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Cheaper, faster renewable energy will obliterate the prospects for “new nuclear”

The nuclear industry: a small revolution, BBC News By Roger Harrabin BBC Environment analyst 23 March 2016“………..investors scanning the world for money-making opportunities tend to turn away when they see a nuclear reactor taking years to build, fraught with technical and political risk. Solar and wind energy offer much more predictable returns in a fraction of the pay-back time.

But SMR fans say mini-nukes as small as 50 megawatts (MW) could change that. They suggest it’s as simple as placing your order and waiting for a reactor to turn up. Then plug and play – and wait to get your money back.

If you want large-scale power, just line up a dozen SMRs side by side……

SMR football stadium

In his most recent Budget, the Chancellor George Osborne announced a competition for the design of small modular reactors for use in the UK.

‘Evolutionary technology’

There are two catches.

First, there’s still no solution (in the UK at least) to what to do with the nuclear waste. The government appears willing to go ahead with new nukes without knowing what happens to spent fuel and contaminated equipment.

Second, no-one has actually built an SMR yet, and it’s likely to take until the 2030s or 2040s before SMRs are widespread and making a real contribution to hitting carbon emission targets.

The firm claiming to be leading the global SMR race is the US government-funded NuScale. It expects to have its first American SMR in operation by 2025, and hopes to be ready to generate in the UK in 2026 at the earliest…

‘Jam tomorrow’

However, there are cautionary voices. Experts warn that to make it worthwhile building it, a reactor factory would need 40-70 orders. And the time scale is a big stumbling point for many.

According to John Sauven of Greenpeace there’s a high risk it will take longer than predicted to bring small scale nuclear on-stream. “Remember the nuclear industry promised in the 1950s that it would deliver energy too cheap to meter,” he says.  “Since then it’s been completely overtaken by wind and solar energy which are much safer, reliable and cheaper.

“With nuclear it’s always jam tomorrow. We’ve got to decarbonise the energy industry now.”

Other critics warn that renewables and energy storage are progressing so fast that the energy industry won’t need the sort of round the clock “baseload” power produced by nuclear in the medium term future.

The energy commentator Kees van der Leun tweeted: “By the time [of the 2030s and 2040s] the growth of cheap solar and wind will have obliterated the chance of making any money with ‘baseload’.” http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35863846

March 25, 2016 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, spinbuster

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