized, unreliable renewable energy.

    I do, however, agree that the economics of Small Modular Reactors are not that good. There is, however, an alternative type of SMR that relies on tried-and-proven economies-of-scale in a unique fashion. If Mr Cooper or his proteges would contact me at we would be happy too forward an information package that he could analyze and then draw his own conclusions.

    Comment by kellermfk | May 18, 2014 | Reply

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