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Small modular reactors: What is taking so long?

Next-generation nuclear has long been just around the corner, but debate still rages over the silver-bullet credentials of small modular reactors.

By Oliver Gordon The growing urgency of the climate crisis and, more recently, the energy crisis has reawakened global interest in nuclear energy. Even the likes of Bill Gates and Elon Musk have waded into the debate to petition for a more prominent role for nuclear power in the transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. To that end, there is much expectation surrounding the development of small modular reactors (SMRs), a new generation of nuclear reactors that are being marketed as the solution to all of nuclear power’s previous shortcomings.

To that end, there is much expectation surrounding the development of small
modular reactors (SMRs), a new generation of nuclear reactors that are
being marketed as the solution to all of nuclear power’s previous
shortcomings.

In fact, SMRs are not forecast to hit the commercial market
before 2030, and although SMRs are expected to have lower up-front capital
costs per reactor, their economic competitiveness is still to be proven in
practice once they are deployed at scale.

Nuclear reactors are extremely
complex systems that must comply with stringent safety requirements, taking
into account a wide variety of accident scenarios. The licensing process is
extensive and country-dependent, implying some standardisation will be
required for SMRs to properly take off.

However – beyond the perennial
oscillation of public acceptance of nuclear energy – there are still a
variety of challenges SMR technology needs to overcome before it can reach
commercial deployment. “The hardest is economics,” says M V Ramana, the
Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of
Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia,
Canada, and author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in
India. “Nuclear energy is an expensive way to generate electricity.”

 Energy Monitor (accessed) 21st Sept 2022
 https://www.energymonitor.ai/sectors/power/small-modular-reactors-smrs-what-is-taking-so-long

September 21, 2022 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

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