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Significant obstacles to Rolls Royce’s fantasy of “clean” nuclear-supplied jet fuel

Rolls-Royce Touts Nuclear Reactors as Key to Clean Jet Fuel, Bloomberg, 

By Christopher Jasper,December 6, 2019, 
  • Synthetics, biofuels to be mainstay of aviation, CEO says
  •  Small reactors to be used to generate required electricityRolls-Royce Holdings Plc is pitching nuclear reactors as the most effective way of powering the production of carbon-neutral synthetic aviation fuel without draining global electricity grids.

    Drawing on technology developed for nuclear-powered submarines, the small modular reactors or SMRs could be located at individual plants to generate the large amounts of electricity needed to secure the hydrogen used in the process, according to Chief Executive Officer Warren East…….

    The proposals face significant obstacles, including widespread public concern about radiation leaks and the safe disposal of nuclear waste, as well as question marks over U.K. plans to revive the sector after Hitachi Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. withdrew from major projects.Rolls aims to minimize regulatory barriers by building an initial network of 16 SMRs on the sites of former U.K. nuclear power stations still approved for atomic use.

    The plants, costing 1.8 billion pounds ($2.4 billion) apiece, would feed the national grid and come online from the 2030s, with all complete by 2050. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-06/rolls-royce-pitches-nuclear-reactors-as-key-to-clean-jet-fuel

December 7, 2019 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | Leave a comment

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors – many pitfalls, including security risks

‘Many issues’ with modular nuclear reactors says environmental lawyer, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/many-issues-modular-nuclear-1.5381804

Three premiers have agreed to work together to develop the technology, Jordan Gill · CBC News   Dec 03, 2019  Modular nuclear reactors may not be a cure for the nation’s carbon woes, an environmental lawyer said in reaction to an idea floated by three premiers.

Theresa McClenaghan, executive director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, said the technology surrounding small reactors has numerous pitfalls, especially when compared with other renewable energy technology.

This comes after New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Ontario Premier Doug Ford agreed to work together to develop the technology.

Small modular reactors are easy to construct, are safer than large reactors and are regarded as cleaner energy than coal, the premiers say. They can be small enough to fit in a school gym.  Designs have been submitted to Canada’s nuclear regulator for review as part of a pre-licensing process.

The premiers say the smaller reactors would help Canada reach its carbon reduction targets but McClenaghan, legal counsel for the environmental group, disagrees.

“I don’t think it is the answer,” said McClenaghan. “I don’t think it’s a viable solution to climate change.”

McClenaghan said the technology behind modular reactors is still in the development stage and needs years of work before it can be used on a wide scale.

“There are many issues still with the technology,” said McClenaghan. “And for climate change, the risks are so pervasive and the time scale is so short that we need to deploy the solutions we already know about like renewables and conservation.”

Waste, security concerns: lawyer

While nuclear power is considered a low-carbon method of producing electricity, McClenaghan said the waste that it creates brings its own environmental concerns.

“You’re still creating radioactive waste,” said McClenaghan.

“We don’t even have a solution to nuclear fuel waste yet in Canada and the existing plans are not taking into account these possibilities.”

McClenanghan believes there are national security risks with the plan as well.  She said having more reactors, especially if they’re in rural areas, means there’s a greater chance that waste or fuel from the reactors could be stolen for nefarious purposes.

“You’d be scattering radioactive materials, potentially attractive to diversion, much further across the country,” said the environmental lawyer.

December 5, 2019 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Russia’s Rosatom planning to market Small Modular Nuclear Reactors to Europe

December 2, 2019 Posted by | marketing, Russia, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Premiers of Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick to plan development of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

Ontario, Saskatchewan, N.B. premiers to announce nuclear reactor deal, Global News  BY STAFF THE CANADIAN PRESS November 30, 2019 “….. The Ontario government said Premier Doug Ford will meet with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs for an announcement at a hotel near Pearson International Airport on Sunday afternoon.

A spokesman with Moe’s office confirmed the announcement is connected to an agreement on technology for small modular reactors, while a spokeswoman for Ford’s office said it’s an agreement to work together to determine the best technologies for the deployment of small modular reactors in Canada……

Moe has said that Saskatchewan will address climate change over the next decade by looking to carbon capture and storage technology and by increasing research efforts around small modular nuclear reactors.

However, the possibility of bringing nuclear power to Saskatchewan could still be years away    https://globalnews.ca/news/6239231/premiers-nuclear-reactor-deal/

December 2, 2019 Posted by | Canada, politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Small nuclear power station consortium targeting Cumbrian sites

Small nuclear power station consortium targeting Cumbrian sites, The Mail 7th November, By Luke Dicicco  @lukeadicicco  Group business editor A consortium headed by engineering giant Rolls Royce has revealed it expects to develop its first-of-a-kind small nuclear reactors in Cumbria.

Alan Woods, director of strategy and business development at Rolls Royce, told delegates at the Global Reach 2019 event that is was focusing its efforts on developing its emerging Small Modular Reactors (SMR) at existing nuclear licensed sites – with Cumbria and Wales its top targets.

In July the Government said it will invest up to £18 million to support the design of the UK-made mini nuclear power stations. And this week UK Research and Innovation pledged to provide a further £18m, which will be matched by members of the consortium, to progress the project.

Both the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Copeland Trudy Harrison and Copeland Borough Council have vowed to up the ante on lobbying the Government to push for SMRs to be developed in Copeland, following the demise of plans for a large-scale nuclear power station at the Moorside site. ……

“We expect to build them on sites in Wales and particularly in Cumbria. That’s where we’re focusing, that’s where we’ll put our effort.”- Mr Woods …..

The SMRs are roughly the size of a one-and-a-half football pitches……..Construction is expected to take around four years per station, although the first unit would be longer, said Mr Woods.

The consortium says it is targeting a £1.8bn cost for each station…….

However, industry insiders still believe a large-scale plant is more suited to the vast Moorside site adjacent to Sellafield. And hopes remain high that a new development will come forward for the site once the Government unveils a new way of financially supporting new plants, with the most likely option a Regulated Asset Base Model. ……

“Unless you build a fleet, you will not do it. We want an industrial partnership between UK and China.” – Rob Davies, chief operating officer at CGN UK

CGN is already heavily involved in the UK’s nuclear new build plans.

It is a partner in the under-construction Hinkley Point C power station in Somerset, as well as planned developments for Bradwell B in Essex and Sizewell C in Somerset. https://www.nwemail.co.uk/news/18021450.small-nuclear-power-station-consortium-targeting-cumbrian-sites/

November 9, 2019 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | Leave a comment

Bill Gates still hoping for tax-payer funding for his small nuclear reactor project

Bill Gates’ Nuclear Reactor Hits a Roadblock, 
Engineering.com , October 21, 2019  Bill Gates is optimistic about the future—and the role of nuclear energy as an environmentally friendly energy source—but he faces significant obstacles along the way.

His company, TerraPower, is working on new technologies to revolutionize nuclear power. One of them is a traveling wave reactor (TWR). ………

One major problem with a TWR power plant is the price. It will cost about $3 billion to build a demonstration reactor. Even Bill Gates isn’t rich enough to fund it himself. TerraPower had signed a promising agreement with China to build a demonstration reactor, but the project has been shuttered due to China-U.S. trade tensions. The company is now lobbying Congress for a public-private partnership to fund the reactor.  ……

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

NuScale’s nuclear reactor looks suspiciously like an old design, (that melted down)

Why Does NuScale SMR Look Like a 1964 Drawing of Swiss Lucens Nuclear Reactor (which suffered a major meltdown in 1969)?
https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/why-does-nuscale-smr-look-like-a-1964-drawing-of-swiss-lucens-nuclear-reactor-which-suffered-a-major-meltdown-in-1969/
Whatever NuScale is, or is not, it clearly isn’t “new”. The Bible must have foreseen the nuclear industry when it said that there was no new thing under the sun. While there might be something new about it, certainly its scale is not. And, it seems mostly a remake of old military reactors, perhaps with influence from swimming pool reactors.

The main ancestor seems to be the US Army’s SM-1, made by the American Locomotive Company, making its most distant ancestor the steam locomotive.

Government subsidizes for NuScale are a deadly taxpayer rip rip-off. Even without an accident, nuclear reactors legally leak deadly radionuclides into the environment during the entire nuclear fuel chain, as well as when they are operating. Then, the nuclear waste is also allowed to leak for perpetuity.

The 1964 Lucens Design certainly looks like the one unit NuScale. Did MSLWR, now NuScale, take from Lucens or from an earlier common design ancestor?

NuScale 12 years ago when it was called MASLWR and still an official government project, 2003, INEEL/EXT-04-01626.

This is for single reactors. They want to clump them together.

Is there a common ancestor in either the US nuclear power station in Greenland or Antarctica? Actually, the main “parent” for the underground concept, according to the Swiss documentation, is underground hydroelectric power stations, dating from the 1800s. These caverns have been known to collapse, which, along with the WIPP collapse, points to another risk associated with underground nuclear reactors, besides leakage and corrosion.
being mostly in an underground cavern proved to be a liability rather than an asset for Lucens. The cavern leaked water and contributed to corrosion issues that ultimately led to nuclear meltdown.

Despite its tiny size, tinier than NuScale, it still is classified as a major nuclear accident. Furthermore, the cavern did not keep the nuclear fallout from escaping into the environment. There was 1 Sv (1000 mSv) per hour of
radiation in the cavern. Radiation was measured in the nearby village, and the cavern still leaks radiation. Continue reading

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Reference, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

Small nuclear reactors safe? Not so

HELEN CALDICOTT: Small modular reactors — same nuclear disasters  https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/helen-caldicott-small-modular-reactors–same-nuclear-disasters,13087

By Helen Caldicott | 9 September 2019  The Morrison Government has opened the door to the notion of nuclear power as peddled by the nuclear sociopaths.

Now that the “nuclear renaissance” seems dead and buried following the Fukushima catastrophe (one-sixth of the world’s nuclear reactors were closed after the accident), the corporations invested in making nuclear plants and radioactive waste –including Toshiba, Nu-Scale, Babcock and Wilcox, GE Hitachi, General Atomics and the Tennessee Valley Authority – are not to be defeated.

Their new strategy is to develop small modular reactors (SMR), which can be sold around the world without, they say, the dangers inherent in large reactors — safety, cost, proliferation risks and radioactive waste.

There are basically three types of SMRs which generate less than 300 megawatts of electricity compared to the current 1,000-megawatt reactors.


Light water reactor 
designs

These will be smaller versions of present-day pressurised water reactors using water as the moderator and coolant but with the same attendant problems as Fukushima and Three Mile Island. They are to be built underground, which obviously makes them dangerous to access in the event of an accident or malfunction.

They will be mass-produced (turnkey production) and large numbers must be sold yearly to make a profit. This is an unlikely prospect because major markets – China and India – will be uninterested in buying U.S. reactors when they can make their own.

If a safety problem arises, such as with the Dreamliner plane, all of them will have to be shut down — interfering substantially with electricity supply.

SMRs will be expensive because the cost of unit capacity increases with decrease in the size of the reactor. Billions of dollars of government subsidies will be required because Wall Street will not touch nuclear power. To alleviate costs, it is suggested that safety rules be relaxed — including reducing security requirements and a reduction in the ten-mile emergency planning zone to 1,000 feet.


Non-light water
 designs

These are high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGR) or pebble bed reactors. Five billion tiny fuel kernels of high-enriched uranium or plutonium will be encased in tennis-ball-sized graphite spheres which must be made without cracks or imperfections — or else they could lead to an accident. A total of 450,000 such spheres will slowly be released continuously from a fuel silo, passing through the reactor core, and then re-circulated ten times. These reactors will be cooled by helium gas operating at very high temperatures (900 C).

The plans are to construct a reactor complex consisting of four HTGR modules located underground to be run by only two operators in a central control room. It is claimed that HTGRs will be so safe that a containment building will be unnecessary and operators can even leave the site — “walk-away-safe” reactors.

However, should temperatures unexpectedly exceed 1600 degrees Celsius, the carbon coating will release dangerous radioactive isotopes into the helium gas and at 2000 C, the carbon would ignite creating a fierce graphite Chernobyl-type fire.

If a crack develops in the piping or building, radioactive helium would escape and air would rush in igniting the graphite.

Although HTGRs produce small amounts of low-level waste, they create larger volumes of high-level waste than conventional reactors.

Despite these obvious safety problems and despite the fact that South Africa has abandoned plans for HTGRs, the U.S. Department of Energy has unwisely chosen the HTGR as the “Next Generation Nuclear Plant”.


Liquid metal fast reactors 
(PRISM)

It is claimed by the proponents that fast reactors will be safe, economically competitive, proliferation-resistant and sustainable.

They are to be fueled by plutonium or highly enriched uranium, and cooled by either liquid sodium or a lead-bismuth molten coolant creating a potentially explosive situation. Liquid sodium burns or explodes when exposed to air or water and lead-bismuth is extremely corrosive producing very volatile radioactive elements when irradiated.

Should a crack occur in the reactor complex, liquid sodium would escape burning or exploding. Without coolant, the plutonium fuel would melt and reach critical mass, inciting a massive nuclear explosion. One-millionth of a gram of plutonium induces cancer and it lasts for 500,000 years. Yet it is claimed that fast reactors will be so safe that no emergency sirens will be required and emergency planning zones can be decreased from ten miles to 1,300 feet.

There are two types of fast reactors, a simple plutonium fueled reactor and a “breeder”. The plutonium reactor core can be surrounded by a blanket of uranium 238, the uranium captures neutrons and converts to plutonium creating ever more plutonium.

Some are keen about fast reactors because plutonium waste from other reactors can be fissioned converting it to shorter-lived isotopes like caesium and strontium which last “only” 600 years instead of 500,000. But this is fallacious thinking because only ten per cent is fissioned leaving 90 per cent of the plutonium for bomb-making and so on.

Construction

Three small plutonium fast reactors will be arranged together forming a module. Three of these modules will be buried underground and all nine reactors will connect to a fully automated central control room. Only three reactor operators situated in one control room will be in control of nine reactors. Potentially, one operator could simultaneously face a catastrophic situation triggered by the loss of off-site power to one unit at full power, in another shut down for refuelling and in one in start-up mode.

There are to be no emergency core cooling systems.

Fast reactors will require a massive infrastructure including a reprocessing plant to dissolve radioactive waste fuel rods in nitric acid, chemically removing the plutonium and a fuel fabrication facility to create new fuel rods. A total of 15,000 to 25,000 kilos of plutonium are required to operate a fuel cycle at a fast reactor and just 2.5 kilos is fuel for a nuclear weapon.

Thus, fast reactors and breeders will provide the perfect plan for nuclear weapons proliferation and despite this danger, the industry plans to sell them to many countries.

September 10, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, safety, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

A small nuclear reactor was definitely the cause of the Russian missile engine explosion

 It can therefore be stated with certainty that the “isotopic source of energy” referred to by Rosatom was a nuclear reactor. 

The Mysterious Explosion of a Russian Nuclear Missile Engine The BESA CENTER. By Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek, September 6, 2019 BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,280, September 6, 2019

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The fatal explosion that occurred recently during testing of the Russian Burevestnik nuclear cruise missile raises many questions. Could it have been avoided? Was it a fundamental failure of the ambitious armaments plan declared by President Putin in 2018? Whatever the answers to these questions, the renewed trend toward an unconventional armaments race could deteriorate into a second Cold War.

On August 8, during a test of the nuclear-powered engine of the 9M730 Burevestnik cruise missile (petrel in Russian; nicknamed the SSC-X-9 Skyfall in the West), held on a floating platform in the White Sea near the Nyonoksa missile test site in the far north of Russia, a mysterious explosion occurred that killed eight people. The blast raised questions about the status of a new generation of five advanced weapons introduced by Putin in 2018, of which Burevestnik, described by the Russian president as supersonic and of unlimited range, occupied pride of place.

Five of the eight people killed in the explosion were Rosatom (Russian State Atomiс Energy Corporation) employees, and three more employees were injured. According to the company’s announcement, the disaster occurred while testing an “isotopic energy source for a liquid propulsion system.”

Shortly after the explosion, the weather monitoring agency Roshydromet reported a significant spike in radiation 40 km from the blast site. Also, in the city of Severodvinsk, which is near the explosion site in the Archangelsk district, the radiation level was reported to have jumped to 16 times the normal level. This led the alarmed residents to rush to stock up on iodine, which reduces the effects of radiation exposure.

The initial response of the Russian authorities to the incident was befuddling (if reminiscent of their conduct in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster). Following the blast, residents of the village of Nyonoksa, which is close to the beach and adjacent to the blast site, were told to evacuate immediately – but the order was soon rescinded. Information about the blast was difficult to obtain. …….

According to the DIA (US Army Intelligence), 13 tests of the Burevestnik or its systems have been conducted since 2016, including the August 8 disaster. Only two can be classified as having been relatively successful. In a November 2017 test, a missile was launched from a site in Novaya Zemlya and all missile systems were tested during flight. But the flight lasted only about two minutes, during which the missile went 35 km and then crashed into the Barents Sea. Another test of the missile’s nuclear reactor was carried out in January 2019; according to the Russian news agency TASS, it was a success. …..

The nuclear jet engine sucks air through its nozzle and then compresses and heats it to a very high temperature through the nuclear reactor inside the engine, which is shaped like a hollow cylinder. The air is then emitted sharply outward from the rear, providing the missile with the thrust to move forward.

Rosatom said the failed experiment of August 8 was testing an “isotopic energy source for a rocket engine fueled with liquid fuel.” This negates the possibility that the source of energy applied to the Burevestnik missile is the metallic plutonium-238 isotope, as does the steep jump in the level of radioactivity in the areas near the explosion site. This is because plutonium-238 is not fissionable and therefore cannot be used as fuel for a nuclear reactor. Although this isotope is an alpha radiation emitter, it has very short-range radiation that is stopped after 5 cm of air.

With that said, the isotope’s potent alpha emission renders it usable as a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG). Indeed, it was used by the US space program as an energy source. It can therefore be stated with certainty that the “isotopic source of energy” referred to by Rosatom was a nuclear reactor. The advantage of a nuclear reactor is that it allows a cruise missile to move through the air for a very long time, giving it an essentially unlimited flight range. 

However, the jump in radioactivity in the air near the blast site reduces the likelihood that the nuclear reactor installed in the Burevestnik missile is fueled with enriched uranium, or even highly enriched. It is therefore reasonable to conjecture that the nuclear fuel of the reactor is plutonium-239, which, in addition to being toxic, is radioactive. It is also more suitable for refueling a miniature reactor because its critical mass is five times lower than that of uranium-235, which makes it possible to reduce the reactor’s dimensions.

Moreover, it is possible that the plutonium fuel in the reactor was not metallic but in a saline state, which would further reduce the amount of plutonium needed to fuel it. This hypothesis might explain Rosatom’s reference to “an isotopic source of energy for a liquid-fueled rocket engine.” Rosatom conducts many activities related to the development of molten salt reactors (MSR). These are nuclear fission reactors in which the primary reactor coolant and/or nuclear fuel is a molten salt mixture, and they use plutonium-239 as fuel.

The August 8 rocket engine explosion appears to have been caused by a rapid jump in reactor criticality beyond the permitted level. Nuclear missiles use a liquid-fueled booster rocket to accelerate to a speed that will enable their reactors to operate. There is thus a high probability of failure during the launch phase due to an obstacle hindering synchronization between the rocket’s acceleration and the nuclear reactor system, or – either alternatively or in addition – a failure of the reactor’s criticality control system.

Taking an overall view, it appears we now have a resurgence of an unconventional armaments race between the big powers, at least for purposes of deterrence – a situation that could deteriorate into a second Cold War.

View PDF

Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek, a BESA Center Research Associate, is an expert in the field of nuclear physics and technology who served as a senior analyst in the Israeli intelligence community. https://besacenter.org/perspectives-papers/russia-nuclear-missile-engine/

 

September 7, 2019 Posted by | Reference, Russia, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Refuting Australian Financial Review’s disinformation on Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

August 29, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, media, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

A Small Nuclear Reactor exploded in Russian accident – fallout isotopes prove this

Isotopes’ Composition Proves Nuclear Reactor Was Involved in Russian Explosion, Expert Says

Analyses of the radionuclides in the fallout over Severodvinsk show several isotopes that would not have been present if was a simple RTG in the explosion.

August 26, 2019 Posted by | incidents, Russia, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

“Small” Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) – the nuclear lobby’s latest confidence trick – theme for September 19

For a start – they’re not small.  Uneconomic to set up as individual reactors, these SMRs are now being marketed by NuScale in groups of 12 or more.

“SMR” is now touted as Small and Medium Reactors.

But they’re still uneconomic. – SO – taxpayers have to buy them, as nobody else will.

Why is the nuclear industry so desperate to sell them to governments?

Well, that’s because:

(a) SMRs are the last hope of the failing”peaceful” nuclear industry

(b) The thriving nuclear weapons industry needs the technology and expertise that can be developed in “small nuclear reactors”.  It’s easier to attract people to work in “peaceful nukes” – then they later can transition to the real nuclear industry – weapons.

August 22, 2019 Posted by | Christina's themes, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | 5 Comments

Australia would be a mug to be conned into buying small modular nuclear reactors

7 reasons why Small Modular Nuclear Reactrs are a bad idea for Australia, more https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/seven-reasons-why-small-modular-nuclear-reactors-are-a-bad-idea-for-australia,13010

International news reports that, in a failed missile test in Russia, a small nuclear reactor blew up,  killing five nuclear scientists, and releasing a radiation spike.

In Australian news, with considerably less media coverage, Parliament announced an Inquiry into nuclear energy for Australia, with an emphasis on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). Submissions are due by September 16.

A bit of background.  The U.S. government and the U.S. nuclear industry are very keen to develop and export small modular nuclear reactors for two main reasons, both explained in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018     Firstly, with the decline of large nuclear reactors, there is a need to maintain the technology and the expertise, trained staff, necessary to support the nuclear weapons industry. Secondly, the only hope for commercial viability of small nuclear reactors is in exporting them – the domestic market is too small.  So – Australia is seen as a desirable market.

The USA motivation for exporting these so far non-existent prefabricated reactors is clear.  The motivation of their Australian promoters is not so clear.

These are the main reasons why it would be a bad idea for Australia to import small modular nuclear reactors.

  1. COST.Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy concluded that the SMR industry would not be viable unless the industry received “several hundred billion dollars of direct and indirect subsidies” over the next several decades. For a company to invest in a factory to manufacture reactors, they’d need to be sure of a real market for them – Australia would have to commit to a strong investment up front.

The diseconomics of scale make SMRs more expensive than large reactors.  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.

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.

To have any hope of being economically viable, SMRs would have to be mass produced and deployed, and here is a “Catch-22″  problem The economics of mass production of SMRs cannot be proven until hundreds of units are in operation. But that can’t happen unless there are hundreds of orders, and there will be few takers unless the price can be brought down. Huge government subsidy is therefore required

  1. Safety problems. Small nuclear reactors still have the same kinds of safety needsas large ones have. The heat generated by the reactor core must be removed both under normal and accident conditions, to keep the fuel from overheating, becoming damaged, and releasing radioactivity.   The passive natural circulation coolingcould be effective under many conditions, but not under all accident conditions. For instance, for the NuScale design a large earthquake could send concrete debris into the pool, obstructing circulation of water or air.  Where there are a number of units, accidents affecting more than one small unit may cause complications that could overwhelm the capacity to cope with multiple failures.

Because SMRs have weaker containment systems than current reactors, there would be greater damage if a hydrogen explosion occurred.  A secondary containment structure would prevent large-scale releases of radioactivity in case of a severe accident.  But that would make individual SMR units unaffordable. The result?  Companies like NuScale now move to projects called “Medium” nuclear reactors – with 12 units under a single containment structure.  Not really small anymore.

Underground siting is touted as a safety solution, to avoid aircraft attacks and earthquakes. But that increases the risks from flooding.  In the event of an accident emergency crews could have greater difficulty accessing underground reactors.

Security 

Proponents of SMRs argue that they can be deployed safely both as a fleet of units close to cities, or as individual units in remote locations. In all cases, they’d have to operate under a global regulatory framework, which is going to mean expensive security arrangements and a level of security staffing.  ‘Economies of scale’ don’t necessarily work, when it comes to staffing small reactors.   SMRs will, anyway, need a larger number of workers to generate a kilowatt of electricity than large reactors need.  In the case of security staffing, this becomes important both in a densely populated area, and in an isolated one.

  1. Weapons Proliferation.

The latest news on the Russian explosion is a dramatic illustration of the connection between SMRs and weapons development.

But not such a surprise. SMRs have always had this connection, beginning in the nuclear weapons industry, in powering U.S. nuclear submarines. They were used in UK to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. Today, the U.S. Department of Energy plans to use SMRs  as part of “dual use” facilities, civilian and military. SMRs contain radioactive materials, produce radioactive wastes – could be taken, used part of the production of a “dirty bomb” The Pentagon’s Project Dilithium’s small reactors may run on Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) , nuclear weapons fuel – increasing these risks.

It is now openly recognised that the nuclear weapons industry needs the technology development and the skilled staff that are provided by the “peaceful” nuclear industry. The connection is real, but it’s blurred.  The nuclear industry needs the “respectability” that is conferred by new nuclear, with its claims of “safe, clean, climate-solving” energy.

  1. Wastes.

SMRs are designed to produce less radioactive trash than current reactors. But they still produce long-lasting nuclear wastes, and in fact, for SMRs this is an even more complex problem. Australia already has the problem of spent nuclear fuel waste, accumulating in one place – from the nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights.  With SMRs adopted, the waste would be located in many sites, with each location having  the problem of transport to a disposal facility.  Final decommissioning of all these reactors would compound this problem.   In the case of underground reactors, there’d be further difficulties with waste retrieval, and site rehabilitation.

6. Location. 

I have touched on this, in the paragraphs on safety, security, and waste problems.  The nuclear enthusiasts are excited about the prospects for small reactors in remote places. After all, aren’t some isolated communities already having success with small, distributed solar and wind energy?   It all sounds great. But it isn’t.

With Australia’s great distances, it would be difficult to monitor and ensure the security of such a potentially dangerous system, of many small reactors scattered about on this continent. Nuclear is an industry that is already struggling to attract qualified staff, with a large percentage of skilled workers nearing retirement. The logistics of operating these reactors, meeting regulatory and inspection requirements, maintaining security staff would make the whole thing not just prohibitively expensive, but completely impractical.

  1. Delay. 

 For Australia, this has to be the most salient point of all. Economist John Quiggin has pointed out that Australia’s nuclear fans are enthusing about small modular nuclear reactors, but with no clarity on which, of the many types now designed, would be right for Australia.  NuScale’s model, funded by the U.S. government, is the only one at present with commercial prospects, so Quiggin has examined its history of delays.   But Quiggin found that NuScale is not actually going to build the factory: it is going to assemble the reactor parts, these having been made by another firm, – and which firm is not clear.  Quiggin concludes:

Australia’s proposed nuclear strategy rests on a non-existent plant to be manufactured by a company that apparently knows nothing about it.

As  there’s no market for small nuclear reactors, companies have not invested much money to commercialise them. Westinghouse Electric Company tried for years to get government funding for its SMR plan, then gave up, and switched to other projects. Danny Roderick, then president and CEO of Westinghouse, announced:

The problem I have with SMRs is not the technology, it’s not the deployment ‒ it’s that there’s no customers. … The worst thing to do is get ahead of the market. 

Russia’s  programme  has been delayed by more than a decade and the estimated costs have ballooned.

South Korea decided on SMRs, but then pulled out, presumably for economic reasons.

China is building one demonstration SMR, but has dropped plans to build 18 more, due to diseconomics of the scheme.

There’s a lot of chatter in the international media, about all the countries that are interested, or even have signed memoranda of understanding about buying SMRs, but still with no plans for actual purchase or construction.

Is Australia going to be the guinea pig for NuScale’s Small and Medium Reactor scheme?  If so,when?  The hurdles to overcome would be mind-boggling. The start would have to be the repeal of Australia’s laws – the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 Section 140A and Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998. Then comes the overcoming of States’ laws, much political argy-bargy, working out regulatory frameworks, import and transport of nuclear materials, – finding locations for siting reactors, – Aboriginal issues-community consent,  waste locations.  And what would it all cost?

And, in the meantime, energy efficiency developments, renewable energy progress, storage systems – will keep happening, getting cheaper, and making nuclear power obsolete.

August 17, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

USA abandoned the Nuclear-Powered Missile long ago due to its extreme danger. It seems that Russia just tried it again.

Why the U.S. Abandoned Nuclear-Powered Missiles More Than 50 Years Ago

President Donald Trump says the U.S. has a missile like the one that killed seven in the Russian arctic. That’s untrue, because the U.S. abandoned the idea decades ago.

August 15, 2019 Posted by | Russia, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, technology, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Russia says small nuclear reactor blew up in deadly accident

August 12, 2019 Posted by | incidents, Russia, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | 1 Comment