Nuclear’s New Dawn: Small Modular Reactors Offer Ever-Reliable CO2-Free Power

STT promotes nuclear power because it works: safe, affordable and reliable it’s the perfect foil for those obsessed about carbon dioxide gas – because it doesn’t generate any, while generating power on demand – unlike the unreliables, wind and solar.

One of the feeble ‘arguments’ against it, is that nuclear power plants are of such vast scale that they take longer to build than the pyramids of Giza, and cost twice as much.

That argument has been given short shrift in the US, where NuScale has just won approval for one its small modular reactor’s designs, with big implications for power generation in the future.

US gives first-ever OK for small commercial nuclear reactor
AP News
Keith Ridler
3 September 2020

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — U.S. officials have for the first time approved a design for a small commercial nuclear reactor, and a Utah energy cooperative wants to build 12 of them in Idaho.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Friday approved Portland-based NuScale Power’s application for the small modular reactor that Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems plans to build at a U.S. Department of Energy site in eastern Idaho.

The small reactors can produce about 60 megawatts of energy, or enough to power more than 50,000 homes. The proposed project includes 12 small modular reactors. The first would be built in 2029, with the rest in 2030.

NuScale says the reactors have advanced safety features, including self-cooling and automatic shutdown.

“This is a significant milestone not only for NuScale, but also for the entire U.S. nuclear sector and the other advanced nuclear technologies that will follow,” said NuScale Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins in a statement.

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems already has agreements with the Energy Department to build the reactors at the federal agency’s 890-square-mile (2,300-square-kilometer) site that includes the Idaho National Laboratory, a nuclear research facility that would help with the development of the reactors.

The Department of Energy has spent more than $400 million since 2014 to hasten the development of the small modular reactors, or SMRs.

“DOE is proud to support the licensing and development of NuScale’s Power Module and other SMR technologies that have the potential to bring clean and reliable power to areas never thought possible by nuclear reactors in the U.S., and soon the world,” said Rita Baranwal, assistant secretary for Nuclear Energy.

The energy cooperative has embarked on a plan called the Carbon Free Power Project that aims to supply carbon-free energy to its nearly 50 members, mostly municipalities, in six Western states. The company plans to buy the reactors from NuScale, then assemble them in Idaho. The company is also looking to bring on other utilities that would use the power generated by the reactors.

Cooperative “members themselves would use a portion of the electricity, but other utilities would become involved and purchase power,” said LaVarr Webb, spokesman for the cooperative.

He said not all the power that will be produced from the proposed reactors has been allocated, but he expects more interest with the U.S. approval of NuScale’s design.

He said the next step is for the cooperative to submit a combined construction and operating license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The process also includes an environmental analysis. Webb said the cooperative will likely have that ready within two years.

The first small modular reactor is scheduled to come online in 2029, with 11 more to follow in 2030.

The modular reactors are light-water reactors, which are the vast majority of reactors now operating. But modular reactors are designed to use less water than traditional reactors and have a passive safety system so they shut down without human action should something go wrong.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of the design means the agency is satisfied such technology will work properly.

The modular reactors are also part of a much larger U.S. plan to replace current reactors, many of them decades old, with more efficient and safer reactors. U.S. officials say nuclear power helps reduce carbon emissions from coal and natural gas, a cause of global warming.

There are currently 95 licensed commercial nuclear reactors operating in the U.S., generating about 20 percent of the nation’s energy, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Utah Taxpayers Association has come out against Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems building the reactors, contending costs will soar as they have with some traditional reactors that are much larger.

But the cooperative says such a comparison is unfair, and akin to comparing a 1960s gas guzzler automobile with a modern electric vehicle.
AP News

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Michael Oakes says:

    Several months ago I saw an article somewhere on how a town on the northern coast of Russia has been provided with a nuclear power station which is on a ship moored there. Apparently replacing a coal fired power station which left sooty fallout on snow in the area during winter. Seems the nuclear reactors are similar to those used in Russian nuclear powered submarines and also icebreaker ships, of which Russia has several. Would be interesting to compare costs of producing and operating these floating nuclear power stations compared with ones built on land. They may also enable the option of return to the manufacturer for major overhaul or decommissioning of reactors especially. Maybe in future if these become proven, it could be viable to build the odd one “on spec” for sale. Or hire, possibly at short notice to anyone with a need for power near the coast or anywhere else these floating power stations can be towed or sailed. THE main extra infrastructure required would be power lines from the power plant mooring site to connect to existing grid.

  2. If Scomo and Angus can’t bring themselves to utter that four letter word “coal“ maybe a SMR might be a better alternative to a gas plant being plonked down in the middle of a prime coal province. Not to mention of course that the Hunter has no affordable gas to fuel this latest thought bubble.

  3. Colin Megson says:

    NuScale is a start-up, having to pitch for finances to support a ‘paper’ SMR which is an integral form of a complex Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR)

    GE Hitachi deployed their 50th Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) in the 1980s; the BWR is a much simpler form of nuclear power plant than the PWR. Their (Economic Simplified) ESBWR is fully certified. The BWRX-300 is the SMR iteration of the ESBWR and well advanced in the licensing processes in the US and Canada.

    A arrangement with an Estonian partner may lead to deployment of the FOAK in 2027, for under $1 billion (~$3,000/kW). A Polish billionaire industrialist, with energy-intensive operations, is seeking to privately finance a second one in 2028. The Czech Republic administration has expressed interest in a 3rd one.

    The NOAK target for the base-load configuration is $2,250/kW – $675 million for a 300 MW npp – 1/3rd of the cost of ‘big nuclear’.

    The build programme is 24 to 26 months; no different to Wind And Solar Plants (WASPs). The cost-of-capital burden that has drained investment from low-carbon nuclear and into low-carbon WASPs is utterly negated.

    Good old capitalism – private capital – will reverse this flow. In the UK, earnings per £1.00 invested in a BWRX-300 is from 7.2X to 15.5X greater than for £1.00 invested in WASPs:

    Search for: bwrx-300-nuclear-uk.blogspot.com

  4. There might be a misconception behind the concept of “small” modular reactors. In most countries (except the U.S.A.), nuclear reactors have always been ‘modular’, i.e., manufactured in industrial, standardized processes to achieve economies of scale. In Germany, they even called the reactors “Konvoi-Anlagen” (convoy plants) because of their high level of series production. In result, the German reactors have been and are spectacularly affordable AND reliable. Only in the U.S., you’ll get 105 models in 99 reactors. Further, nuclear reactors have grown to some 1.5 GW in the past in order to reduce their specific costs. Hence, ‘small’ is not necessarily beautiful and, economically speaking, the sweet spot of where you want to be with your business model.

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