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Nuclear Transparency Watch warns on the unwisdom of UK government subsidising Small Modular Nuclear Recators (SMRs)

Small Modular Reactors – of SMRs and ANTs, by Jan Haverkamp   http://www.nuclear-transparency-watch.eu/activities/small-modular-reactors-of-smrs-and-ants-by-jan-haverkamp.html  

15 April 2019  The debate on Small Modular Reactors continues to warm up. The IAEA recently updated its webpages on the issue. SMRs are currently promoted by parts of the nuclear industry as an answer to the decrease of interest in normal gigawatt (GW)-scale reactors because of economic and technical realities.

NTW member Dr. David Lowry intervened on the issue on behalf of Nuclear Transparency Watch during the European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF) in Bratislava, June 2018, where he addressed, what he called, some “inconvenient truths” about these smaller reactors. Last month he published on his blog site an overview of articles that illustrate how the issue is currently discussed in the UK, with the responsible energy minister, earlier accused of “crushing” small reactors, first praising SMRs, then renaming them ANTs (advanced nuclear technologies), and then resigning over Brexit.Just before his resignation, energy minister Richard Harrington announced a further £7 million of funding to regulators to build the capability and capacity needed to assess and licence small reactor designs, and up to £44 million pounds in R&D funding to support Generation IV advanced reactors. This came on top of earlier promised £460 million in the UK government’s Clean Growth Strategy to support work in areas including future nuclear fuels, new nuclear manufacturing techniques, recycling and reprocessing, and advanced reactor design, £8 million on modern safety and security methodologies and advanced fuel studies, and £5 million on materials and manufacturing as part of a Small Business Research Initiative.

Dr. David Lowry thinks it is time for a warning: “This article focuses on the UK, but similar arguments as I brought forward in Bratislava would apply to any other European government confronted with requests for support of this new sector.”

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April 18, 2019 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | Leave a comment

Many obstacles to small modular nuclear reactors, but U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommends them, anyway

NRC recommends issuing early site permit for Clinch River Nuclear Site, OAK RIDGE TODAY,  APRIL 8, 2019BY JOHN HUOTARI The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a final environmental impact statement, and the staff has recommended, based upon the environmental review, issuing an early site permit for the Clinch River Nuclear Site in west Oak Ridge, where two or more small modular nuclear reactors could be built.The final environmental impact statement, or EIS, was issued by the NRC on April 3. A notice of the EIS and the staff’s recommendation were published in the Federal Register on Monday, April 8.

The 935-acre Clinch River Nuclear Site is located in Roane County along the Clinch River……….

An early site permit is the NRC’s approval of a site for one or more nuclear power facilities. It does not authorize the actual construction and operation of a new nuclear power plant. That requires a construction permit and an operating license, or a combined license. ………

The Clinch River Nuclear Site could be used to demonstrate small modular reactors with a maximum total electrical output of 800 megawatts………

Now that the final EIS has been published, there will be a mandatory hearing with the NRC after a final safety evaluation report is issued. The NRC expects that report to be published in June. The five-member commission will make a decision after the hearing about whether to issue the early site permit.

A contested hearing could be held by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board panel if a member of the public or an organization successfully files a petition that raises safety or environmental concerns about granting the site a permit, the NRC said.

The NRC said an authorization for the construction or operation of new nuclear units at the Clinch River site is not being sought at this time.

The potential timing of any reactors being built at the site is not clear. Among other things, TVA doesn’t control the reactor certification process.

“There are currently no certified small modular reactor designs available, but TVA will continue working to ensure we are ready to fully evaluate them when they are available,” Hopson said.

Financial considerations would have to be evaluated, and the TVA board of directors would have the final decision “based on what they believe will be in the best interest of the people of the Tennessee Valley,” Hopson said.

Since a design hasn’t been certified for a small modular reactor, TVA used what is known as a “plant parameter envelope” as a surrogate for a nuclear power plant and its facilities when applying for the early site permit. The “plant parameter envelope” estimated the potential environmental impacts of building and operating two or more small modular reactors at the site. TVA used information from four small modular reactor vendors to develop the “plant parameter envelope.”

A reader has asked why TVA might consider adding new generating capacity at the Clinch River site even as it plans to retire coal-fired units like the Bull Run Fossil Plant in Claxton, citing flat or declining demand………https://oakridgetoday.com/2019/04/08/nrc-recommends-issuing-early-site-permit-clinch-river-nuclear-site/

April 9, 2019 Posted by | politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

15 USA senators re-introduce bill to promote new nuclear reactors

Senate re-introduces bill to help advanced nuclear technology, Legislation was praise by Bill Gates, who has funded an advanced nuclear company. Ars Technica, MEGAN GEUSS – 4/1/2019, 

Last week, a bipartisan group of 15 US senators re-introduced a bill to instate the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA), which would offer incentives and set federal goals for advanced nuclear energy. A smaller group of senators originally introduced the bill in September of last year, but the Congressional session ended before the Senate voted on it.

Specifically, the bill authorizes the federal government to enter into 40-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) with nuclear power companies, as opposed to the 10-year agreements that were previously authorized. Securing a 40-year PPA would essentially guarantee to an advanced nuclear startup that it could sell its power for 40 years, which reduces the uncertainty that might come with building a complex and complicated power source.

……. In addition to supporting a 40-year PPA to improve the economics of advanced nuclear reactor research from the private market, the bill directs the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy to develop a 10-year strategic plan to support advanced nuclear reactor research. The DOE must also “construct a fast neutron-capable research facility” if the bill passes, which Senate materials say “is necessary to test important reactor components, demonstrate their safe and reliable operation, and ultimately license advanced reactor concepts.”

The bill also directs the federal government to make available some “high-assay low-enriched uranium” for research and testing in advanced reactors. Traditional light-water reactors use low-enriched uranium in which the active U-235 isotope constitutes 3 to 5 percent of the nuclear fuel, according to the World Nuclear Association. High-assay low-enriched uranium, on the other hand, pushes enrichment levels to about 7 percent of the fuel and, in some cases, can go as high as 20 percent.

Finally, the bill directs the DOE to create “a university nuclear leadership program” to train the next generation of nuclear engineers.

On Thursday, Microsoft mogul Bill Gates tweeted his support for the bill. Gates is currently the chairman for an advanced nuclear reactor company called Terrapower, which is developing a traveling wave reactor that uses depleted uranium as fuel (depleted uranium is a by-product of uranium enrichment). Terrapower suffered a political setback earlier this year, as US rules against sharing nuclear technology with China forced the company to abandon its plans for conducting preliminary trials of its technology in that country.

Gates praised this new bill, writing “I can’t overstate how important this is.”

…….. NuScale Power, a company that has made significant progress toward building a small modular reactor in Idaho, also praised the bill. In a statement to a market research company called The Morning Consult, chief strategy officer of NuScale Power Chris Colbert said that “the bill would ‘absolutely’ make it easier and more certain to reach deployment.” https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/03/senate-re-introduces-bill-to-help-advanced-nuclear-technology/

April 1, 2019 Posted by | politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Small and Medium Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) – cost estimates, and what they cost to build

SMR cost estimates, and costs of SMRs under construction, Nuclear Monitor Issue:  #872-873 4777 07/03/2019Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

Costs of SMRs under construction   https://wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/872-873/smr-cost-estimates-and-costs-smrs-under-construction?fbclid=IwAR1TQA0xJ4bYxnVxJ0Aulcxvp0miMhEP4Vt8YqvLQKrhI3lTDhnrzZxQCE8Estimated construction costs for Russia’s floating nuclear power plant (with two 35-MW ice-breaker-type reactors) have increased more than four-fold and now equate to over US$10 billion / gigawatt (GW) (US$740 million / 70 MW).1 A 2016 OECD Nuclear Energy Agency report said that electricity produced by the plant is expected to cost about US$200/MWh, with the high cost due to large staffing requirements, high fuel costs, and resources required to maintain the barge and coastal infrastructure.2

Little credible information is available on the cost of China’s demonstration 2×250 MW high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR). If the demonstration reactor is completed and successfully operated, China reportedly plans to upscale the design to 655 MW (three modules feeding one turbine, total 655 MW) and to build these reactors in pairs with a total capacity of about 1,200 MW (so much for the small-is-beautiful SMR rhetoric). According to the World Nuclear Association, China’s Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology at Tsinghua University expects the cost of a 655 MWe HTGR to be 15-20% more than the cost of a conventional 600 MWe PWR.3

A 2016 report said that the estimated construction cost of China’s demonstration HTGR is about US$5,000/kW ‒ about twice the initial cost estimates.4 Cost increases have arisen from higher material and component costs, increases in labor costs, and increased costs associated with project delays.4 The World Nuclear Association states that the cost of the demonstration HTGR is US$6,000/kW.5

The CAREM (Central Argentina de Elementos Modulares) SMR under construction in Argentina illustrates the gap between SMR rhetoric and reality. Argentina’s Undersecretary of Nuclear Energy, Julián Gadano, said in 2016 that the world market for SMRs is in the tens of billions of dollars and that Argentina could capture 20% of the market with its CAREM technology.6 But cost estimates have ballooned: Continue reading

March 25, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

American nuclear lobby keen to market new nuclear reactors to overseas, to anyone!

The US is losing the nuclear energy export race to China and Russia. Here’s the Trump team’s plan to turn the tide

CNBC, MAR 21 2019 
 Tom DiChristopher@TDICHRISTOPHER 

  • Russian and Chinese companies are aggressively pursuing nuclear energy export deals and building more reactors overseas than U.S. firms.
  • The Trump administration aims to disrupt that progress by expanding early stage cooperation with countries interested in adopting nuclear energy.
  •  new initiative aims to make the U.S. the global leader in advanced nuclear reactors poised to hit the market in the coming years.The Trump administration is preparing a new push to help American companies compete in the race to build the next generation of nuclear power plants around the world — a competition the U.S. is currently losing.

    In doing so, the administration also aims to push back on the growing dominance of Russia and China in the space, preventing them from expanding their international influence by forging long-lasting nuclear ties with foreign powers.

    The State Department plans to expand cooperation with countries pursuing atomic energy long before those nations ever purchase a nuclear reactor. By facilitating early stage talks, the U.S. intends to put American companies first in line to build tomorrow’s fleet of nuclear power plants overseas

    We still lead the world in nuclear technology innovation. Our big challenge is taking that incredible IP and those incredible technological innovative breakthroughs and bringing them to market.

    To be sure, the Energy and Commerce departments actively facilitate U.S. nuclear cooperation with their foreign counterparts. But the State Department now intends to push the issue in talks at the highest levels of government, making it clear that Washington believes cooperation in the nuclear realm is central to its strategic relationships…….

    Rise of Russia and China

    The U.S. dominated nuclear energy exports decades ago, but faces stiff competition today, including from allies like France and South Korea. But it’s the growing dominance of adversaries in Beijing and Moscow that worries the Trump administration and nonproliferation experts……..

    Russia is also changing the rules of the game by offering generous financing that makes nuclear energy affordable to more nations. Moscow is targeting non-nuclear states in the Middle East and Africa with a model to build, own and operate the plants.

    The State Department intends to actively dissuade its partners from working with China and Russia, according to Christopher Ford, assistant secretary for international security and nonproliferation.

    Ford previewed that message last month at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC: “Russia and China also use reactor sales by their heavily state-supported nuclear industries as a geopolitical tool to deepen political relationships with partner countries, to foster energy dependence by foreign partners, and sometimes even to use predatory financing to lure foreign political leaderships into ‘debt traps’ that give Beijing or Moscow leverage that it can exploit later for geopolitical advantage.”

    New plan takes shape

    During the address, Ford outlined State’s plan to help American companies compete with Chinese and Russian firms.

    The department will more closely coordinate nuclear cooperation efforts across agencies and ramp up informal, non-binding talks with nations that might pursue nuclear energy technology. The goal is to expand the number of countries engaged in ongoing communication with U.S. government agencies, nuclear energy companies and researchers.

    The State Department will do this by signing nuclear cooperation memorandums of understanding with the countries……..

    State’s focus is on teeing up sales of a new generation of nuclear technology expected to come online in the next five to 10 years, the official said.Those include small modular reactors that can be bolted together to form larger units, Terrapower’s traveling wave reactor backed by Bill Gates and microreactors meant to provide enough power for a few thousand homes.

    Altogether, there are about two dozen serious designs for advanced nuclear reactors trying to break into the market, said McGinnis. Under McGinnis and Secretary Rick Perry, one of the Energy Department’s top priorities is facilitating the development of these new technologies…….

    On Tuesday, NuScale Energy signed a memorandum to explore deploying its small modular reactors in Romania, after signing similar agreements with Canada and Jordan.

    The U.S. will still have to reach so-called 123 Agreements with foreign countries before American firms can sell nuclear reactors overseas. These agreements place limits on the use of nuclear technology and must be approved by Congress.

    These agreements have recently drawn scrutiny from Democratic and Republican lawmakers as Westinghouse bids for nuclear power contracts in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have long insisted on their right to enrich uranium, something the U.S. usually opposes. The bidding also comes as tension between Riyadh and Capitol Hill has escalated after Saudi agents killed Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October. ……..  https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/21/trump-aims-to-beat-china-and-russia-in-nuclear-energy-export-race.html

March 23, 2019 Posted by | marketing, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | 1 Comment

The sorry history of small nuclear power reactors

Many of the expenses associated with constructing and operating a reactor do not change in linear proportion to the power generated. For instance, a 400 MW reactor requires less than twice the quantity of concrete and steel to construct as a 200 MW reactor, and it can be operated with fewer than twice as many people.

In the face of this prevailing wisdom, proponents of small reactors pinned their hopes on yet another popular commercial principle: “economies of mass production.”

In 1968, the same year Elk River shut down, the last of the AEC’s small reactors was connected to the grid: the 50 MW La Crosse boiling water reactor.19 That plant operated for 18 years; by the end, its electricity cost three times as much as that from the coal plant next door, according to a 2012 news account about the disposal of the plant’s spent fuel. Dealing with the irradiated uranium-thorium fuel proved difficult too. Eventually, the spent fuel was shipped to a reprocessing plant in southern Italy.

Since then, not a single small reactor has been commissioned in the United States.

Without exception, small reactors cost too much for the little electricity they produced, the result of both their low output and their poor performance.

The forgotten history of small nuclear reactors  Nuclear Monitor Issue: #872-873 4775 07/03/2019  M.V. Ramana ‒ Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia

Article  April 2015 ‒ A tantalizing proposition has taken hold again in the nuclear industry: that small nuclear reactors have economic and other advantages over the standard-size ones being built today. The idea is that by reducing the substantial financial risk of a full-scale nuclear project, small reactors are the best option for kick-starting a much-discussed revival of nuclear power……

the technology remains in stasis or decline throughout the Americas and Europe. …..

A fundamental reason for this decline is indeed economic. Compared with other types of electricity generation, nuclear power is expensive. Continue reading

March 23, 2019 Posted by | Reference, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

NuScale includes Romania in its desperate search for taxpayer funding for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

Romania to explore NuScale SMR deployment, WNN, 19 March 2019 An agreement between US small modular reactor (SMR) developer NuScale Power and Romanian energy company Societata Nationala Nuclearelectrica SA (SNN SA) to explore the use of SMRs in Romania has been welcomed by the US Department of Energy (DOE). The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding covering the exchange of business and technical information on NuScale’s nuclear technology, with the goal of evaluating the development, licensing and construction of a NuScale SMR for a “potential similar long-term solution” in Romania……… NuScale has also signed MOUs to explore the deployment of its SMR technology in Canada and Jordan. http://world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Romania-to-explore-NuScale-SMR-deployment

March 21, 2019 Posted by | marketing, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | 1 Comment

USA pushing mini-nuclear reactors for military reasons

US pursuing mini-nuclear reactors to support military expeditionary capabilities,  Defence Connect, 20 Mar 19, The US military is conducting research into the development of rapidly deployable, container mounted nuclear reactors to support deployed American and allied forces, reducing threats to traditional supply and support convoys…….

The US has initiated a series of programs to develop, test and deploy alternatives to traditional petrol-based fuel systems, particularly for power generation and small-scale manufacturing of key materials like munitions at forward operating bases operating in close proximity to peer-competitors, limiting supply line and convoy exposure to enemy interdiction.  ….. Enter the development of very small modular nuclear reactors (vSMRs), designed to deliver between one and 10 megawatts (MW) for years without refuelling in a rapidly-deployable (road and/or air) package. Both the US Department of Defense and NASA have collaborated on the development of such reactors for use in military and space exploration contingencies.   ………The HOLOS reactor in particular has been designed to support deployed military requirements……..
https://www.defenceconnect.com.au/key-enablers/3737-us-pursuing-mini-nuclear-reactors-to-support-military-expeditionary-capabilities

March 21, 2019 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

The incessant statement that nuclear is “carbon free” is untrue, and the nuclear industry knows it

RealAccounting , 17 Mar 18  The incessant statement that nuclear is “carbon free” is untrue, and the nuclear industry knows it. The carbon footprint of a standard nuclear plant is in its construction and infrastructure. Many tons of concrete; google the carbon footprint of cement. Then the fossil fuel needed to dig up, crush, size, wash and transport aggregate for the concrete. We’ll ignore carbon costs of acquiring and pumping water for the concrete, at this point. Then steel. Many tons of steel; much of it specialized, using manufacturing processes that use 2-5x more heat (coal/coke) than plain mild steel. Mining. Smelting. Forming. Ore transport. Steel transport. All done with fossil fuels- not zero. Then there’s operating staff. A 2.2 MW coal plant has about 350 employees. Three Mile Island has 675. Numbers for maintaining/operating wind and solar plants are wildly variable, since so much depends on size and site at this point; but you understand that taking care of an installed wind or solar plant is a job for a very few technicians.

When “selling” a power plant to the public, the fact that it “provides” lots of jobs is seen as a positive. But in terms of carbon footprint and allocation of resources; the more humans needed to operate the plant; the bigger the carbon footprint, forever. This bit of resource accounting is always ignored, and is very far from trivial. Basically, in order to operate Three Mile Island, a small village of 700 people, + all the services they need, all the support- belongs to the carbon footprint of the nuclear plant. If those same people were elsewhere; their carbon costs would be attached to whatever enterprise they are involved in. Time to be serious about it; and honest. Only “Lifetime- total system” accounting – counts

 

Are these tiny, ‘inherently safe’ nuclear reactors the path to a carbon-free future?  by Andrew Maykuth, March 16, 2019 

 

Are these NuScale nuclear power stations REALLY tiny?

“……the industry sees the future not in building gargantuan plants, but in small modular reactors, or SMRs — factory-built units with fewer parts, designed to be installed underground with passive cooling systems that the industry says are “inherently safe.”

March 18, 2019 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

R.I.P. Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

An obituary for small modular reactors Jim Green, The Ecologist, 11 March 2019,https://theecologist.org/2019/mar/11/obituary-small-modular-reactors

The nuclear industry is heavily promoting the idea of building small modular reactors (SMRs), with near-zero prospects for new large power reactors in many countries. These reactors would have a capacity of under 300 megawatts (MW), whereas large reactors typically have a capacity of 1,000 MW.

Construction at reactor sites would be replaced with standardised factory production of reactor components then installation at the reactor site, thereby driving down costs and improving quality control.

The emphasis in this article is on the questionable economics of SMRs, but a couple of striking features of the SMR universe should be mentioned (for details see the latest issue of Nuclear Monitor).

First, the enthusiasm for SMRs has little to do with climate-friendly environmentalism. About half of the SMRs under construction (Russia’s floating power plant, Russia’s RITM-200 icebreaker ships, and China’s ACPR50S demonstration reactor) are designed to facilitate access to fossil fuel resources in the Arctic, the South China Sea and elsewhere. Another example comes from Canada, where one application of SMRs under consideration is providing power and heat for the extraction of hydrocarbons from oil sands.

A second striking feature of the SMR universe is that it is deeply interconnected with militarism:

  • Argentina’s experience and expertise with small reactors derives from its historic weapons program, and its interest in SMRs is interconnected with its interest in small reactors for naval propulsion.
  • China’s interest in SMRs extends beyond fossil fuel mining and includes powering the construction and operation of artificial islands in its attempt to secure claim to a vast area of the South China Sea.
  • Saudi Arabia’s interest in SMRs is likely connected to its interest in developing nuclear weapons or a latent weapons capability.
  • A subsidiary of Holtec International has actively sought a military role, inviting the US National Nuclear Security Administration to consider the feasibility of using a proposed SMR to produce tritium, used to boost the explosive yield of nuclear weapons.
  • Proposals are under consideration in the US to build SMRs at military bases and perhaps even to use them to power forward operating bases.
  • In the UK, Rolls-Royce is promoting SMRs on the grounds that “a civil nuclear UK SMR programme would relieve the Ministry of Defence of the burden of developing and retaining skills and capability”.

Independent economic assessments

SMRs will almost certainly be more expensive than large reactors (more precisely, construction costs will be lower but the electricity produced by SMRs will be more expensive).

They will inevitably suffer diseconomies of scale: a 250 MW SMR will generate 25 percent as much power as a 1,000 MW reactor, but it will require more than 25 percent of the material inputs and staffing, and a number of other costs including waste management and decommissioning will be proportionally higher.

It’s highly unlikely that potential savings arising from standardised factory production will make up for those diseconomies of scale.

William Von Hoene, senior vice president at Exelon, has expressed scepticism about SMRs: “Right now, the costs on the SMRs, in part because of the size and in part because of the security that’s associated with any nuclear plant, are prohibitive,” he said last year. “It’s possible that that would evolve over time, and we’re involved in looking at that technology. Right now they’re prohibitively expensive.”

Every independent economic assessment finds that electricity from SMRs will be more expensive than that from large reactors.

study by WSP / Parsons Brinckerhoff, commissioned by the 2015/16 South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, estimated costs of A$180‒184/MWh (US$127‒130) for large pressurised water reactors and boiling water reactors, compared to A$198‒225 (US$140‒159) for SMRs.

A 2015 report by the International Energy Agency and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency predicts that electricity costs from SMRs will typically be 50−100 percent higher than for current large reactors, although it holds out some hope that large volume factory production of SMRs could help reduce costs.

report by the consultancy firm Atkins for the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy found that electricity from the first SMR in the UK would be 30 percent more expensive than power from large reactors, because of diseconomies of scale and the costs of deploying first-of-a-kind technology.

An article by four current and former researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy, published in 2018 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, considered options for the development of an SMR market in the US. They concluded that it would not be viable unless the industry received “several hundred billion dollars of direct and indirect subsidies” over the next several decades.

No market

SMR enthusiasts envisage a large SMR market emerging in the coming years. A frequently cited 2014 report by the UK National Nuclear Laboratory estimates 65‒85 gigawatts (GW) of installed SMR capacity by 2035, valued at £250‒400 billion.

But in truth there is no market for SMRs. Thomas Overton, associate editor of POWER magazine, wrote in 2014: “At the graveyard wherein resides the “nuclear renaissance” of the 2000s, a new occupant appears to be moving in: the small modular reactor (SMR) … Over the past year, the SMR industry has been bumping up against an uncomfortable and not-entirely-unpredictable problem: It appears that no one actually wants to buy one.”

Let’s briefly return to the National Nuclear Laboratory’s estimate of 65‒85 GW of installed SMR capacity by 2035. It is implausible and stands in contrast to the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency’s estimate of <1 GW to 21 GW of SMR capacity by 2035. But even if the 65‒85 GW figure proved to be accurate, it would pale in comparison to renewable energy sources.

As of the of end of 2017, global renewable energy capacity was 2,195 GW including 178 GW of new capacity added in 2017. On current trends, even in the wildest dreams of SMR enthusiasts, SMR capacity would be roughly 50 times less than renewable capacity by 2035.

SMRs under construction

SMR projects won’t be immune from the major cost overruns that have crippled large reactor projects (such as the AP1000 projects in the US that bankrupted Westinghouse). Indeed cost overruns have already become the norm for SMR projects.

Estimated construction costs for Russia’s floating nuclear power plant (with two 35-MW ice-breaker-type reactors) have increased more than four-fold and now equate to over US$10 billion / GW (US$740 million / 70 MW). A 2016 OECD Nuclear Energy Agency report said that electricity produced by the Russian floating plant is expected to cost about US$200 per megawatt-hour (MWh), with the high cost due to large staffing requirements, high fuel costs, and resources required to maintain the barge and coastal infrastructure.

The CAREM (Central Argentina de Elementos Modulares) SMR under construction in Argentina illustrates the gap between SMR rhetoric and reality. Cost estimates have ballooned. In 2004, when the CAREM reactor was in the planning stage, Argentina’s Bariloche Atomic Center estimated an overnight cost of US$1 billion / GW for an integrated 300 MW plant. When construction began in 2014, the estimated cost of the CAREM reactor was US$17.8 billion / GW (US$446 million for a 25-MW reactor). By April 2017, the cost estimate had increased to US$21.9 billion / GW (US$700 million with the capacity uprated from 25 MW to 32 MW). The CAREM project is years behind schedule and costs will likely increase further. In 2014, first fuel loading was expected in 2017 but completion is now anticipated in November 2021.

Little credible information is available on the cost of China’s demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR). If the 210 MW demonstration reactor is completed and successfully operated, China reportedly plans to upscale the design to 655 MW. According to the World Nuclear Association, China’s Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology at Tsinghua University expects the cost of a 655 MW HTGR to be 15-20 percent more than the cost of a conventional 600 MW PWR. A 2016 report said that the estimated construction cost of China’s demonstration HTGR is about twice the initial cost estimates, with increases due to higher material and component costs, increases in labour costs, and increased costs associated with project delays. The World Nuclear Association states that the cost of the demonstration HTGR is US$6,000/kW.

NuScale Power’s creative accounting

Cost estimates for planned SMRs are implausible. US company NuScale Power is targeting a cost of just US$65/MWh for its first plant. But a study by WSP / Parsons Brinckerhoff, commissioned by the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, estimated a cost of US$159/MWh based on the US NuScale SMR design. That’s 2.4 times higher than NuScale’s estimate.

A 2018 Lazard report estimates costs of US$112‒189/MWh for electricity from large nuclear plants. NuScale’s claim that its electricity will be 2‒3 times cheaper than large nuclear is implausible. And even if NuScale achieved costs of US$65/MWh, that would still be well above Lazard’s figures for wind power (US$29‒56) and utility-scale solar (US$36‒46).

Likewise, NuScale’s construction cost estimate of US$4.2 billion / GW is implausible. The latest estimate for the AP1000 reactors under construction in Georgia is US$17.4 billion / GW. NuScale wants us to believe that it will build SMRs at less than one-quarter of that cost, even though every independent assessment concludes that SMRs will be more expensive to build (per GW) than large reactors.

No-one wants to pay for SMRS

No company, utility, consortium or national government is seriously considering building the massive supply chain that is at the very essence of the concept of SMRs ‒ mass, modular factory construction. Yet without that supply chain, SMRs will be expensive curiosities.

In early 2019, Kevin Anderson, North American Project Director for Nuclear Energy Insider, said that there “is unprecedented growth in companies proposing design alternatives for the future of nuclear, but precious little progress in terms of market-ready solutions.”

Anderson argued that it is time to convince investors that the SMR sector is ready for scale-up financing but that it will not be easy: “Even for those sympathetic, the collapse of projects such as V.C Summer does little to convince financiers that this sector is mature and competent enough to deliver investable projects on time and at cost.”

A 2018 US Department of Energy report states that to make a “meaningful” impact, about US$10 billion of government subsidies would be needed to deploy 6 GW of SMR capacity by 2035. But there’s no indication or likelihood that the US government will subsidise the industry to that extent.

To date, the US government has offered US$452 million to support private-sector SMR projects, of which US$111 million was wasted on the mPower project that was abandoned in 2017.

The collapse of the mPower project was one of a growing number of setbacks for the industry in the US. Transatomic Power gave up on its molten salt reactor R&D last year. Westinghouse sharply reduced its investment in SMRs after failing to secure US government funding. MidAmerican Energy gave up on its plans for SMRs in Iowa after failing to secure legislation that would force rate-payers to part-pay construction costs. The MidAmerican story has a happy ending: the company has invested over US$10 billion in renewables in Iowa and is now working towards its vision “to generate renewable energy equal to 100 percent of its customers’ usage on an annual basis.”

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories has set the goal of siting a new demonstration SMR at its Chalk River site by 2026. But serious discussions about paying for a demonstration SMR ‒ let alone a fleet of SMRs ‒ have not yet begun. The Canadian SMR Roadmap website simply states: “Appropriate risk sharing among governments, power utilities and industry will be necessary for SMR demonstration and deployment in Canada.”

Companies seeking to pursue SMR projects in the UK are seeking several billion pounds from the government to build demonstration plants. But nothing like that amount of money has been made available. In 2018, the UK government agreed to provide £56 million towards the development and licensing of advanced modular reactor designs and £32 million towards advanced manufacturing research. An industry insider told the Guardian in 2017: “It’s a pretty half-hearted, incredibly British, not-quite-good-enough approach. Another industry source questioned the credibility of SMR developers: “Almost none of them have got more than a back of a fag packet design drawn with a felt tip.”

State-run SMR programs

State-run SMR programs ‒ such as those in Argentina, China, Russia, and South Korea ‒ might have a better chance of steady, significant funding, but to date the investments in SMRs have been minuscule compared to investments in other energy programs.

And again, wherever you look there’s nothing to justify the high hopes (and hype) of SMR enthusiasts. South Korea, for example, won’t build any of its domestically-designed SMART SMRs in South Korea (“this is not practical or economic” according to the World Nuclear Association). South Korea’s plan to export SMART technology to Saudi Arabia is problematic and may in any case be in trouble.

China and Argentina hope to develop a large export market for their high-temperature gas-cooled reactors and small pressurised water reactors, respectively, but so far all they can point to are partially-built demonstration reactors that have been subject to significant cost overruns and delays.

All of the above can be read as an obituary for SMRs. The likelihood that they will establish anything more than a small, niche market is vanishingly small.

Dr Jim Green is the lead author of a Nuclear Monitor report on small modular reactors, and national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia.

March 12, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Mobile nuclear reactors for U.S. army -‘a COLOSSAL mistake’ – could bring about World War 3

World War 3 news: US military’s mobile nuclear reactor ‘a COLOSSAL mistake’ https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1097564/world-war-3-mobile-battlefield-nuclear-reactor-us-military-nuclear-war

US DEFENCE Department plans to build mobile nuclear reactors capable of powering their battlefield bases could trigger another world war, an eminent scientist has warned.

By TOM FISH,Mar 9, 2019  The US military is fighting wars on at least 11 fronts, from the middle East to Africa. And all that cutting-edge equipment and military personnel can consume vast amounts of energy. But the US Defence Department’s announced intention of building an array of mobile nuclear reactors to power its way to victory has been slammed as incredibly dangerous – and could even trigger another nuclear war.

The US army is keen to end its dependance on fossil fuel deliveries to forward operating bases, situated close to conflict zones.

There would be a significant escalation if a nuclear plant was hit

Dr Edwin Lyman

But Dr Edwin Lyman, the senior global security scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, believes swapping to nuclear power is “simply trading one problem for another.”

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Dr Lyman said: “The military generally use diesel fuel that has to be trucked in, creating supply vulnerabilities.

“So they would love to have a constant supply of electricity which does not require these frequent shipments.

“And they think nuclear power can provide that.

“But nuclear reactors also require fuel – admittedly not as regularly – but not only would fresh fuel have to be delivered, but after its use it is highly radioactive spent fuel and there is no discussion over what would happen to that.”

The Defence Department has requested tenders for nuclear reactors capable of producing between one and 10 megawatts of electricity, weigh less than 40 tonnes, and can be transported by ship, truck or C-17 aircraft.

And it would have a so-called “inherently safe design”, ensuring a meltdown is physically impossible in various complete failure scenarios.

However, Dr Lyman, a scientist with several decades in the field, believes it is naive to expect a such nuclear reactor to be safe in the middle of a war zone.

He said: “It is foolish for the US Department of Defence to assume there are reactors that cannot meltdown and devastate their bases with radioactivity.

“And if that is what they are looking for, it is a fools errand.”

The nuclear scientist believes these nuclear reactors would be a target for terrorists, and a direct strike could disperse that hazardous radioactive enriched uranium that could damage the safety systems preventing the reactor from melting down.

Dr Lyman said: “I expect in a worst-case scenario you would have an area of many tens of kilometres that could be contaminated to the extent where the land would be unusable without being decontaminated.

“And anyone at the military base at that time would be exposed to potentially lethal doses of radiation.

“So at best it would be a costly mess and at worse it could imperil the mission and the military personnel, and contaminate the area of the base which would affect the inhabitants of the host country.“

The nuclear scientist believes the US military response to such a devastating nuclear attack on its armed forces could trigger a like-foxlike reaction.

“If you bomb a fossil fuel installation it would not be pretty, but there would be a significant escalation if a nuclear plant was hit.

“And so the military would have to respond in kind or with a more devastating response and it could escalate.”

He said: “There could be a number of disadvantages, both to military forces and also to the countries where the reactors would be located.

“The US military could end up leaving a radioactive mess for other countries to deal with.

There is precedent for this, when the US military dropped nuclear weapons off the coast of Spain and in Greenland.

“The US left a radioactive legacy in both countries for decades.

“So there are a lot of factors to consider, and I fear the military has an unrealistic view as to how successful this project is likely to be.”

March 10, 2019 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

The very dubious “market” for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

What has not been tested is whether there would ever be enough orders for any one sort of small modular reactor to justify setting up a factory to produce dozens of them. This is the only way to get the unit cost down sufficiently to compete with renewables, which are continuing to get cheaper and already dominate the market.

March 7, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | 1 Comment

the nuclear lobby’s dream of small modular nuclear reactors is not likely to come true

The quest for boundless energy http://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6429/809, Adrian ChoSee all authors and affiliations

Science  22 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6429, pp. 809
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6429.809  

Summary

For all their innovations, NuScale Power’s small modular reactors remain conventional in one way: They would use ordinary uranium-based reactor fuel that’s meant to be used once and safely disposed of. But for decades, nuclear engineers envisioned a world powered by “fast reactors” that can breed an essentially boundless supply of plutonium that can be reprocessed into fuel. Early in the atomic age, experts believed nuclear energy would one day supply most of the world’s power, raising the specter of a uranium shortage and boosting interest in fast breeder reactors.

However, the reactors are complex and must be cooled with substances such as liquid sodium or molten salt. The chemically intensive recycling process produces plenty of its own hazardous waste. And the closed fuel cycle also would establish a global market for plutonium, the stuff of atomic weapons, raising proliferation concerns. Perhaps most important, the world is in no danger of running out of uranium. So some experts doubt fast reactors will ever become mainstream.

February 23, 2019 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

Tax-payer funding for yet another nuclear folly? Rolls Royce’s Small Modular Reactors

Rolls-Royce seeks government funds for nuclear power project https://www.ft.com/content/1bbfefb0-20bf-11e9-b2f7-97e4dbd3580d  Group wants £200m to develop small-scale plants after failure of big schemes   and – 27 Jan 19

 A consortium led by Rolls-Royce has asked for more than £200m in government funding to help develop its project for small nuclear reactors, as ministers scramble to recast Britain’s energy policy after the collapse of plans to build several large reactors. The engineering group and its partners, which include Laing O’Rourke and Arup, want to secure a sum “in the low hundreds of millions”, confirmed one person with knowledge of the request. Any amount would be match-funded by the consortium and be used to develop Rolls-Royce’s technology through to the later stages of the licensing process in order to be able to attract private investment.

 Supporters of small modular reactors — most of which will not be commercial until the 2030s — argue that they can deliver nuclear power at lower cost and reduced risk. They will draw on modular manufacturing techniques that will reduce construction risk, which has plagued larger-scale projects.

The consortium has applied for funding from the government’s industrial strategy challenge fund under UK Research and Innovation. The money would enable the group to develop its design through to the later stages of the “generic design assessment” by the industry regulator. Industry sources with knowledge of the bid said the consortium “entered detailed negotiations” with UKRI before Christmas. Rolls-Royce has previously said it believes its reactor would cost about £2.5bn to build.

 The push comes as the UK’s long-term energy policy has been thrown into chaos by the collapse of three new nuclear projects, after Hitachi’s decision earlier this month to freeze its involvement in the Wylfa plant in north Wales.
More than 40 per cent of the UK’s planned new nuclear capacity has in effect been cancelled, with Toshiba pulling out of developing a plant in Cumbria last year, while Hitachi has scrapped plans for another plant in Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire. The UK government said it remained committed to developing nuclear plants with the private sector but has baulked at the cost and level of support investors have demanded. It is due to publish a white paper this summer that will overhaul its energy strategy. While nuclear is expected to remain part of the mix, the government is keen to examine new funding models and approaches.
Business secretary Greg Clark said in a letter to the Financial Times last week that “small modular reactors can have a role to play” but again cautioned these plans could not be “at any price”. Rolls-Royce and its team is one of several consortiums that bid in a government-sponsored competition launched in 2015 to find the most viable technology for a new generation of small nuclear power plants. However, when a nuclear sector deal was finally unveiled last June, the government allocated funding only for more advanced modular reactors.
 SMR’s, which typically use water-cooled reactors similar to existing nuclear power stations, were omitted from funding even though they were closer to becoming commercial.
 Rolls-Royce threatened last summer that it would shut down the project if there was no meaningful support from the government. It has already significantly reduced the number of staff working on the project. The business department said the government was “considering” a funding bid from a UK consortium to support research and development of a low-cost SMR”. A decision was expected “in spring 2019”. Rolls-Royce said: “Our consortium is in discussions with UK government officials that we hope could result in a significant joint investment in our power plant design.”

January 28, 2019 Posted by | politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | 1 Comment

UK: Rolls Royce has mothballed its plans for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

Evening Standard 22nd Jan 2019 The British nuclear industry is a mess. Successive governments spent 13 years devising a nuclear policy, and after years of debate, six nuclear power stations were eventually selected. The idea was that private contractors, not government, should take the risk and build the plants. But the contractors were wary, and with the collapse of renewable energy prices they have become warier still.
Of the six sites, three have been abandoned, two — Sizewell and Bradwell in Suffolk and Essex — are still to be finalised. Only one, Hinkley Point C in Somerset is proceeding and it is controversial to say the least. Chances are that Hinkley will be abandoned
and we won’t build any more giant plants, but Government is still wedded to its policy so it may take a few years, or a general election.
The cost of renewable energy is, however, coming down fast and environmentalists say new electricity storage systems still to be developed will eventually bridge the gap for when the wind does not blow enough. We are not there yet though. But there is another option, though not one which environmentalists favour, and that is small modular reactors. Rolls-Royce has been making and
maintaining the power plants which drive the nuclear-powered submarines
carrying Britain’s nuclear deterrent since at least the Sixties.
 SMRs required Government to make available resources so the licensing and safety-assessment programme could
run smoothly and remove the risk of the whole thing being endlessly delayed. It required further long-term thinking in the form of a promise to buy at least seven of the plants so that Rolls-Royce could capture the economies of scale in manufacturing which are essential to bringing the costs down. It required Government to be willing to provide matched funding in the development phase of the project. And finally it required Government support to assist the company in fully developing its export markets.
Needless to say the Government has declined to do this and Rolls-Royce as a result is no longer speculatively prepared to pour in its own funds and has mothballed the project. So the chances are that we will not have small nuclear reactors either, other than in our submarines.  https://www.standard.co.uk/business/anthony-hilton-the-government-s-ignoring-a-mini-solution-to-nuclear-mess-a4045696.html

January 24, 2019 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment