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US regulators approve small nuclear reactors – BUT – costs, delays, too late for climate help

The First Small Modular Nuclear Reactor Was Just Approved by US Regulators, Singularity Hub, By Edd Gent-August 5, 2022

…………………………………… questions have been raised about whether SMRs will really live up to their billing as a cheaper, safer alternative to traditional nuclear power plants. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in May found that contrary to the claims of SMR makers, these smaller reactors are actually likely to produce more radioactive waste than conventional plants.

In an article in Counterpunch, nuclear power expert M.V. Ramana also points out that the cost of renewable energy like wind and solar is already lower than that of nuclear, and continuing to fall rapidly. In contrast, nuclear power has actually become more expensive over the years.

SMRs could cost more than bigger nuclear plants, he adds, because they don’t have the same economy of scale. In theory this could be offset through mass manufacture, but only if companies receive orders in the hundreds. Tellingly, some utilities have already backed out of NuScale’s first project over cost concerns.

Perhaps even more importantly, notes Ramana, SMRs are unlikely to be ready in time to contribute to the climate fight. Projects aren’t expected to come online until the end of the decade, by which time the IPCC says we already need to have made drastic emissions reductions.

The technology has some powerful boosters though, not least President Joe Biden, who recently touted NuScale’s “groundbreaking American technology” while announcing a grant for an SMR plant the company will build in Romania. Engineering giant Rolls-Royce also recently announced a shortlist for the location of its future SMR factory, which will be used to build 16 SMRs for the UK government by 2050.

Whether SMRs can deliver on their promise remains to be seen, but given the scope of the climate challenge facing us, exploring all available options seems wise.

August 5, 2022 - Posted by | business and costs, climate change, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA

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