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Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

Small Modular Reactors and why we don’t need them A fact sheet synthesizing many of the long reports on the downsides of the SMR. By Beyond Nuclear, April 2019

An obituary for small modular reactors
* The enthusiasm for SMRs has little to do with climate-friendly environmentalism. About half of the SMRs under construction (in Russia and China) are designed to facilitate access to fossil fuel resources in the Arctic, the South China Sea, and elsewhere. In Canada, one application under consideration is to provide power and heat for the extraction of hydrocarbons from oil sands.
* Another feature of the SMR universe is its deep connection with militarism, as this article describes.
* The power produced by SMRs will almost certainly be more expensive than that produced by large reactors.
* No company, utility, consortium or national government is seriously considering building the massive supply chain that is at the very essence of the concept of SMRs - mass, modular factory construction. Yet without that supply chain, SMRs will be expensive curiosities.
By Jim Green, The Ecologist , March 11, 2019

Scientists assessed the options for growing nuclear power They are grim. Under every plausible scenario, power from SMRs is (and remains, even with subsequent generations of the tech) substantially more expensive than power from competitors. By David Roberts, July 11, 2018

Exelon: No new nuclear power units will be built in US This includes small modular reactors, seen as too expensive, due to size and security requirements. Exelon is the largest electric utility holding company and the largest nuclear generator in the US. Platts, April 12, 2018

Comments to Los Alamos County Council (NM) on UAMPS (Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems) Small Modular Reactor Project UAMPS and the County Council refer to the proposed UAMPS SMR Project as Carbon Free Power Project, yet there is no information in support of that very misleading description. Power, most likely derived from fossil fuel, is used for uranium mining and milling, uranium conversion and enrichment, fuel fabrication, fabrication and construction of the SMR, operation of the SMR, used fuel storage, irradiated fuel disposition, transport (road, rail, and ocean shipping), and myriad other aspects of the nuclear fuel chain necessary to license, fabricate, construct, and operate a reactor and the irradiated fuel storage site it will become. “Carbon Free Power Project” is an egregious public relations misnomer leading to false assumptions and poor decisions. By Sarah Fields, Program Director, Uranium Watch, February 14, 2018

Power from mini nuclear plants "would cost more than from large ones" A UK study found that electricity from small modular reactors would cost nearly one-third more than from plants such as Hinkley Point C, which is already the most expensive ever ordered. Meanwhile, as the UK government continues to spend huge amounts subsidizing expensive nuclear power, without adequate support for solar and wind energy, it has been unable to find a community interested in hosting a long-term underground nuclear waste dump. The Guardian (UK), December 7, 2017

Small nuclear reactors  are a 1950s mirage come back to haunt us The UK government proposes a 250 million pound subsidy to develop SMRs, but by 2050 they will be 50-100 times more expensive than solar. By Oliver Tickell, The Ecologist (UK), October 24, 2017

Small Modular Reactors and the Challenges of Nuclear Power Any attempt to deal with the problems of safety, proliferation resistance, decreased generation of waste, and cost reduction has to be reflected in some fashion in the design of specific nuclear reactors. But it turns out that each of these priorities can drive the requirements of the reactor design in different, sometimes opposing, directions.
SMRs miss out on what are called economies of scale: the advantages that come with costs scaling more slowly than output power. For example, a 1000 MW reactor does not require four times as much concrete as a 250 MW reactor. Designers hope that this negative effect possibly could be offset somewhat through economies of mass manufacture. But even with optimistic assumptions about learning rates, hundreds, if not thousands, of reactor units would have to be built in order for mass manufacture effects to counteract the loss of economies of scale.
By M.V. Ramana and Zia Mian, Princeton University, January 2017

US Government Accountability Office pours cold water on advanced reactor concepts SMNRs require additional technical and engineering work to demonstrate reactor safety and economics. These challenges may result in higher cost reactors than anticipated, making them less competitive with large light-water reactors. Nuclear Monitor, September 9, 2015

The Forgotten History of Small Nuclear Reactors Small nuclear reactors have historically suffered from poor economics as well as technical problems. Without exception, they have cost too much for the little electricity they have produced. By M. V. Ramana, Princeton University, April 2015 (PDF)

Small modular reactors: a chicken-and-egg situation A review of their inability to gain traction. Nuclear Monitor, March 19, 2015

Nuclear Power: A risky wager for the Pacific Northwest Running an aging nuclear plant and building new, modular ones is a gamble for Washington State. By Bruce Amundson and Chuck Johnson, Crosscut, September 11, 2014

What went wrong with SMRs? Something happened on the way to the modular reactor promised land. Over the past year, the SMR industry has been bumping up against an uncomfortable and not-entirely-unpredictable problem: It appears that no one actually wants to buy one. By Thomas Overton, POWER Magazine, September 1, 2014

One size doesn’t fit all: Social priorities and technical conflicts for small modular reactors Small modular reactors (SMRs) have been proposed as a possible way to address the social problems confronting nuclear power, including poor economics, the possibility of catastrophic accidents, radioactive waste production, and linkage to nuclear weapon proliferation. Several SMR designs, with diverse technical characteristics, are being developed around the world and are promoted as addressing one or more of these problems. This paper examines the basic features of different kinds of SMRs and shows why the technical characteristics of SMRs do not allow them to solve simultaneously all four of the problems identified with nuclear power today. It shows that the leading SMR designs under development involve choices and trade-offs between desired features. Focusing on a single challenge, for example cost reduction, might make other challenges more acute. The paper then briefly discusses other cultural and political factors that contribute to the widespread enthusiasm for these reactors, despite technical and historical reasons to doubt that the promises offered by SMR technology advocates will be actually realized. By M.V. Ramana and Zia Mian, Energy Research and Social Science, May 24, 2014

Your choice: small reactors or carbon reductions. You can't have both. A newly-released study asserts that large-scale development of “small modular reactors” (SMRs) likely would cost $90 Billion – an amount that likely would be diverted from development of much more cost- and climate-effective renewable energy. May 15, 2014 The full report:
The economic failure of nuclear power and the development of a low-carbon electricity future: Why small modular reactors are part of the problem, not the solution By Mark Cooper, Ph.D., Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School, May 2014

Why Nuclear Power Fails Jeremy Rifkin, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, speaks at the Wermuth Asset Management 5th Annual Investors Event regarding nuclear power and its fate in the future of renewable energy, offering several reasons to avoid nuclear investments, including:
* Nuclear power can't be scaled up enough to have an impact on climate change.
* No solution has been found for the disposal of nuclear waste.
* Even with existing plants, there will be a uranium deficit in the not-distant future.
* Water to cool the power plants is in short supply - over 40% of all fresh water used in France is used to cool nuclear plants.
* The centralized power-plant paradigm is outdated. The future is bringing distributed generation.
Video (4 minutes), published October 8, 2013

Light Water Designs of Small Modular Reactors: Facts and Analysis This paper discusses why SMRs are a poor bet to solve the financial and safety problems of present-day commercial nuclear power reactors. By Arjun Makhijani, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, September 2013

Small Modular Reactors: Safety, Security, and Cost Concerns This article examines the various concerns and concludes that small reactors are unlikely to solve the economic and safety problems faced by nuclear power. Union of Concerned Scientists, September 2013

Small Isn't Always Beautiful Safety, Security, and Cost Concerns about Small Modular Reactors. By Edwin Lyman, Senior Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists, 2013 (PDF)

Does DOE’s Funding Announcement Mark the End of its Irrational Exuberance for Small Nuclear Reactors? By Edwin Lyman, Union of Concerned Scientists, November 21, 2012

Small Modular Reactors: No Solution for the Cost, Safety, and Waste Problems of Nuclear Power By Arjun Makhijani and Michele Boyd, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, September 2010 (PDF)

Squandering Money and Resources Sierra Club fact sheet on small modular reactors

“New” Nuclear Reactors: Same Old Story Why Small Modular Reactors (and other newly-promoted concepts) will not work. By Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute, June 2009

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