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IPFS News Link • Energy

Small modular nuclear reactors get a reality check in new report

•, By Michael Franco

Small modular nuclear reactors (SMR) are generally defined as nuclear plants that have capacity that tops out at about 300 megawatts, enough to run about 30,000 US homes. According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), which prepared the report, there are about 80 SMR concepts currently in various stages of development around the world.

While such reactors were once thought to be a solution to the complexity, security risks, and costs of large-scale reactors, the report asks if continuing to pursue these smaller nuclear power plants is a worthwhile endeavor in terms of meeting the demand for more and more energy around the globe.

The answer to this question is pretty much found in the report's title: "Small Modular Reactors: Still Too Expensive, Too Slow, and Too Risky."

If that's not clear enough though, the report's executive summary certainly gets to the heart of their findings.

"The rhetoric from small modular reactor (SMR) advocates is loud and persistent: This time will be different because the cost overruns and schedule delays that have plagued large reactor construction projects will not be repeated with the new designs," says the report. "But the few SMRs that have been built (or have been started) paint a different picture – one that looks startlingly similar to the past. Significant construction delays are still the norm and costs have continued to climb."

Too Expensive

The cost of SMRs is at the forefront of the report's argument against the deployment of the reactors. According to some of the data it provides, all three SMRs currently operating (plus one now being completed in Argentina) went way over budget, as this graph shows.