Seven reasons why small modular nuclear reactors are a bad idea for Australia. 1. Cost. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy concluded that the SMR industry would not be viable unless the industry received ‘several hundred billion dollars of direct and indirect subsidies’ over the next several decades. For a company to invest in a factory to manufacture reactors, they’d need to be sure of a real market for them — Australia would have to commit to a strong investment up front. The diseconomics of scale make SMRs more expensive than large reactors. A 250 MW SMR will generate 25 per cent as much power as a 1,000 MW reactor, but it will require more than 25 per cent of the material inputs and staffing and a number of other costs including waste management and decommissioning will be proportionally higher. 2. Safety problems. Small nuclear reactors still have the same kinds of safety needs as large ones have. 3. Security Proponents of SMRs argue that they can be deployed safely both as a fleet of units close to cities or as individual units in remote locations. In all cases, they’d have to operate under a global regulatory framework, which is going to mean expensive security arrangements and a level of security staffing. 4. Weapons proliferation. The latest news on the Russian explosion is a dramatic illustration of the connection between SMRs and weapons development. But not such a surprise. SMRs have always had this connection, beginning in the nuclear weapons industry in powering U.S. nuclear submarines. They were used in the UK to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. Today, the U.S. Department of Energy plans to use SMRs as part of “dual use” facilities, civilian and military. 5. Wastes. SMRs are designed to produce less radioactive trash than current reactors. But they still produce long-lasting nuclear wastes, and, in fact, for SMRs this is an even more complex problem. 6. Location. With Australia’s great distances, it would be difficult to monitor and ensure the security of such a potentially dangerous system, of many small reactors scattered about on this continent. 7. Delay. For Australia, this has to be the most salient point of all. Economist John Quiggin has pointed out that Australia’s nuclear fans are enthusing about small modular nuclear reactors, but with no clarity on which, of the many types now designed, would be right for Australia. NuScale’s model, funded by the U.S. Government, is the only one at present with commercial prospects, so Quiggin has examined its history of delays. But Quiggin found that NuScale is not actually going to build the factory, it is going to assemble the reactor parts which have been made by another firm — which firm is not clear.
Independent Australia 17th Aug 2019 read more »