Home page  

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMNRs)

Nuclear Energy Project in Idaho Is Canceled

The project that NuScale Power and Western energy companies had developed struggled to attract enough utility customers.

A developer of small nuclear reactors announced on Wednesday that it was canceling a project that had been widely expected to usher in a new wave of power plants. NuScale Power, a company in Portland, Ore., said it lacked enough subscribers to advance the Carbon-Free Power Project, which had been expected to deliver six of the company’s 77-megawatt reactors. Although more than two dozen utilities had signed up to buy electricity from the reactors, which would be in Idaho, that number fell short of what NuScale said it needed to move forward. The New York Times, November 8, 2023

First US Small Nuke Project Canceled After Costs Surge 53%
NuScale Power Corp., the first company with US approval for a small nuclear reactor design, is canceling plans to build a power plant for a Utah provider as costs surge. The move is a major setback to the burgeoning technology that has been heralded as the next era for atomic energy. Bloomberg, November 8, 2023

The End of DOE's Flagship SMR The collapse of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) flagship small modular reactor (SMR) project should serve as a cautionary tale to SMR developers everywhere. DOE has so far spent some $3 billion on SMRs, according to a department spokesperson, and this is not its first failed SMR project — a Babcock & Wilcox "mPower" design that received the agency’s first SMR funding in 2012 and was regarded as the industry leader in SMRs collapsed in 2017. The question now is whether or when DOE and its multitude of congressional supporters will finally wise up and end the nuclear bonanza. Energy Intelligence, November 17, 2023

Small modular reactor “too late, too expensive, too risky and too uncertain” Report summary: NuScale small modular nuclear reactor project poses major financial risks and little upside for utilities.

Risk 1: NuScale’s SMR Is a First-of-a-Kind Design That Has Not Been Built, Operated or Tested at Commercial Scale
Risk 2: The Construction Cost of the New SMR Will Be Significantly Higher Than NuScale Claims
Risk 3: The SMR Will Take Substantially Longer to Build Than NuScale Claims
Risk 4: NuScale Faces an Impossible Task: Achieving High Capacity Factors and Flexibility
Risk 5: The SMR Will Be Much More Expensive to Operate Than NuScale Claims
Risk 6: UAMPS’ Carbon Free Power Project Power Sales Contract Is a Blank Check That Will Cost Participants Far More Than $58/MWh
Risk 7: The Economic Competitive Test Offers No Meaningful Protection for Communities Buying Power From the NuScale SMR

Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, February 17, 2022   Full report here.
NEW Updated version: "Still too expensive, too slow, and too risky" May 2024

NuScale–Idaho National Lab–UAMPS Small Modular Nuclear Reactor proposal

(UAMPS = Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems)



2020 Offramp Developments

Salmon River Electric Co-op withdraws from risky nuclear project The Idaho utility walked away from this project because it does not need additional power; and it is not competitively priced compared to BPA and would necessitate retail price increases. January 2021

Los Alamos County, NM reduces its subscription by 43%, from 11.2 to 6.37 megawatts. November 9, 2020

Heber withdraws from risky nuclear project It was one of the largest remaining subscribers. KPCW radio news, November 2, 2020

Bountiful and Beaver withdraw from risky nuclear power project They are the 5th and 6th cities to withdraw. The Deseret News, October 28, 2020

Idaho Falls reduces its share by half, from 10 to 5 MW. The Idaho Falls Post Register, October 23, 2020

Murray City withdraws from risky nuclear power project See the city council's deliberation and unanimous decision, from 28:30 to 49:00 and 1:28:30 to 2:27:00 in this video. October 20, 2020

Kaysville withdraws from risky nuclear power project See the city council's deliberation and unanimous decision, at 12:54 to 20:31 in this video. September 17, 2020

Lehi withdraws from risky nuclear power project The Lehi City Council voted unanimously to withdraw from the UAMPS NuScale SMNR project, citing concerns over rising costs. The Daily Herald (Provo), August 26, 2020

Logan withdraws from risky nuclear power project Logan, Utah, which has already invested $400,000 into the UAMPS NuScale project, would have needed to put in another $654,000 for the initial licensing phase. The city council, which voted 4-1 to withdraw, was cautioned that staying with the project could lead to an obligation of over $21 million by 2025. Cache Valley Daily, August 19, 2020


Postscript: Failed nuclear projects let Utah down
The cancellation of the UAMPS project was met in Utah with little surprise. By Lexi Tuddenham, Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, December 29, 2023

Small modular nuclear reactors: a history of failure Small modular reactors (SMRs) are defined as reactors with a capacity of 300 megawatts (MW) or less. The term ‘modular’ refers to serial factory production of reactor components, which could drive down costs. By that definition, no SMRs have ever been built and none are being built now. In all likelihood none will ever be built because of the prohibitive cost of setting up factories for mass production of reactor components. No SMRs have been built, but dozens of small (<300 MW) power reactors have been built in numerous countries, without factory production of reactor components. The history of small reactors is a history of failure. By Jim Green, Friends of the Earth Australia, November 28, 2023

NuScale must triple subscription level for small modular reactor in Idaho by early 2024, company says Failure to reach that level would require NuScale to reimburse Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) for costs incurred. Utility Dive, March 17, 2023

Modular nuclear plants may reshape coal country (or not) Whether small modular nuclear reactors can realistically be built all over the nation is very much in dispute. The nuclear industry has a record of overpromising and energy scholars warn this new technology is straining to show viability. Two demonstration projects expected to break ground, in Idaho and Wyoming, are behind schedule and struggling with spiraling costs. Washington Post, February 19, 2023

Small modular reactor project likely to end badly for Utah utilities UAMPS announced earlier this month that its projected cost has risen from by 53%, from $58 to $89 per megawatt hour. It's significant that a major Utah newspaper gave prominence to this report. By David Schlissel, Salt Lake Tribune, January 19, 2023

Geothermal resources offer an off-ramp from risky, costly nuclear project A Nevada geothermal project has the potential to be a less expensive, more certain, quicker option than the unproven small modular reactor with rising costs. Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, January 10, 2023

NuScale SMR costs rising Tucked within this article: NRC staff has identified "several challenging and/or significant issues" with the draft application for the reactor design. Those include containment and reactor vessel materials; seismic qualifications; and deficient technical analysis on safety-related systems. Beyond Nuclear, December 1, 2022

Rising steel prices, interest rates could push NuScale Utah project cost to $100/MWh Without recent federal tax credits, the cost could reach $120/MWh. That is twice the threshold of $58 at which participating utilities could abandon or renegotiate the terms of their involvement. Utility Dive, November 16, 2022

Carbon-Free Power Project: Don’t Continue To Delay The Inevitable Questions are raised about the continued involvement of Los Alamos County, NM, in this project. Among other concerns, the writer notes that Energy Northwest has withdrawn its interest in operating the plant - which does not seem to have been announced publicly. By George Chandler, Los Alamos Reporter, July 27, 2021

UAMPS Shrinks SMR Project. Energy Northwest Pulls Out Energy Northwest and UAMPS mutually parted. NewsData, July 23, 2021

Eastern Idaho nuclear reactor project downsized From 12 units (600 MW) to 6 units (462 MW). As of now, 28 participants have committed to a total of 103 MW. The Post-Register (Idaho Falls), July 16, 2021

UAMPS/NuScale Post-Offramp Summary Fact Sheet The project goal is to sell commitments for 720 MW before construction starts. Presently, the number is about 100 MW, and dropping. January 2021

New nuclear project makes no sense New nuclear isn't competing with fossil fuels; instead, it competes with low-carbon renewables, chiefly solar and wind. And it simply can’t compete. By Robert Davies, Utah State University physics professor, in the Deseret News, September 18, 2020

PacifiCorp study shows cost of renewables much lower than cost of SMNRs The utility projects the NuScale project to cost $6,229/kW, plus operation and maintenance costs of nearly $200/kW-year, which amounts to another $6,000/kW over 30 years. By contrast, the resource cost for solar plus batteries at Idaho Falls: about $1,600/kW plus only $30/kW-year for O&M. (See pages 12 and 8, respectively, of the PDF.) In other words, UAMPS utilities can decide to pay four times as much for nuclear as the resource literally falling on the ground around them, plus much higher operational costs They can wait a decade for the NuScale project to be completed, with likely cost increases (and delays) along the way; or they can have proven solar power within a year. PacifiCorp Integrated Resource Plan, September 17, 2020

Eyes Wide Shut Problems with the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) Proposal to Construct NuScale Small Modular Reactors. Among those problems is that Fluor, the majority stockholder in NuScale, is facing legal and financial difficulties and is reducing its investment in NuScale. A Credit Suisse financial analyst has recommended dumping the SMNR project altogether.
Some private utilities that have considered NuScale have come up estimates of
$100/MWh or more (and rising) for the cost of its electricity, compared to solar and wind at well under $50 (and falling). Meanwhile, in 2019 NuScale and UAMPS were still using a figure of $55, though increasing projections of construction costs are cause for skepticism. By M.V. Ramana, University of British Columbia, September 2020
Two years later, the $100/MWh estimate is confirmed by NuScale. A cost of over $58/MWh could allow participating utilities to abandon or renegotiate the terms of their participation.

Startup schedule of Idaho SMNR delayed to 2029 from 2027 Utah Taxpayer Association's vice president said Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) members currently committed to the project should withdraw from it because of the risks. He said the project relies on "unproven technology that continues to be less and less competitive than other clean energy alternatives. Former NRC commissioner Peter Bradford said, "The development of untried new designs is no place for small utilities with no nuclear construction experience to risk their customers' money." August 13, 2020

Utah group voices SMNR concerns The Utah Taxpayers Association claims ratepayers in 34 municipalities could be on the hook for billions of dollars if they don't pull out of UAMPS nuclear plans by September 14, 2020. The group claims NuScale has repeatedly delayed and increased costs of its small reactor projects. Further, the UTA says that no participating municipality has conducted its own financial evaluation of the project and is relying on NuScale's own evaluation. KID Radio (Idaho Falls), August 12, 2020

Questions to be asked about nuclear proposal Small Utah municipalities are cautioned about the risks of investing in the Small Modular Nuclear Reactor proposed for Idaho. By Kurt Hamaan, in the Salt Lake Tribune, July 27, 2020

Utah cities should beware of nuclear plant costs Over the past several years, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) has been working on a project to build a small modular nuclear reactor project to provide some of its power needs. Later this summer, the cities involved will be voting to increase their financial commitment to cover the entire cost of the federal licensing process. It is vital that they are accurate and transparent about the costs to their ratepayers over the next half century. Three outside sources estimate that the costs will be much higher than they would be from other means of energy production. By Ray Ward, Utah State Representative (Republican), in the Salt Lake Tribune, July 7, 2020

A cautionary tale for UAMPS The municipal utility of Jacksonville, Florida, found itself locked into a power-purchase contract from the Vogtle nuclear power plants presently under construction. Though the construction cost of the plants has at least doubled, and Westinghouse, the original contractor, went bankrupt as a result, a federal court ruled that Jacksonville is still obligated to buy the contracted electricity. Meanwhile, the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) is preparing to contract for some of the output of a speculative Small Modular Nuclear Reactor to be built in Idaho. See the next article below (items 1 through 3) for a guide to the pricing. And guess why UAMPS should be especially hesitant: the Idaho project will be managed by WPPSS/Energy Northwest, which 40 years ago nearly bankrupted the State of Washington. [Energy Northwest withdrew in 2021.] Let's hope UAMPS is paying attention to Jacksonville and is wise enough not to get locked into the same catastrophic result. Otherwise, check this space in five years, and we'll say we told you so. World Nuclear News, June 19, 2020

Analyzing the Cost of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors and Alternative Power Portfolios Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) members are considering the purchase of a portion of a 600 MW Small Modular Nuclear Reactor (SMNR) power generation facility under development by NuScale Power at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls, Idaho.
The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL) commissioned Energy Strategies to conduct an independent, high-level assessment of the cost competitiveness of delivered power from the SMNR plant relative to the costs of power from comparable alternative low- or non-carbon emitting resource portfolios that include wind, solar, and energy storage. The alternative portfolios were constructed in a manner such that they would provide the same energy and capacity value as the SMNR resource being considered by UAMPS members.
The study shows that emissions-free alternative energy portfolios would be about 40% less costly than SMNR generation.
Key Findings
(brief summary), May 2019


An academic reactor or reactor plant almost always has the following basic characteristics:

On the other hand, a practical reactor plant can be distinguished by the following characteristics: 
(1) It is simple.
(2) It is small.
(3) It is cheap
(4) It is light.
(5) It can be built very quickly.
(6) It is very flexible in purpose (’omnibus reactor’).
(7) Very little development is required. It will use mostly off-the-shelf components.
(8) The reactor is in the study phase. It is not being built now.

(1) It is being built now.
(2) It is behind schedule.
(3) It is requiring an immense amount of development on apparently trivial items. Corrosion, in particular, is a problem.
(4) It is very expensive.
(5) It takes a long time to build because of the engineering development problems.
(6) It is large.
(7) It is heavy.
(8) It is complicated.

Admiral Hyman Rickover, June 1953

The overblown hype of the nuclear "bros"

Small modular reactors are not more economical than large reactors.
They are not generally safer or more secure.
They will not reduce the problem of nuclear waste.
They can't be counted on to operate without reliable access to grid power.
They do not use fuel more efficiently than large reactors.
By Ed Lyman, Union of Concerned Scientists, May 6, 2024

Small Modular Reactors: the last-chance saloon for the nuclear industry? The claims being made for SMRs, analyzed in this article, will be familiar to long-time observers of the nuclear industry: costs will be dramatically reduced; construction times will be shortened; safety will be improved; there are no significant technical issues to solve; nuclear is an essential element to our energy mix. In the past such claims have proved hopelessly over-optimistic and there is no reason to believe things would turn out differently this time. Indeed, the nuclear industry may well see itself in the ‘last-chance saloon’. The risk is not so much that large numbers of SMRs will be built, they won’t be. The risk is that, as in all the previous failed nuclear revivals, the fruitless pursuit of SMRs will divert resources away from options that are cheaper, at least as effective, much less risky, and better able to contribute to energy security and environmental goals. Given the climate emergency we now face, surely it is time to finally turn our backs on this failing technology? By Steve Thomas, Emeritus Professor of Energy Policy at Greenwich University, UK. Scientists for Global Responsibility, issue 5, March 14, 2023

Developer of next-generation nuclear power plants pulls plans for project in Washington X-energy, a company developing a new generation of smaller nuclear power plants, has pulled its plans to build the company’s first demonstration project in Washington state. Nearly two years after X-energy announced that Grant County would take an ownership stake in the 320-megawatt project, a site location had yet to be determined. The sponsors claim an unrealistically low price of $2.2 billion (half of it to be government subsidized), especially for a design not yet federally licensed. This, despite the fact that the game was to be played on the industry's home court, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. By Hal Bernton, Seattle Times, March 2, 2023
Update: A Grant County PUD spokesperson announced that the public utility district in central Washington has withdrawn from a planned collaboration with the Maryland-based company X-energy to build an SMR-based nuclear power plant. Columbia Insight, January 11, 2024

Time isn't on their side With the exception of the NuScale reactor design, which is based on the traditional light water reactor, many of the remaining American SMRs on the drawing board would use High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) fuel, something only Russia commercially manufactures currently. (The “low enriched” in the name is misleading as the uranium is actually enriched to close to 20% which borders on weapons-usable.) The need to import HALEU from Russia has suddenly prompted an attack of conscience in at least one quarter. “We didn’t have a fuel problem until a few months ago,” Jeff Navin, director of external affairs of the Bill Gates-owned company TerraPower told Reuters. “After the invasion of Ukraine, we were not comfortable doing business with Russia.” But retooling the industry for the domestic production of HALEU fuel will not be straightforward and developing it will put an unpredictable but significant delay on the climate goals for the US SMR program. This presents a conundrum perfectly described by the chief executive of U.S. nuclear fuel supplier Centrus Energy Corp., in the same Reuters article. “Nobody wants to order 10 reactors without a fuel source, and nobody wants to invest in a fuel source without 10 reactor orders,” he said. Beyond Nuclear International, November 20, 2022

The Impossible Promises of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Billionaires might throw their money after small modular reactor designs, but the SMR claims are flawed and misleading. The multiple problems of SMRs, including economics, timelines, proliferation and waste, have not been resolved despite the hype. Governments should stop wasting money on them. By M.V. Ramana, Peace Magazine, July 21, 2022

Nuclear waste from small modular reactors  Few studies before this one have assessed the management and disposal of nuclear waste streams from small modular nuclear reactors. By Lindsay Krall, Allison Macfarlane, and Rodney Ewing, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US), May 31, 2022

Stanford-led research finds small modular reactors will exacerbate challenges of highly radioactive nuclear waste Small modular reactors, long touted as the future of nuclear energy, will actually generate more radioactive waste than conventional nuclear power plants, according to research from Stanford and the University of British Columbia. Stanford News, May 30, 2022 [Summary]
Complete text here

How to Speed Up the Rollout of Small Nuclear Power Plants
The article's lead:
> The invasion of Ukraine has put the U.S. and Europe on a 
wartime mission to abandon Russian fossil fuels. ...
> As Russia’s war in Ukraine galvanizes Western countries to break their reliance on Russian energy exports, in part by accelerating green technologies that will replace fossil fuels, one solution could be boosting the deployment of nuclear energy.
But it goes on:
>  However, the type of fuel its reactor would run on is scarce—and mostly sourced from Russia right now. A domestic supply would take years to jump-start.
   So much for that justification.

U.S. nuclear power agency seeks documentation of NuScale's quake protection An agency engineer raised questions about the company's reactor design's ability to withstand earthquakes. Reuters, April 28, 2022

Small modular reactors offer no hope for nuclear energy The economics will only be tested when large numbers of reactors manufactured on production lines have been built and their cost known. Private industry is not going to take the risk of paying for production lines and buying large numbers of reactors that could well prove uneconomic. So, it will be public money, as it nearly always has been the case with nuclear power, that will be risked. Meanwhile, as reactor costs have been rising relentlessly for decades, costs of renewables are now far lower than for nuclear power. By M.V. Ramana, January 14, 2022

Mobile Nuclear Reactors Won't Solve the Army's Energy Problems The Army appears set to credulously accept industry claims of complete safety that are founded in wishful thinking and characterized by willful circumvention of basic design safety principles. By Jake Hecla, December 14, 2021

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors proposed for Hanford nuclear reservation X-energy Company proposes to site a small modular nuclear reactor at Energy Northwest’s campus. As usual with this type of development, its prospects depend heavily on government subsidies - money which could be used much more quickly and effectively to build safe, clean renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. The cost of battery storage will be much less than the cost of building more nuclear power plants. Columbia Riverkeeper, September 2021
Take action

An Open Letter to Bill Gates About his Wyoming Atomic Reactor Gates has received government subsidy to build a sodium-cooled "Natrium" modular nuclear reactor. He does not appear to be aware of that type of reactor's 70-year record of failure. (See also the analysis of sodium-cooled reactors by the Union of Concerned Scientists .) By Arnie Gunderson, August 20, 2021

"Advanced" Nuclear Reactors? Don't Hold Your Breath With little hard evidence, their developers maintain they’ll be cheaper, safer, and more secure than existing power plants. By Elliott Negin, Scientific American, July 23, 2021

Why Small Modular Reactors Won't Help Counter the Climate Crisis Two main reasons: Time and cost. Furthermore, if an error in a mass-manufactured reactor were to result in safety problems, the whole lot might have to be recalled. But how does one recall a radioactive reactor? And what will happen to an electricity system that relies on identical reactors that need to be recalled? These questions haven’t been addressed by the nuclear industry or energy policy makers – indeed, they have not even been posed. Yet recalls are a predictable and consistent feature of mass manufacturing, from smartphones to jet aircraft. By Arjun Makhijani and M.V. Ramana, Environmental Working Group, March 25, 2021

Debunking the myths around Small Modular Nuclear Reactors One and a half hour video presentation by Beyond Nuclear, the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick, and the Canadian Environmental Law Association. October 21, 2020
The speakers' PowerPoint presentations are available here.

Two's a crowd: Nuclear and renewables don't mix - differences in carbon emissions reduction between countries pursuing renewable electricity versus nuclear power. If countries want to lower emissions as substantially, rapidly and cost-effectively as possible, they should prioritize support for renewables, rather than nuclear power, the findings of a major new energy study conclude. ScienceDaily, October 5, 2020

Nuclear energy is more expensive than renewable energy Last November, the Wall Street advisory firm Lazard reported that the average construction costs of solar photovoltaics and onshore wind turbines in the United States—one of the largest renewable energy markets in the world—are $1,000 and $1,300 per kilowatt of generation capacity respectively, down from $1,750 per kilowatt for either technology in 2013. During this period, the cost of building a new nuclear reactor rose from $6,792 to $9,550 per kilowatt. By M.V. Ramana, University of British Columbia, September 22, 2020

Smaller, cheaper reactor aims to revive nuclear industry, but design problems raise safety concerns Reviewers have unearthed design problems, including one that critics say undermines NuScale's claim that its SMNR would shut itself down in an emergency without operator intervention. Science Magazine, August 18, 2020

The SMNR ‘hype cycle’ hits a hurdle in Australia The three stages of the cycle:
   1. Vendors produce low-cost estimates.
   2. Advocates offer theoretical explanations as to why the new nuclear technology will be cost competitive.
   3. Government authorities bless the estimates by funding studies from friendly academics.
Then, of course, costs go up and construction takes much longer than projected. Now, the self-referential SMNR hype cycle has been disrupted in Australia by two government agencies. By Jim Green, Nuclear Monitor #886, June 8, 2020

A Critical Analysis of the Nuclear Waste Consequences for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (nuclear reactors with electric capacities less than 300 MW) have received support on the pretense that their development will reduce the mass and radiotoxicity of commercially generated nuclear waste. By analyzing the published design specifications for water-, sodium-, and molten salt-cooled SMNRs, I here characterize their notional, high-level waste streams in terms of decay heat, radiochemistry, and fissile isotope concentration, each of which have implications for geologic repository design and long-term safety. Volumes of low- and intermediate-level decommissioning waste, in the form of reactor components, coolants, and moderators, have also been estimated.
*  The results show that SMNRs will not reduce the size of a geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel, nor the associated future dose rates.
Rather, SMNRs are poised to discharge spent fuel with relatively high concentrations of fissile material, which may pose re-criticality risks in a geologic repository.
Furthermore, SMNRs entail increased volumes of decommissioning waste, as compared to a standard 1100 MW, water-cooled reactor.
Hour-long video presentation By Dr. Lindsay Krall, Stanford University, June 4, 2020

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, a case of wishful thinking at best SMNR projects are looking more like a way to funnel money to the sagging nuclear industry than to generate power. Unfortunately, they take money away from legitimate the clean energy projects needed to combat climate change. By Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, December 18, 2019

Seven reasons why Small Modular Nuclear Reactors are a bad idea for Australia Cost, safety, security, weapons proliferation, wastes, location, delay. By Noel Wauchope, Independent Australia, August 17, 2019

Prospects for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors in the UK & Worldwide There are huge obstacles in the path of development of SMNRs, including technical issues, building up an effective supply chain, and financing, which will only be possible with public subsidies. These issues are examined in detail in this report, which concludes that SMNRs will not be built in any significant scale. By Steve Thomas, Paul Dorfman, Sean Morris, and M.V. Ramana, Nuclear Consulting Group (UK), July 2019

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

An obituary for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors
* The enthusiasm for SMNRs has little to do with climate-friendly environmentalism. About half of the SMNRs 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 SMNR universe is its deep connection with militarism, as this article describes.
* The power produced by SMNRs 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 SMNRs - mass, modular factory construction. Yet without that supply chain, SMNRs 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 SMNRs is (and remains, even with subsequent generations of the tech) substantially more expensive than power from competitors. By David Roberts, Vox, July 11, 2018

Exelon: No new nuclear power units will be built in US This includes Small Modular Nuclear 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 Nuclear Reactor Project UAMPS and the County Council refer to the proposed UAMPS SMNR 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 SMNR, operation of the SMNR, 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 Nuclear 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 SMNRs, but by 2050 they will be 50-100 times more expensive than solar. By Oliver Tickell, The Ecologist (UK), October 24, 2017

Small Modular Nuclear 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.
SMNRs 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 Nuclear 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 SMNRs? Something happened on the way to the modular reactor promised land. Over the past year, the SMNR 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 Nuclear Reactors Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMNRs) 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 SMNR 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 SMNRs and shows why the technical characteristics of SMNRs do not allow them to solve simultaneously all four of the problems identified with nuclear power today. It shows that the leading SMNR 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 SMNR 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 Nuclear Reactors” (SMNRs) 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 Nuclear 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

Squandering Money and Resources Sierra Club fact sheet on Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, 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 Nuclear Reactors: Facts and Analysis This paper discusses why SMNRs 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 Nuclear 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 Nuclear 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 Nuclear 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)

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

Calendar of events

About us       Contact us       Search this site

Nuclear Free Northwest Home Page