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Why small modular reactors are a climate liability, not a solution, (but good for nuclear weapons development)

Touted as a solution to global heating – small nuclear reactors have zero usefulness

Beyond Nuclear International, By Linda Pentz Gunter, 27 Nov 22

“……………………………………………………. SMRs will be needed in their hundreds if not thousands, requiring up front investment in factories and a known source of readily available fuel. None of this is in place. The typical timeframe for even a known reactor design is more than a decade — sometimes several decades. We don’t have that kind of time.

Small modular reactors would deliver electricity that is more expensive than that provided by traditional large reactors today

SMRs will actually produce more radioactive waste per unit of electricity generated than today’s reactors, waste for which there is still no safe and permanent solution.

Every dollar sunk into new small modular reactor plans could have reduced more carbon faster if invested instead in renewable energy and energy efficiency. It’s a no-brainer simple equation that an elementary school kid could work out. But not, apparently, our leaders. Why not?

See above (follow the money) and then there’s the weapons link.

“A strong domestic supply chain is needed to provide for nuclear Navy requirements,” said the Energy Futures Initiative in its report — The U.S. Nuclear Energy Enterprise: A Key National Security Enabler. “This supply chain has an inherent and very strong overlap with the commercial nuclear energy sector and has a strong presence in states with commercial nuclear power plants.”

SMRs would keep that supply chain — and the civil nuclear sector — alive. A 2019 Atlantic Council report — The Value of the US Nuclear Power Complex to US National Security — agrees. “Civil nuclear underpins military nuclear,” it said. “The lack of a civilian nuclear sector would present an immediate and significant economic shock (and impact on the labor force) — which, in turn, would have immediate and longer-term budgetary implications for the US government.”

At least two of the companies striving to develop SMRs in the US have direct links to the nuclear weapons sector. Bill Gates’s TerraPower — whose reactor can be modified to “dual purpose” for weapons and power — has research and development partnerships with Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex, both of which design and test nuclear weapons. NuScale is majority owned by Fluor Corporation, which operates the U.S. Pantex and Y-12 nuclear weapons complexes. 

Furthermore, SMRs are largely destined for export, and hardly for any domestic use at all. That hands proliferation-friendly materials, technology and know-how to countries not presently in possession of this relatively straightforward pathway to nuclear weapons.

If we are to understand the blind obsession with SMRs, the weapons connection offers one of the only plausible explanations. The stranglehold in the halls of power is the other — sound science, economics and our future be damned.

Only we can change this. Please use this latest edition of our Talking Points [Our newest edition — Unfounded Promises: Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) solve none of the challenges of nuclear power and make climate change and proliferation worse ] to contribute to a tsunami of our own — decrying the reckless waste of precious time and taxpayer money that would favor an elusive SMR program. These funds must urgently be directed to renewable energy, an industry that is here now, growing fast and one that can both reduce carbon emissions and provide good, long-term jobs into the future.

Note: In the interest of brevity, the Talking Points do not include footnotes. However, the sources and references used for the SMR Talking Points can be found in a separate document here.


November 28, 2022 - Posted by | climate change, USA

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