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A pretentious and dishonest story-telling conference of Small Nuclear Reactor salesmen in Atlanta 2022

Markku Lehtonen in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists covered this conference  – “SMR & Advanced Reactor 2022” event in Atlanta – in a lengthy article.

The big players were there, among  over 400 vendors, utility representatives, government officials, investors, and policy advocates, in “an atmosphere full of hope for yet another nuclear renaissance.

The writer details the claims and intentions of the SMR salesmen – in this “occasion for “team-building” and raising of spirits within the nuclear community.’, in relation to climate change and future energy needs, and briefly mentioning “security”, which is code for the nuclear weapons aspect.

It struck me that “team building” might be difficult, seeing that the industry representatives were from a whole heap of competing firms, with a whole heap of different small reactor designs, (and not all designs are even small, really)

This Bulletin article presents a measured discussion of the possibilities and the needs of the small nuclear reactors. The writer recognises that this gathering was really predominantly a showcase for the small nuclear wares, – the SMR salesmen  “must promise, if not a radiant future, at least significant benefits to society. “

“Otherwise, investors, decision-makers, potential partners, and the public at large will not accept the inevitable costs and risks. Above all, promising is needed to convince governments to provide the support that has always been vital for the survival of the nuclear industry.”

He goes on to describe the discussions and concerns about regulation, needs for a skilled workforce, government support, economic viability. There were some contradictory claims about fast-breeder reactors.

Most interesting was the brief discussion on the political atmosphere, the role of governments, the question of over-regulation .

” A senior industry representative …. lamenting that the nuclear community has “allowed too much democracy to get in

“The economic viability of the SMR promise will crucially depend on how much further down the road towards deglobalization, authoritarianism in its various guises, and further tweaking of the energy markets the Western societies are willing to go”

The Bulletin article concludes:

Promises and counter-promises. For the SMR community that gathered in Atlanta, the conference was a moment of great hope and opportunity, not least thanks to the aggravating climate and energy security crises. But the road toward the fulfilment of the boldest SMR promises will be long, as is the list of the essential preconditions. To turn SMR promises into reality, the nuclear community will need no less than to achieve sufficient internal cohesion, attract investors, navigate through licensing processes, build up supply chains and factories for module manufacturing, win community acceptance on greenfield sites, demonstrate a workable solution to waste management, and reach a rate of deployment sufficient to trigger learning and generate economies of replication. Most fundamentally, governments would need to be persuaded to provide the many types of support SMRs require to deliver on their promises.

Promising of the kind seen at the conference is essential for the achievement of these objectives. The presentations and discussions in the corridors indeed ran the full gamut of promise-building, from the conviction of a dawning nuclear renaissance along the lines “this time, it will be different!” through the hope of SMRs as a solution to the net-zero and energy-security challenges, and all the way to specific affirmations hailing the virtues of individual SMR designs. The legitimacy and credibility of these claims were grounded in the convictions largely shared among the participants that renewables alone “just don’t cut it,” that the SMR supply chain is there, and that the nuclear industry has in the past shown its ability to rise to similar challenges.

Two questions appear as critical for the future of SMRs. First, despite the boost from the Ukraine crisis, it is uncertain whether SMR advocates can muster the political will and societal acceptance needed to turn SMRs into a commercial success. The economic viability of the SMR promise will crucially depend on how much further down the road towards deglobalization, authoritarianism in its various guises, and further tweaking of the energy markets the Western societies are willing to go. Although the heyday of neoliberalism is clearly behind us and government intervention is no longer the kind of swearword it was before the early 2000s, nothing guarantees that the nuclear euphoria following the Atoms for Peace program in the 1950s can be replicated. Moreover, the reliance of the SMR business case on complex global supply chains as well as on massive deployment and geographical dispersion of nuclear facilities creates its own geopolitical vulnerabilities and security problems.

Second, the experience from techno-scientific promising in a number of sectors has shown that to be socially robust, promises need constructive confrontation with counter-promises. In this regard, the Atlanta conference constituted somewhat of a missed opportunity. The absence of critical voices reflected a longstanding problem of the nuclear community recognized even by insiders—namely its unwillingness to embrace criticism and engage in constructive debate with sceptics. “Safe spaces” for internal debates within a like-minded community certainly have their place, yet in the current atmosphere of increasing hype, the SMR promise needs constructive controversy and mistrust more than ever.”  https://thebulletin.org/2022/12/building-promises-of-small-modular-reactors-one-conference-at-a-time

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December 25, 2022 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, marketing, Reference, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, spinbuster

2 Comments »

  1. There is probably less than 10 years left as climate change becomes more extreme

    Comment by O | December 25, 2022 | Reply

    • That’s what half unpsychotic halfwit james Hansen says he’s gotclimate change partially right. Moved up.hispredictions quite a bit.. Hes wrong because, nuclear contamination is probably making climate change worse

      Comment by Talb | December 26, 2022 | Reply


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