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Nuclear industry’s big gamble on going small – but it mightn’t work!

Small Nuclear Passes a Milestone – But Does it Have a Future?
U.S. regulators for the first time have approved a design for a ‘small modular reactor,’ but it remains to be seen whether going small can save nuclear power.  S. News, By Alan Neuhauser, Staff Writer May 22, 2018  “… the nuclear power industry is betting its future on going small.

Even as cheap natural gas and falling prices for solar, wind and battery storage have all but killed the prospects for expensive new nuclear power projects in much of the developed world – and especially the U.S. – a handful of companies is plunging ahead in an effort to design a small modular reactor promised to offer flexible, carbon-free electricity at a competitive price.

Earlier this month, NuScale Power, based in Oregon, passed a significant milestone, earning Phase 1 approval from U.S. regulators for the design of its nearly $3 billion small modular reactor – an early but crucial step in the development of small nuclear technology.

…….. An operational small modular reactor, however, remains a decade or longer away from becoming concrete-and-steel reality. And in that time, the question remains whether the market for costly new nuclear plants – already a challenge, and all but dead in the U.S. – will become even more challenging in the intervening years as renewable and battery prices continue to fall and U.S. gas production booms.

One major consulting firm, which declined to comment on the record, stated bluntly, “There are doubts in terms of the economic viability of these projects.”

Some environmental groups have also shared that assessment: “Unless a number of optimistic assumptions are realized, SMRs are not likely to be a viable solution to the economic and safety problems faced by nuclear power,” the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is generally skeptical of nuclear power, wrote in 2013.

……. NuScale Chief Commercial Officer Tom Mundy has predicted that the first small modular reactors would cost about $100 per MW-hour and drop to about $90 or lower – roughly the same cost that the U.S. Energy Information Administration has estimated for large-scale advanced nuclear projects, including tax credits. Renewables such as new solar or onshore wind, by contrast, cost about $47 and $37, respectively, while advanced natural gas plants cost about $48……..  some organizations remain skeptical of nuclear’s role in addressing climate change, arguing that the technology – even for small modular reactors – remains too vulnerable to accident or deliberate attack and that solar or wind plus battery storage offer a safer option.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, for example, allows that while smaller reactors are less dangerous than larger ones, such a view can be “misleading, because small reactors generate less power than large ones, and therefore more of them are required to meet the same energy needs. Multiple SMRs may actually present a higher risk than a single large reactor, especially if plant owners try to cut costs by reducing support staff or safety equipment per reactor.” ……https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2018-05-22/small-nuclear-passes-a-milestone-but-does-it-have-a-future

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May 25, 2018 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

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