Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) – the last desperate gimmick to try to save the nuclear industry

Small reactors just compound the waste problem because you generate more radioactive components (aside from all the nuclear fuel that turns into nuclear waste too) than a large nuclear reactor does per unit of energy generated. And placing them underground, while making them less tempting targets for terrorists, brings up issues of groundwater contamination and greater earthquake vulnerability in affected areas. The fact that you could use ground-source cooling to condense your cooling water a lot easier with these reactors is a benefit, so they aren’t completely a bad idea.

However, it should be made abundantly clear why some in the nuclear industry see these reactors as a way forward. As the article mentions, building large 1GW+ reactors has become an immensely risky undertaking from a financial perspective. Forget all the crap people harp on about Fukushima, the price tags on these reactors are the real killer. The new reactor under construction in Finland (Olkiluoto Unit 3) is coming in at 8.5B euros ($11.55B), or almost 3 TIMES it’s initial cost estimate. In dollar terms, that amounts to over $7.21 per watt!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olkiluoto_Nuclear_Power_Plant

New reactors going up in the US are posting similar figures, although the massive web of government supports and insulation from market forces that the nuclear industry benefits from makes true cost figures for these reactors hard to pin down.

This is in the face of wind power getting INSTALLED for $1 – $2 per watt:

http://newscenter.lbl.gov/news-releases/2013/08/06/new-study-finds-that-the-price-of-wind-energy-in-the-united-states-is-near-an-all-time-low/

In short, the nuclear industry is scrambling for solutions before it becomes clear to everybody how irrelevant they are. Much like typewriters got really fancy and sophisticated in the 1990′s before going the way of the buggy whip and the rotary phone.

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