Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) more costly than large nuclear reactors

Small Reactors and the UK’s Long-Term Nuclear Strategy. nuClear News, March 2015  “……..A recent House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee investigation into small reactors looked at SMRs but also PRISM reactors – 311MW sodium-cooled fast reactors being promoted as a way of using up the plutonium stockpile at Sellafield – and reactors fuelled by thorium rather than uranium. Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) SMR proponents suggest that mass production of modular reactors could reduce costs, but others agree that SMRs are likely to have higher costs per unit of output than conventional reactors. (5) Even if SMRs could eventually be more cost-effective than larger reactors due to mass production, this advantage would only come into play if large numbers of SMRs were ordered. But utilities are unlikely to order an SMR until they are seen to produce competitively priced electricity. This Catch-22 suggests the technology will require significant government financial help to get off the ground.
The Washington-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) says mass production could create new reliability vulnerabilities – if one reactor is discovered to have a fault, all other reactors manufactured in the same facility are likely to have the same fault, so all would have to be taken off-line at the same time. Millions of cars, presumably made to high quality control standards, for instance, are routinely recalled. Additionally IEER has serious concerns in relation to both safety and proliferation. (6) By spreading SMRs around the globe we will increase the proliferation risk because safeguarding spent fuel from numerous small reactors would be a much more complex task than safeguarding fewer large reactors. (7)…….
None of the designs, including the most credible, which are based on scaled-down versions of currently deployed PWR technology, is yet ready. NNL speaks of ‘detailed technical challenges’ not yet resolved. It is therefore no surprise that no-one has yet built a single SMR let alone made a commitment to building the large numbers that would be needed to make the economic case remotely credible. And the safety licensing process that will need to follow design completion would, according to the Chief UK nuclear inspector, take up to 6 years in the UK.
The cost of SMRs is essentially unknowable at the moment, but there is evidence to suggest they will be even more expensive than existing reactors…..


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