Gloomy outlook for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

NuClear News August 14  “………The Future for SMRs does not look promising
The trouble is that there isn’t a market for SMRs in the US, so it is difficult to find business for a technology that hasn’t been developed, licensed or proven.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission doesn’t even have requirements or guidelines in place to license SMRs. For the nuclear industry it costs a lot of money to be innovative. Building a supply chain from scratch, with few investors willing to bank on an unknown technology or customers willing to buy is virtually impossible. (11)
Of the four companies looking at SMR designs in the US, the Babcock & Wilcox Company (B&W) with their 180MW mPower reactor was the first company to receive cost-sharing funds from the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE), but has now cut 200 from its workforce, and slashed spending from $60 to $80 million per year to less than $15 million, and restructured its management. It is currently trying to sell up to 70% of the business (B&W plans to keep a 20 percent share and Bechtel will still own 10 percent), but it doesn’t seem that anyone is taking the bait. As of November 2013, B&W had already invested more than $360 million in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Clinch River site in Tennessee, which was to be home to two mPower SMRs.
Westinghouse, which was once considered a shoo-in to win the second round of USDOE funding,
was not only passed over for consideration, but eventually decided to pass up the opportunity
to develop its 225-MW SMR in exchange for focusing on its booming global AP1000 market.
The Holtech SMR 160MW reactor lost out in the battle for USDOE funding to NuScale Power LLC
which appears to be the only company staying in the race. NuScale just completed negotiations
with the USDOE for its cost-sharing program, and is opening a regional operations centre in
Charlotte. The company has signed an agreement with the USDOE to build a NuScale Power SMR
demonstration unit at the Savannah River Site. The USDOE said it would provide $217 million in
matching funds over five years to NuScale. But NuScale only gets the federal funds if it can
match them with money from private investors, who so far have been wary of the technology.
The company hopes to submit its design certification in the latter half of 2016. And it plans to
have its first plant operating commercially by 2023. (12)
The Executive Director of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Kennette Benedict, concluded
that:
“Without a clear-cut case for their advantages, it seems that small nuclear modular reactors
are a solution looking for a problem. Of course in the world of digital innovation, this kind of
upside-down relationship between solution and problem is pretty normal. Smart phones,
Twitter, and high-definition television all began as solutions looking for problems. In the realm
of nuclear technology, however, the enormous expense required to launch a new model as well
as the built-in dangers of nuclear fission require a more straightforward relationship between
problem and solution. Small modular nuclear reactors may be attractive, but they will not, in
themselves, offer satisfactory solutions to the most pressing problems of nuclear energy: high
cost, safety, and weapons proliferation.” (13)
The Holtech SMR 160MW reactor lost out in the battle for USDOE funding to NuScale Power LLC
which appears to be the only company staying in the race. NuScale just completed negotiations
with the USDOE for its cost-sharing program, and is opening a regional operations centre in
Charlotte. The company has signed an agreement with the USDOE to build a NuScale Power SMR
demonstration unit at the Savannah River Site. The USDOE said it would provide $217 million in
matching funds over five years to NuScale. But NuScale only gets the federal funds if it can
match them with money from private investors, who so far have been wary of the technology.
The company hopes to submit its design certification in the latter half of 2016. And it plans to
have its first plant operating commercially by 2023. (12)
The Executive Director of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Kennette Benedict, concluded
that:
“Without a clear-cut case for their advantages, it seems that small nuclear modular reactors
are a solution looking for a problem. Of course in the world of digital innovation, this kind of
upside-down relationship between solution and problem is pretty normal. Smart phones,
Twitter, and high-definition television all began as solutions looking for problems. In the realm
of nuclear technology, however, the enormous expense required to launch a new model as well
as the built-in dangers of nuclear fission require a more straightforward relationship between
problem and solution. Small modular nuclear reactors may be attractive, but they will not, in
themselves, offer satisfactory solutions to the most pressing problems of nuclear energy: high
cost, safety, and weapons proliferation.” …….(13)http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo65.pdf

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: