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Alberta premier’s small nukes pipe dream makes no economic sense.

Look Over There! Jason Kenney’s Phoney Nuclear Power Distraction   Why the Alberta premier’s small nukes pipe dream makes no economic sense., David Climenhaga 14 Aug 20,  | TheTyee.ca   

When Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says small nuclear reactors “could be a game changer in providing safe, zero-emitting, baseload power in many areas of the province,” as he did this week in a tweet, he’s pulling your leg…….

No electrical utility is ever going to buy one unless they are forced to by government policy or regulation — the kind of thing Alberta’s United Conservative Party purports to oppose……..

Small nuclear reactors are not as cheap to build as the premier’s fairy tale suggests.

Bringing an acceptable small nuclear reactor design all the way from the drawing board to approval by a national nuclear regulatory authority will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

While dozens of speculative companies are printing colourful brochures with pretty pictures of little nukes being trucked to their destinations, very few are serious ventures with any possibility of building an actual reactor. The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency says diplomatically there are about 50 concepts “at different stages of development.” Those that are serious, like NuScale Power in the United States, have huge amounts of government money behind them. 

The only small nuclear reactor plant known to be operating in the world now is the Akademik Lomonosov, Russia’s floating power barge with two 35-megawatt reactors aboard. From an original estimate of US$140 million in 2006, its cost had ballooned to US$740 million when the vessel was launched last year.

The kind of small reactors Kenney is talking about won’t be cheap by any yardstick.

Small reactors are less economical to run than big reactors…….

This is why nobody wanted to buy the scaled-down CANDU-3 reactor, development of which was paid for by Canadian taxpayers in the 1980s. At 300 megawatts, they were just too small for commercial viability. A working CANDU-3 has never been built.

The cost of small reactors would have to come down significantly to change this. And remember, the research and development requirements of small reactors are just as high as for big ones. With nobody manufacturing modules, there are no existing economies of scale. In other words, dreamy brochures about the future of small reactors are just that — dreams.

By the way, in 2011 the Harper government privatized the best commercial assets of Crown-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to… wait for it… SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. Think about that every time you hear Conservatives in Ottawa screeching about the goings on at SNC-Lavalin!

Small reactor designs mostly require enriched uranium, and Canada doesn’t produce any……

Small reactors might be safer than big ones, but we don’t really know.

Kenney and Savage talk about small reactors as if it were a fact they’re safer than big reactors. Maybe they are. But we don’t really know that because nobody but the Russians actually seems to have built one, and in most cases they haven’t even been designed.

Remember, the Russians’ small reactors are both on a barge. For what it’s worth, critics have called it “Floating Chernobyl.”

Small reactors won’t be safe without public regulation……..

Then there’s the matter of waste disposal.

Nuclear plants don’t produce a lot of waste by volume, but what there is sure has the potential to cause problems for a very long time. Thousands of years and more. So safe storage is an issue with small nukes, just like it is with big ones.

Where are we going to store the waste from all these wonderful small nuclear reactors Kenney is talking about?

How many jobs is it likely to create here in Western Canada? Well, Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment recently posted a job for a director of small modular reactors. That person will supervise four people. That’s probably about it for jobs for the foreseeable future.

If Alberta ever ends up with the same number of people working on this, we’ll be lucky https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/08/13/Kenney-Nuclear-Power-Plant-Distraction/

August 15, 2020 - Posted by | business and costs, Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

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