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At last! – some media questioning the story that small nuclear reactors combat climate change

What’s the Role for New Nuclear Power in the Fight Against Climate Change?
Some fear that small modular reactors could rob cash from more proven low-carbon technologies. Greentech Media, JASON DEIGN MARCH 08, 2021 
Small modular reactors (SMRs) — nuclear reactors using novel technologies to fit into much smaller and mass-producible packages than the behemoth nuclear power plants of today — are presented as a way of rapidly decarbonizing the grid in the face of an ever more pressing need to meet climate targets. But some opponents claim new nuclear power could have the opposite effect, slowing the fight against human-caused climate change just when things should be speeding up.In September last year, for example, the Sierra Club Canada Foundation harshly criticized Canada’s plans to foster an SMR industry.SMRs “are not the solution to climate change,” said the organization, citing a University of British Columbia study indicating that energy produced by SMRs could cost up to 10 times as much as power from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

“Critics of SMRs say that developing experimental nuclear reactor technologies will take too long to make a difference on climate change and could drain billions of dollars from public coffers,” said the advocacy group.

Similar challenges have been leveled against U.S. utilities such as Duke Energy and Southern Company that include SMRs in the longer-range suite of options to fully decarbonize their power grids by 2050. Critics question whether the SMRs under development today can be commercialized fast enough to drive down emissions over the next decade or two and whether government funding to drive faster deployment might better be spent on other technologies.

That’s not the only criticism facing new nuclear. In 2014, NuScale Power, which looks likely to become the first Western SMR developer to commercialize a reactor, published a paper on the use of its SMRs for oil recovery and refining applications.

The aim of the paper was to show that SMRs could be instrumental in “reducing the overall carbon footprint of these industrial complexes and preserving valuable fossil resources as feedstock for higher-value products,” according to the authors.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t look good for the nuclear industry’s climate-fighting credentials when one of its upcoming stars is apparently touting wares to the oil and gas sector.

In a written statement, Diane Hughes, NuScale Power’s vice president of marketing and communications, told GTM that the SMR developer “does not comment or discuss what companies we may be talking to regarding potential business opportunities.”……

Doubts over government finance for SMRs

Despite this, the question remains whether it makes sense for governments to put money into SMR research and development when other low-carbon generation technologies can be used to combat climate change right away.

Nuclear skeptics such as David Toke, who researches energy politics at the University of Aberdeen in the U.K., don’t think so. SMRs “are a diversion from the development of energy systems that best mitigate climate change,” he said in an interview.

“Small reactors already exist, and they occupy a very niche zone, which is military marine, mainly. That allows very high costs. But that’s the point: They cost an awful lot of money. Just because something reduces carbon emissions doesn’t mean to say the state ought to encourage it.”  ….

March 9, 2021 - Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA

1 Comment »

  1. […] At last! – some media questioning the story that small nuclear reactors combat climate change — … […]

    Pingback by At last! – some media questioning the story that small nuclear reactors combat climate change — nuclear-news | March 9, 2021 | Reply

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