Archive for the ‘Small Modular Nuclear Reactors’ Category

Despite the problems, small nuclear reactor salesmen aggressively marketing: it’s make or break time for the nuclear industry

April 5, 2021

Entrepreneurs Look to Small-Scale Nuclear Reactors,   The American Society of Mechanical Engineers,  Mar 2, 2021, by Michael Abrams  ‘‘……… even concepts that are predicated on being small, modular, and fast to build seem locked into decades-long development cycles.

The key to reviving the nuclear power industry  is building these small reactors not as projects, but as factory-made products. That’s easier said than done. “Usually, a bunch of nuclear engineers go in a room and then they come out after a year or two, and they have a design that doesn’t have a lot of foundation in realty, and nobody can make it, and the projects dies,” said Kurt Terrani, a senior staff scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory………..

In terms of reactor physics, the NuScale concept is fairly bog standard: low-enriched uranium, light-water cooling. In essence, their reactor is just a smaller version of the nuclear plants already in operation. That NuScale didn’t go with a more revolutionary design to mitigate waste or utilize an alternative fuel cycle is no accident. To do so would require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to come up with an entirely new licensing framework, said José Reyes, cofounder and chief technology officer at NuScale.

“Pressurized water-cooled reactors have benefited from billions of dollars of research and development and millions of hours of operating experience over the past 50 year,” Reyes said. “NuScale went with a more traditional approach to assure a design that is cost-competitive and capable of near-term deployment.” …………. The containment vessel will also sit underground in a giant pool capable of absorbing radiation from a leak. Multiple reactors would share the same pool. Being underground, they are also earthquake- and airplane-resistant. [ Ed. no mention of what would happen in the case of flooding, or of an emergency requirinfpeople to quickly respond underground] The company believes that its design is robust enough that utilities could site the reactors much closer to population centers, rather than in remote locations surrounded by an emergency planning zone.

So far, the concept and design have been convincing enough to win funding from the DoE and to move NuScale farther along in the regulatory process than any of its would-be competitors. “NuScale’s small modular reactor technology is the world’s first and only to undergo design certification review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission,”   NuScale set out to design a reactor that was small enough to transport to site, essentially complete. Not everyone agrees, however, that building out a power plant in 60-MW modules is optimal. “The whole idea of SMRs is that smaller is better,” said Jacopo Buongiorno, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT and the director of the Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems. “But within the class of small reactors, larger is still better.  If you can design a reactor that is still simple, that  is still passively safe, that can still be built in a factory, but that generates 300 megawatts, that for sure is going to be more economically attractive than the same thing that generates 60 megawatts.” Buongiorno points to GE’s BWRX-300 concept as a potentially better option. It, too, is a light-water reactor with fuel rods and passive cooling. But its larger size makes it a more of a plug-and-play replacement for coal plants…… Holtec’s SMR-160 is intended to be installed deep underground; the steel containment vessel is strong enough to keep the core covered during any conceivable disaster. “ …… Other SMR designs are dispensing with solid fuel altogether. These reactors would instead dissolve uranium in a molten salt. Some of these designs are miniaturized versions of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment built by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the late 1960s………   The one downside to molten salt reactors is that the salts usually contain fluoride, which is extremely corrosive. Simplifying the mechanical design of the cooling system cuts down on the parts in danger of corroding, but the pins that will contain the fuel are still at risk…..

Make or Break for Nuclear

Moltex is aiming for build costs at around $2,000 per kW—more than wind or solar, but less than newly built coal or gas plants, let alone competing nuclear concepts. “We’ve believe we’ve come up with a concept that can radically reduce the cost of nuclear power,” ……   Other SMR companies are less aggressive with their cost estimates—NuScale has its scopes on a cost of around $3,600 per kW, while GE is aiming for less than $2,500—but still come in under conventional nuclear power. ……. Proof of whether those costs can be achieved will be actual construction and commissioning. “This decade will be very telling,” said Chicago’s Rosner. “It’s the make or break decade for nuclear.” Furthest along is NuScale, which in September 2020 announced its SMR design had been issued a standard design approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That means the design can be referenced in an application for a construction permit—a big step, and one that had not been before achieved by a small modular reactor design. In August 2020, the NRC had completed its Phase 6 review and issued a Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER). The company also announced in November that it had uprated its Power Module to 77 MW, which should improve its economics by around 25 percent…. The key is getting the cost and scale right.  https://www.asme.org/topics-resources/content/entrepreneurs-look-to-small-scale-nuclear-reactors

Reality bats last-Small Nuclear Reactors just not economic for Australia (or anywhere else)

February 18, 2021
Small modular reactor rhetoric hits a hurdle  https://reneweconomy.com.au/small-modular-reactor-rhetoric-hits-a-hurdle-62196/    Jim Green, 23 June 2020, The promotion of ‘small modular reactors’ (SMRs) in Australia has been disrupted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). The latest GenCost report produced by the two agencies estimates a hopelessly uneconomic construction cost of A$16,304 per kilowatt (kW) for SMRs.But it throws the nuclear lobby a bone by hypothesising a drastic reduction in costs over the next decade. The A$16,304 estimate has been furiously attacked by, amongst others, conservative politicians involved in a federal nuclear inquiry last year, and the Bright New World (BNW) nuclear lobby group. The estimate has its origins in a commissioned report written by engineering company GHD. GHD provides the estimate without clearly explaining its origins or basis. And the latest CSIRO/AEMO report does no better than to state that the origins of the estimate are “unclear”. Thus nuclear lobbyists have leapt on that muddle-headedness and filled the void with their own lowball estimates of SMR costs.
Real-world data
Obviously, the starting point for any serious discussion about SMR costs would be the cost of operational SMRs – ignored by CSIRO/AEMO and by lobbyists such as BNW. There is just one operational SMR, Russia’s floating plant. Its estimated cost is US$740 million for a 70 MW plant. That equates to A$15,200 per kW – similar to the CSIRO/AEMO estimate of A$16,304 per kW. Over the course of construction, the cost quadrupled and a 2016 OECD Nuclear Energy Agency report said that electricity produced by the Russian floating plant is expected to cost about US$200 (A$288) 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. Figures on costs of SMRs under construction should also be considered – they are far more useful than the estimates of vendors and lobbyists, which invariably prove to be highly optimistic. The World Nuclear Association states that the cost of China’s high-temperature gas-cooled SMR (HTGR) is US$6,000 (A$8,600) per kW. Costs are reported to have nearly doubled, with increases arising from higher material and component costs, increases in labour costs, and increased costs associated with project delays. The CAREM SMR under construction in Argentina illustrates the gap between SMR rhetoric and reality. In 2004, when the reactor was in the planning stage, Argentina’s Bariloche Atomic Center estimated an overnight cost of USS$1,000 per kW for an integrated 300-MW plant (while acknowledging that to achieve such a cost would be a “very difficult task”). When construction began in 2014, the cost estimate was US$15,400 per kW (US$446 million / 29 MW). By April 2017, the cost estimate had increased US$21,900 (A$31,500) per kW (US$700 million / 32 MW). To the best of my knowledge, no other figures on SMR construction costs are publicly available. So the figures are: A$15,200 per kW for Russia’s light-water floating SMR A$8,600 per kW for China’s HTGR A$31,500 per kW for Argentina’s light-water SMR The average of those figures is A$18,400 per kW, which is higher than the CSIRO/AEMO figure of A$16,304 per kW and double BNW’s estimate of A$9,132 per kW. The CSIRO/AEMO report says that while there are SMRs under construction or nearing completion, “public cost data has not emerged from these early stage developments.” That simply isn’t true.
BNW’s imaginary reactor
BNW objects to CSIRO/AEMO basing their SMR cost estimate on a “hypothetical reactor”. But BNW does exactly the same, ignoring real-world cost estimates for SMRs under construction or in operation. BNW starts with the estimate of US company NuScale Power, which hopes to build SMRs but hasn’t yet begun construction of a single prototype. BNW adds a 50% ‘loading’ in recognition of past examples of nuclear reactor cost overruns. Thus BNW’s estimate for SMR construction costs is A$9,132 per kW. Two big problems: NuScale’s cost estimate is bollocks, and BNW’s proposed 50% loading doesn’t fit the recent pattern of nuclear costs increasing by far greater amounts. NuScale’s construction cost estimate of US$4,200 per kW is implausible. It is far lower than Lazard’s latest estimate of US$6,900-12,200 per kW for large reactors and far lower than the lowest estimate (US$12,300 per kW) of the cost of the two Vogtle AP1000 reactors under construction in Georgia (the only reactors under construction in the US). NuScale’s estimate (per kW) is just one-third of the cost of the Vogtle plant – despite the unavoidable diseconomies of scale with SMRs and despite the fact that independent assessmentsconclude that SMRs will be more expensive to build (per kW) than large reactors. Further, modular factory-line production techniques were trialled with the twin AP1000 Westinghouse reactor project in South Carolina – a project that was abandoned in 2017 after the expenditure of at least US$9 billion, bankrupting Westinghouse. Lazard estimates a levelised cost of US$118-192 per MWh for electricity from large nuclear plants. NuScale estimates a cost of US$65 per MWh for power from its first plant. Thus NuScale claims that its electricity will be 2-3 times cheaper than that from large nuclear plants, which is implausible. And even if NuScale achieved its cost estimate, it would still be higher than Lazard’s figures for wind power (US$28-54) and utility-scale solar (US$32-44). BNW claims that the CSIRO/AEMO levelised cost estimate of A$258-338 per MWh for SMRs is an “extreme overestimate”. But an analysis by WSP / Parsons Brinckerhoff, prepared for the SA Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, estimated a cost of A$225 per MWh for a reactor based on the NuScale design, which is far closer to the CSIRO/AEMO estimate than it is to BNW’s estimate of A$123-128 per MWh with the potential to fall as low as A$60.
Cost overruns
BNW proposes adding a 50% ‘loading’ to NuScale’s cost estimate in recognition of past examples of reactor cost overruns, and claims that it is basing its calculations on “a first-of-a-kind vendor estimate [NuScale’s] with the maximum uncertainly associated with the Class of the estimate.” Huh? The general pattern is that early vendor estimates underestimate true costs by an order of magnitude, while estimates around the time of initial construction underestimate true costs by a factor of 2-4. Here are some recent examples of vastly greater cost increases than BNW allows for: * The estimated cost of the HTGR under construction in China has nearly doubled. The cost of Russia’s floating SMR quadrupled. * The estimated cost of Argentina’s SMR has increased 22-fold above early, speculative estimates and the cost increased by 66% from 2014, when construction began, to 2017. * The cost estimate for the Vogtle project in US state of Georgia (two AP1000 reactors) has doubled to more than US$13.5 billion per reactor and will increase further. In 2006, Westinghouse said it could build an AP1000 reactor for as little as US1.4 billion – 10 times lower than the current estimate for Vogtle. * The estimated combined cost of the two EPR reactors under construction in the UK, including finance costs, is £26.7 billion (the EU’s 2014 estimate of £24.5 billion plus a £2.2 billion increase announced in July 2017). In the mid-2000s, the estimated construction cost for one EPR reactor in the UK was £2 billion, almost seven times lower than the current estimate. * The estimated cost of about €12.4 billion for the only reactor under construction in France is 3.8 times greater than the original €3.3 billion estimate. * The estimated cost of about €11 billion for the only reactor under construction in Finland is 3.7 times greater than the original €3 billion estimate.
Timelines
BNW notes that timelines for deployment and construction are “extremely material” in terms of the application of learning rates to capital expenditure. BNW objected to the previous CSIRO/AEMO estimate of five years for construction of an SMR and proposed a “more probable” three-year estimate as well as an assumption that NuScale’s first reactor will begin generating power in 2026 even though construction has not yet begun. For reasons unexplained, CSIRO/AEMO also assume a three-year construction period in their latest report, and for reasons unexplained the operating life of an SMR is halved from 60 years to 30 years. None of the real-world evidence supports the arguments about construction timelines: * The construction period for the only operational SMR, Russia’s floating plant, was 12.5 years. * Argentina’s CAREM SMR was conceived in the 1980s, construction began in 2014, the 2017 start-up date was missed and subsequent start-up dates were missed. If the current schedule for a 2023 start-up is met it will be a nine-year construction project rather than the three years proposed by CSIRO/AEMO and BNW for construction of an SMR. Last year, work on the CAREM SMR was suspended, with Techint Engineering & Construction asking Argentina’s National Atomic Energy Commission to take urgent measures to mitigate the project’s serious financial breakdown. In April 2020, Argentina’s energy minister announced that work on CAREM would resume. * Construction of China’s HTGR SMR began in 2012, the 2017 start-up date was missed, and if the targeted late-2020 start-up is met it will be an eight-year construction project. * NuScale Power has been trying to progress its SMR ambitions for over a decade and hasn’t yet begun construction of a single prototype reactor. * The two large reactors under construction in the US are 5.5 years behind schedule and those under construction in France and Finland are 10 years behind schedule. * In 2007, EDF boasted that Britons would be using electricity from an EPR reactor at Hinkley Point to cook their Christmas turkeys in December 2017 – but construction didn’t even begin until December 2018.
Learning rates
In response to relentless attacks from far-right politicians and lobby groups such as BNW, the latest CSIRO/AEMO GenCost report makes the heroic assumption that SMR costs will fall from A$16,304 per kW to as little as A$7,140 per kW in 2030, with the levelised cost anywhere between A$129 and A$336 per MWh. The report states that SMRs were assigned a “higher learning rate (more consistent with an emerging technology) rather than being included in a broad nuclear category, with a low learning rate consistent with more mature large scale nuclear.” But there’s no empirical basis, nor any logical basis, for the learning rate assumed in the report. The cost reduction assumes that large numbers of SMRs will be built, and that costs will come down as efficiencies are found, production capacity is scaled up, etc. Large numbers of SMRs being built? Not according to expert opinion. A 2017 Lloyd’s Register report was based on the insights of almost 600 professionals and experts from utilities, distributors, operators and equipment manufacturers, who predicted that SMRs have a “low likelihood of eventual take-up, and will have a minimal impact when they do arrive”. A 2014 report produced by Nuclear Energy Insider, drawing on interviews with more than 50 “leading specialists and decision makers”, noted a “pervasive sense of pessimism” about the future of SMRs. Last year, the 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.” Will costs come down in the unlikely event that SMRs are built in significant numbers? For large nuclear reactors, the experience has been either a very slow learning rate with modest cost decreases, or a negative learning rate. If everything went astonishingly well for SMRs, it would take several rounds of learning to drastically cut costs to A$7,140 per kW. Several rounds of SMR construction by 2030, as assumed in the most optimistic scenario in the CSIRO/AEMO report? Obviously not. The report notes that it would take many years to achieve economies, but then ignores its own advice: “Constructing first-of-a-kind plant includes additional unforeseen costs associated with lack of experience in completing such projects on budget. SMR will not only be subject to first-of-a-kind costs in Australia but also the general engineering principle that building plant smaller leads to higher costs. SMRs may be able to overcome the scale problem by keeping the design of reactors constant and producing them in a series. This potential to modularise the technology is likely another source of lower cost estimates. However, even in the scenario where the industry reaches a scale where small modular reactors can be produced in series, this will take many years to achieve and therefore is not relevant to estimates of current costs (using our definition).” Even with heroic assumptions resulting in CSIRO/AEMO’s low-cost estimate of A$129 per MWh for SMRs in 2030, the cost is still far higher than the low-cost estimates for wind with two hours of battery storage (A$64), wind with six hours of pumped hydro storage (A$86), solar PV with two hours of battery storage (A$52) or solar PV with six hours of pumped hydro storage (A$84). And the CSIRO/AEMO high-cost estimate for SMRs in 2030 ($336 per MWh) is more than double the high estimates for solar PV or wind with 2-6 hours of storage (A$90-151).
Reality bats last
The economic claims of SMR enthusiasts are sharply contradicted by real-world data. And their propaganda campaign simply isn’t working – government funding and private-sector funding is pitiful when measured against the investments required to build SMR prototypes let alone fleets of SMRs and the infrastructure that would allow for mass production of SMR components. Wherever you look, there’s nothing to justify the hype of SMR enthusiasts. Argentina’s stalled SMR program is a joke. Plans for 18 additional HTGRs at the same site as the demonstration plant in China have been “dropped” according to the World Nuclear Association. Russia planned to have seven floating nuclear power plants by 2015, but only recently began operation of its first plant. South Korea 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 – and plans to establish an export market for SMART SMRs depend on a wing and a prayer … and on Saudi oil money which is currently in short supply. ‘Reality bats last’, nuclear advocate Barry Brook used to say a decade ago when a nuclear ‘renaissance’ was in full-swing. The reality is that the renaissance was short-lived, and global nuclear capacity fell by 0.6 gigawatts last year while renewable capacity increased by a record 201 gigawatts. Dr. Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia and editor of the Nuclear Monitor newsletter.

Even a pro nuclear enthusiast admits that Small Nuclear Reactors cause toxic radioactive wastes

February 18, 2021

13 Feb 21 I was quite fascinated to note a paragraph in a long nuclear  propaganda article, (by Stikeman Elliott, in Mondaq) yesterday, in which this, hitherto rather hidden problem, gets a mention.

Of course, this pro nuclear writer is not really worried all that much about the actual problem.

Oh no –  his concern is about the public’s perception of it –  that public perception might hamper the develoment of the nuclear lobby’s newest gimmick. Can’t have that!

”…….efforts need to be made to address the perceived risks so as to establish confidence in the ability of SMRs to operate safely while proving to be a viable source of low-carbon energy. 

While SMRs produce less nuclear waste than traditional reactors, the issue of radioactive waste still exists. Nuclear waste needs to be safely stored and transported to secure facilities. SMRs have often been proposed as a solution for electricity generation in remote areas, but this proves problematic from a waste perspective as any nuclear waste would need to be transported over long distances. There is currently no permanent nuclear waste storage site in Canada……”

”Small Modular Reactors”’- governments are being sucked in by the ”billionaires’ nuclear club” 

February 18, 2021

SNC-Lavalin   Scandal-ridden SNC-Lavalin is playing a major role in the push for SMRs.

Terrestrial Energy…..  Terrestrial Energy’s advisory board includes Dr. Ernest Moniz, the former US Secretary of the Dept. of Energy (2013-2017) who provided more than $12 billion in loan guarantees to the nuclear industry. Moniz has been a key advisor to the Biden-Harris transition team, which has come out in favour of SMRs.

The “billionaires’ nuclear club”  …“As long as Bill Gates is wasting his own money or that of other billionaires, it is not so much of an issue. The problem is that he is lobbying hard for government investment.”

Going after the public purse

Bill Gates was apparently very busy during the 2015 Paris climate talks. He also went on stage during the talks to announce a collaboration among 24 countries and the EU on something called Mission Innovation – an attempt to “accelerate global clean energy innovation” and “increase government support” for the technologies.

Gates’ PR tactic is effective: provide a bit of capital to create an SMR “bandwagon,” with governments fearing their economies would be left behind unless they massively fund such innovations.

governments “are being suckers. Because if Wall Street and the banks will not finance this, why should it be the role of the government to engage in venture capitalism of this kind?”

It will take a Herculean effort from the public to defeat this NICE Future, but along with the Assembly of First Nations, three political parties – the NDP, the Bloc Quebecois, and the Green Party – have now come out against SMRs.

Reality bats last-Small Nuclear Reactors just not economic for Australia (or anywhere else)

November 28, 2020
Small modular reactor rhetoric hits a hurdle  https://reneweconomy.com.au/small-modular-reactor-rhetoric-hits-a-hurdle-62196/    Jim Green, 23 June 2020, The promotion of ‘small modular reactors’ (SMRs) in Australia has been disrupted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). The latest GenCost report produced by the two agencies estimates a hopelessly uneconomic construction cost of A$16,304 per kilowatt (kW) for SMRs. But it throws the nuclear lobby a bone by hypothesising a drastic reduction in costs over the next decade. The A$16,304 estimate has been furiously attacked by, amongst others, conservative politicians involved in a federal nuclear inquiry last year, and the Bright New World (BNW) nuclear lobby group. The estimate has its origins in a commissioned report written by engineering company GHD. GHD provides the estimate without clearly explaining its origins or basis. And the latest CSIRO/AEMO report does no better than to state that the origins of the estimate are “unclear”. Thus nuclear lobbyists have leapt on that muddle-headedness and filled the void with their own lowball estimates of SMR costs.
Real-world data
Obviously, the starting point for any serious discussion about SMR costs would be the cost of operational SMRs – ignored by CSIRO/AEMO and by lobbyists such as BNW. There is just one operational SMR, Russia’s floating plant. Its estimated cost is US$740 million for a 70 MW plant. That equates to A$15,200 per kW – similar to the CSIRO/AEMO estimate of A$16,304 per kW. Over the course of construction, the cost quadrupled and a 2016 OECD Nuclear Energy Agency report said that electricity produced by the Russian floating plant is expected to cost about US$200 (A$288) 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. Figures on costs of SMRs under construction should also be considered – they are far more useful than the estimates of vendors and lobbyists, which invariably prove to be highly optimistic. The World Nuclear Association states that the cost of China’s high-temperature gas-cooled SMR (HTGR) is US$6,000 (A$8,600) per kW. Costs are reported to have nearly doubled, with increases arising from higher material and component costs, increases in labour costs, and increased costs associated with project delays. The CAREM SMR under construction in Argentina illustrates the gap between SMR rhetoric and reality. In 2004, when the reactor was in the planning stage, Argentina’s Bariloche Atomic Center estimated an overnight cost of USS$1,000 per kW for an integrated 300-MW plant (while acknowledging that to achieve such a cost would be a “very difficult task”). When construction began in 2014, the cost estimate was US$15,400 per kW (US$446 million / 29 MW). By April 2017, the cost estimate had increased US$21,900 (A$31,500) per kW (US$700 million / 32 MW). To the best of my knowledge, no other figures on SMR construction costs are publicly available. So the figures are: A$15,200 per kW for Russia’s light-water floating SMR A$8,600 per kW for China’s HTGR A$31,500 per kW for Argentina’s light-water SMR The average of those figures is A$18,400 per kW, which is higher than the CSIRO/AEMO figure of A$16,304 per kW and double BNW’s estimate of A$9,132 per kW. The CSIRO/AEMO report says that while there are SMRs under construction or nearing completion, “public cost data has not emerged from these early stage developments.” That simply isn’t true.
BNW’s imaginary reactor
BNW objects to CSIRO/AEMO basing their SMR cost estimate on a “hypothetical reactor”. But BNW does exactly the same, ignoring real-world cost estimates for SMRs under construction or in operation. BNW starts with the estimate of US company NuScale Power, which hopes to build SMRs but hasn’t yet begun construction of a single prototype. BNW adds a 50% ‘loading’ in recognition of past examples of nuclear reactor cost overruns. Thus BNW’s estimate for SMR construction costs is A$9,132 per kW. Two big problems: NuScale’s cost estimate is bollocks, and BNW’s proposed 50% loading doesn’t fit the recent pattern of nuclear costs increasing by far greater amounts. NuScale’s construction cost estimate of US$4,200 per kW is implausible. It is far lower than Lazard’s latest estimate of US$6,900-12,200 per kW for large reactors and far lower than the lowest estimate (US$12,300 per kW) of the cost of the two Vogtle AP1000 reactors under construction in Georgia (the only reactors under construction in the US). NuScale’s estimate (per kW) is just one-third of the cost of the Vogtle plant – despite the unavoidable diseconomies of scale with SMRs and despite the fact that independent assessmentsconclude that SMRs will be more expensive to build (per kW) than large reactors. Further, modular factory-line production techniques were trialled with the twin AP1000 Westinghouse reactor project in South Carolina – a project that was abandoned in 2017 after the expenditure of at least US$9 billion, bankrupting Westinghouse. Lazard estimates a levelised cost of US$118-192 per MWh for electricity from large nuclear plants. NuScale estimates a cost of US$65 per MWh for power from its first plant. Thus NuScale claims that its electricity will be 2-3 times cheaper than that from large nuclear plants, which is implausible. And even if NuScale achieved its cost estimate, it would still be higher than Lazard’s figures for wind power (US$28-54) and utility-scale solar (US$32-44). BNW claims that the CSIRO/AEMO levelised cost estimate of A$258-338 per MWh for SMRs is an “extreme overestimate”. But an analysis by WSP / Parsons Brinckerhoff, prepared for the SA Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, estimated a cost of A$225 per MWh for a reactor based on the NuScale design, which is far closer to the CSIRO/AEMO estimate than it is to BNW’s estimate of A$123-128 per MWh with the potential to fall as low as A$60.
Cost overruns
BNW proposes adding a 50% ‘loading’ to NuScale’s cost estimate in recognition of past examples of reactor cost overruns, and claims that it is basing its calculations on “a first-of-a-kind vendor estimate [NuScale’s] with the maximum uncertainly associated with the Class of the estimate.” Huh? The general pattern is that early vendor estimates underestimate true costs by an order of magnitude, while estimates around the time of initial construction underestimate true costs by a factor of 2-4. Here are some recent examples of vastly greater cost increases than BNW allows for: * The estimated cost of the HTGR under construction in China has nearly doubled. The cost of Russia’s floating SMR quadrupled. * The estimated cost of Argentina’s SMR has increased 22-fold above early, speculative estimates and the cost increased by 66% from 2014, when construction began, to 2017. * The cost estimate for the Vogtle project in US state of Georgia (two AP1000 reactors) has doubled to more than US$13.5 billion per reactor and will increase further. In 2006, Westinghouse said it could build an AP1000 reactor for as little as US1.4 billion – 10 times lower than the current estimate for Vogtle. * The estimated combined cost of the two EPR reactors under construction in the UK, including finance costs, is £26.7 billion (the EU’s 2014 estimate of £24.5 billion plus a £2.2 billion increase announced in July 2017). In the mid-2000s, the estimated construction cost for one EPR reactor in the UK was £2 billion, almost seven times lower than the current estimate. * The estimated cost of about €12.4 billion for the only reactor under construction in France is 3.8 times greater than the original €3.3 billion estimate. * The estimated cost of about €11 billion for the only reactor under construction in Finland is 3.7 times greater than the original €3 billion estimate.
Timelines
BNW notes that timelines for deployment and construction are “extremely material” in terms of the application of learning rates to capital expenditure. BNW objected to the previous CSIRO/AEMO estimate of five years for construction of an SMR and proposed a “more probable” three-year estimate as well as an assumption that NuScale’s first reactor will begin generating power in 2026 even though construction has not yet begun. For reasons unexplained, CSIRO/AEMO also assume a three-year construction period in their latest report, and for reasons unexplained the operating life of an SMR is halved from 60 years to 30 years. None of the real-world evidence supports the arguments about construction timelines: * The construction period for the only operational SMR, Russia’s floating plant, was 12.5 years. * Argentina’s CAREM SMR was conceived in the 1980s, construction began in 2014, the 2017 start-up date was missed and subsequent start-up dates were missed. If the current schedule for a 2023 start-up is met it will be a nine-year construction project rather than the three years proposed by CSIRO/AEMO and BNW for construction of an SMR. Last year, work on the CAREM SMR was suspended, with Techint Engineering & Construction asking Argentina’s National Atomic Energy Commission to take urgent measures to mitigate the project’s serious financial breakdown. In April 2020, Argentina’s energy minister announced that work on CAREM would resume. * Construction of China’s HTGR SMR began in 2012, the 2017 start-up date was missed, and if the targeted late-2020 start-up is met it will be an eight-year construction project. * NuScale Power has been trying to progress its SMR ambitions for over a decade and hasn’t yet begun construction of a single prototype reactor. * The two large reactors under construction in the US are 5.5 years behind schedule and those under construction in France and Finland are 10 years behind schedule. * In 2007, EDF boasted that Britons would be using electricity from an EPR reactor at Hinkley Point to cook their Christmas turkeys in December 2017 – but construction didn’t even begin until December 2018.
Learning rates
In response to relentless attacks from far-right politicians and lobby groups such as BNW, the latest CSIRO/AEMO GenCost report makes the heroic assumption that SMR costs will fall from A$16,304 per kW to as little as A$7,140 per kW in 2030, with the levelised cost anywhere between A$129 and A$336 per MWh. The report states that SMRs were assigned a “higher learning rate (more consistent with an emerging technology) rather than being included in a broad nuclear category, with a low learning rate consistent with more mature large scale nuclear.” But there’s no empirical basis, nor any logical basis, for the learning rate assumed in the report. The cost reduction assumes that large numbers of SMRs will be built, and that costs will come down as efficiencies are found, production capacity is scaled up, etc. Large numbers of SMRs being built? Not according to expert opinion. A 2017 Lloyd’s Register report was based on the insights of almost 600 professionals and experts from utilities, distributors, operators and equipment manufacturers, who predicted that SMRs have a “low likelihood of eventual take-up, and will have a minimal impact when they do arrive”. A 2014 report produced by Nuclear Energy Insider, drawing on interviews with more than 50 “leading specialists and decision makers”, noted a “pervasive sense of pessimism” about the future of SMRs. Last year, the 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.” Will costs come down in the unlikely event that SMRs are built in significant numbers? For large nuclear reactors, the experience has been either a very slow learning rate with modest cost decreases, or a negative learning rate. If everything went astonishingly well for SMRs, it would take several rounds of learning to drastically cut costs to A$7,140 per kW. Several rounds of SMR construction by 2030, as assumed in the most optimistic scenario in the CSIRO/AEMO report? Obviously not. The report notes that it would take many years to achieve economies, but then ignores its own advice: “Constructing first-of-a-kind plant includes additional unforeseen costs associated with lack of experience in completing such projects on budget. SMR will not only be subject to first-of-a-kind costs in Australia but also the general engineering principle that building plant smaller leads to higher costs. SMRs may be able to overcome the scale problem by keeping the design of reactors constant and producing them in a series. This potential to modularise the technology is likely another source of lower cost estimates. However, even in the scenario where the industry reaches a scale where small modular reactors can be produced in series, this will take many years to achieve and therefore is not relevant to estimates of current costs (using our definition).” Even with heroic assumptions resulting in CSIRO/AEMO’s low-cost estimate of A$129 per MWh for SMRs in 2030, the cost is still far higher than the low-cost estimates for wind with two hours of battery storage (A$64), wind with six hours of pumped hydro storage (A$86), solar PV with two hours of battery storage (A$52) or solar PV with six hours of pumped hydro storage (A$84). And the CSIRO/AEMO high-cost estimate for SMRs in 2030 ($336 per MWh) is more than double the high estimates for solar PV or wind with 2-6 hours of storage (A$90-151).
Reality bats last
The economic claims of SMR enthusiasts are sharply contradicted by real-world data. And their propaganda campaign simply isn’t working – government funding and private-sector funding is pitiful when measured against the investments required to build SMR prototypes let alone fleets of SMRs and the infrastructure that would allow for mass production of SMR components. Wherever you look, there’s nothing to justify the hype of SMR enthusiasts. Argentina’s stalled SMR program is a joke. Plans for 18 additional HTGRs at the same site as the demonstration plant in China have been “dropped” according to the World Nuclear Association. Russia planned to have seven floating nuclear power plants by 2015, but only recently began operation of its first plant. South Korea 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 – and plans to establish an export market for SMART SMRs depend on a wing and a prayer … and on Saudi oil money which is currently in short supply. ‘Reality bats last’, nuclear advocate Barry Brook used to say a decade ago when a nuclear ‘renaissance’ was in full-swing. The reality is that the renaissance was short-lived, and global nuclear capacity fell by 0.6 gigawatts last year while renewable capacity increased by a record 201 gigawatts. Dr. Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia and editor of the Nuclear Monitor newsletter.

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, the nuclear industry’s latest pipe dream.

November 28, 2020

Ramana and Schacherl: Why the Liberals’ nuclear power plan is a pipe dream   https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/ramana-and-schacherl-why-the-liberals-nuclear-power-plan-is-a-pipe-dream?fbclid=IwAR0GnxYt-JgXg7NVEyccBYt4r0SSbfAHm3Y-b_AvzgMIjxpOotUTBIvAcaI

Not only is this form of power expensive compared to the alternatives, we still haven’t resolved issues around radioactive contamination and hazardous waste streams.

M.V. Ramana, Eva Schacherl, Nov 16, 2020   On Nov. 18, Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O’Regan will announce the federal government’s action plan for small modular nuclear reactors, the nuclear industry’s latest pipe dream.

At least a dozen corporations around the world are hoping for taxpayer funding to further develop their SMR designs, all of which are still on the drawing board. Last month, the federal government handed out $20 million to Terrestrial Energy. Other expectant entities include SNC-Lavalin, which bought Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.’s CANDU division and is developing a CANDU SMR; United Kingdom-based Moltex Energy; and Seattle-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation.

The Liberal government says it supports small modular reactors to help Canada mitigate climate change. The government is simply barking up the wrong tree, for several reasons: cost, cost and cost, as well as renewables, safety and radioactive waste.

Nuclear power is very expensive compared to other low-carbon options, and the difference keeps growing because the cost of renewables and energy storage is going down rapidly. Peter Bradford, a former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission official, likened the use of nuclear power to mitigate climate change to fighting world hunger “with caviar.”

The high price tag for nuclear power plants has led to a near freeze on new ones around the world. Canada’s last nuclear plant came online in 1994, and Ontarians will remember when plans for two reactors at Darlington were shelved in 2009 after a $26-billion bid – three times the expected budget. Nuclear projects also have a long history of cost and time overruns. The cost estimate of NuScale, the most advanced SMR project in the U.S., has gone up from $4.2 billion to $6.1 billion. That works out to almost 10 times the cost per kilowatt of building wind power in Alberta. There is no way SMRs can be cost-competitive with wind or solar energy.

O’Regan has said he doesn’t know any way to get to net zero-carbon emissions by 2050 without nuclear power, but this is refuted by many studies. Ontario can meet its electricity demand using only renewables and hydro power backed up by storage technologies. A recent study using data from 123 countries shows that renewable energy outperforms nuclear power in reducing emissions. It concludes that nuclear investments just get in the way of building up renewable energy.

Advocates claim that we need nuclear energy to back up solar and wind power when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. However, nuclear reactors cannot be powered up and down rapidly and safely. If they are, their cost of generating electricity increases further. Nor do nuclear plants run reliably all the time. In France, which generates 70 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power, each reactor was shut down for an average of 96.2 days in 2019.

The federal government sees small reactors playing a role in remote off-grid communities and mines that now rely on diesel. But together they require less than 0.5 per cent of Canada‘s electricity generation capacity. Power from SMRs could be 10 times more expensive for those communities than adding wind and solar energy. There is also strong opposition to SMRs from First Nations communities, who say these represent an unacceptable risk.

The risk from nuclear power comes in multiple forms. There is the potential for accidents leading to widespread radioactive contamination. Because reactors involve parts that interact rapidly in complex ways, no nuclear reactor is immune to accidents. And they all produce radioactive nuclear waste streams that remain hazardous for up to one million years. Dealing with these is a major challenge, and there is no demonstrated solution to date.

Canada has a big challenge ahead: to decarbonize by 2050. Let’s get on with it, in the quickest and most cost-effective way: by improving the efficiency of our energy use, and building out solar, wind and storage technologies. The federal Green Party is correct in stating that nuclear reactors “have no place in any plan to mitigate climate change when cleaner and cheaper alternatives exist.” Let’s forget the dirty, dangerous distraction of small nuclear reactors.

M.V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security and Director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia. Eva Schacherl is an advocate for protecting the Ottawa River and for environmental and social justice.

Small Nuclear Reactors – the Big New Way – to get the public to fund the nuclear weapons industry

November 28, 2020

so-called “small nuclear reactors”

Downing Street told the Financial Times, which it faithfully reported, that it was “considering” £2 billion of taxpayers’ money to support “small nuclear reactors”

They are not small

The first thing to know about these beasts is that they are not small. 440MW? The plant at Wylfa (Anglesey, north Wales) was 460MW (it’s closed now). 440MW is bigger than all the Magnox type reactors except Wylfa and comparable to an Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor.

Only if military needs are driving this decision is it explicable.

”Clearly, the military need to maintain both reactor construction and operation skills and access to fissile materials will remain. I can well see the temptation for Defence Ministers to try to transfer this cost to civilian budgets,” 

Any nation’s defence budget in this day and age cannot afford a new generation of nuclear weapons. So it needs to pass the costs onto the energy sector.

How the UK’s secret defence policy is driving energy policy – with the public kept in the darkhttps://www.thefifthestate.com.au/energy-lead/how-the-uks-secret-defence-policy-is-driving-energy-policy-with-the-public-kept-in-the-dark/  BY DAVID THORPE / 13 OCTOBER 2020

 The UK government has for 15 years persistently backed the need for new nuclear power. Given its many problems, most informed observers can’t understand why. The answer lies in its commitment to being a nuclear military force. (more…)

Small modular nuclear reactors create intensely radioactive wastes

November 28, 2020

A bridge to nowhere    New Brunswick must reject small modular reactors, Beyond Nuclear International, By Gordon Edwards and Susan O’Donnell, 12 Oct, 20 ”………  In New Brunswick, the proposed new reactors (so-called “small modular nuclear reactors” or SMNRs) will create irradiated fuel even more intensely radioactive per kilogram than waste currently stored at NB Power’s Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station. The non-fuel radioactive wastes will remain the responsibility of the government of New Brunswick, likely requiring the siting of a permanent radioactive waste repository somewhere in the province.

Interestingly, promoters of both new nuclear projects in New Brunswick – the ARC-100 reactor and the Moltex “Stable Salt Reactor” – claim their reactors will “burn up” these radioactive waste fuel bundles. They have even suggested that their prototype reactors offer a “solution” to Lepreau’s existing nuclear fuel waste problem. This is untrue. Radioactive left-over used fuel from the new reactors will still require safe storage for hundreds of thousands of years.

……… Until now, every effort to recycle and “burn up” used reactor fuel – in France, the UK, Russia and the US – has resulted in countless incidents of radioactive contamination of the local environment. In addition, none of these projects eliminated the need for permanent storage of the left-over long-lived radioactive byproducts, many of which cannot be “burned up.”…….

The nuclear waste problem is not going away. The recent letter from more than 100 groups across Canada, and the recent cancellation of the proposed nuclear waste dump in Ontario have shown that significant opposition to new nuclear energy generation exists. Because producing nuclear energy always means producing nuclear waste as well……. https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2020/10/12/a-bridge-to-nowhere/,

Dr Helen Caldicott busts the media spin on ‘small nuclear reactors’

November 28, 2020

HELEN CALDICOTT: Small modular reactors — the next big thing? 

https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/helen-caldicott-small-modular-reactors–the-next-big-thing,14342#disqus_thread  By Helen Caldicott | 27 September 2020  Politicians debating nuclear power as an energy source, know little of the facts that make small modular reactors a bad idea, writes Dr Caldicott.    AUSTRALIAN politicians are contemplating developing nuclear power for this country. In their ignorance, they are mooting “small modular reactors” (SMRs) about which they clearly know little.

The so-called “nuclear renaissance” died following the Fukushima catastrophe when one-sixth of the world’s nuclear reactors closed. However, global nuclear corporations – ToshibaNuScaleBabcock & WilcoxGE HitachiGeneral Atomics and the Tennessee Valley Authority – did not accept defeat.

Their new strategy has been to develop small modular nuclear reactors without the dangers inherent in large reactors — safety, cost, proliferation risks and radioactive waste. But these claims are fallacious for the reasons outlined below.

Basically, there are three types of SMRs which generate less than 300 megawatts of electricity compared with current day 1000 megawatt reactors.

Light water reactors designs

These will be smaller versions of present-day pressurized water reactors using water as the moderator and coolant, but with the same attendant problems as Fukushima and Three Mile Island. Built underground, they will be difficult to access in the event of an accident or malfunction.

Mass-produced (turnkey production) large numbers must be sold yearly to make a profit. This is an unlikely prospect because major markets – China and India – will not buy U.S. reactors when they can make their own.

If safety problems arise – as in General Motors cars – they all must be shut down which will interfere substantially with electricity supply.

SMRs will be expensive because the cost per unit capacity increases with a decrease in reactor size. Billions of dollars of government subsidies will be required because Wall Street is allergic to nuclear power. To alleviate costs, it is suggested that safety rules be relaxed, including reducing security requirements and a reduction in the 10-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 consisting of high-enriched uranium or plutonium will be encased in tennis-ball-sized graphite spheres which must be made without cracks or imperfections — or they could lead to an accident. A total of 450,000 such spheres will slowly and continuously be released from a fuel silo – passing through the reactor core – and then be re-circulated ten times. These reactors will be cooled by helium gas operating at very high temperatures (900 degrees Celsius).

A reactor complex consisting of four HTGR modules will be located underground, to be run by just two operators in a central control room. Claims are 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 1,600 degrees Celsius, the carbon coating will release dangerous radioactive isotopes into the helium gas and at 2,000 degrees Celsius 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, also 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 proponents that fast reactors will be safe, economically competitive, proliferation-resistant and sustainable.

They will be fueled by plutonium or highly enriched uranium and cooled by either liquid sodium or a lead-bismuth molten coolant. 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 could reach critical mass, triggering a massive nuclear explosion scattering plutonium to the four winds. One-millionth of a gram of plutonium induces cancer and it lasts for 500,000 years. Extraordinarily, claims are made that fast reactors will be so safe they will require no emergency sirens 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” in which the plutonium reactor core is surrounded by a blanket of uranium 238 which captures neutrons and converts to plutonium.

The plutonium fuel, obtained from spent reactor fuel will be fissioned and converted to shorter-lived isotopes — caesium and strontium which last 600 years instead of 500,000. Called “transmutation”, the industry claims that this is an excellent way to get rid of plutonium waste. But this is fallacious because only ten per cent fissions, leaving 90 per cent of the plutonium for bomb-making etc.

Three small plutonium fast reactors will be grouped together to form a module and three of these modules will be buried underground. All nine reactors will then be connected to a fully automated central control room operated by only three operators. Potentially then, 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 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 10,160 kilos of plutonium is 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 extraordinary long-term medical dangers and the perfect situation for nuclear weapons proliferation. Despite this, the industry is clearly trying to market them to many countries including, it seems, Australia.

You can follow Dr Caldicott on Twitter @DrHCaldicott. Click here for Dr Caldicott’s complete curriculum vitae.

Rolls Royce Small Modular Nuclear Reactors: not small, not modular, not cheap, and not going to happen

November 28, 2020

100% Renewables 16th July 2020, The Government has just announced a £40 million research programme into so-called advanced modular reactor technology that is highly unlikely ever to see any practical use. That is because the so-called small modular reactors (SMRs) are much too expensive for civilian use.

In an important sense it is nonsense to talk about research to develop SMRs as a ‘new’ technology simply because they already exist. They power military submarines and also US aircraft carriers. Their design is simply a smaller
version of the Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) design that dominates the world nuclear power industry. Indeed PWRs began as small projects housed in submarines which were then developed up in scale so that they could produce electricity more cheaply.

At 450 MW for their proposed plant, the plant is not far off the same order of magnitude as conventional plant – for
example the AGR series that currently generates the bulk of British nuclear plant has units of around 600-660 MW. In fact, as Tom Burke points out, they are close to the size of Britain’s first generation of reactors, the ‘Magnox’ reactors.

Neither is the plant proposed by Rolls Royce modular in the sense that such plant can be rolled off a production line. What Rolls Royce claims is that some parts can be produced in a ‘modular’ fashion. This is not the same as producing whole units off a production line, and in fact the developers of the nuclear plant Vogtle in the USA also claim to produce parts in a ‘modular ‘fashion (although this plant is now hopelessly behind schedule with very large cost overruns).

https://100percentrenewableuk.org/blog