Why Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Won’t Help Counter the Climate Crisis
By Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D. and M.V. Ramana, Ph.D. Small modular nuclear reactors, or SMRs, are designed to generate less than 300 megawatts of electricity – several times less than typical reactors, which have a range of 1,000 to 1,600 MW. While the individual standardized modules would be small, plans typically call for several modules to be installed at a single power generation site. The nuclear industry and the U. S. Department of Energy are promoting the development of SMRs, supposedly to head off the most severe impacts of climate change. But are SMRs a practical and realistic technology for this purpose? To answer, two factors are paramount to consider – time and cost. These factors can be used to divide SMRs into two broad categories: Light water reactors based on the same general technical and design principles as present-day power reactors in the U.S., which in theory could be certified and licensed with less complexity and difficulty. Designs that use a range of different fuel designs, such as solid balls moving through the reactor core like sand, or molten materials flowing through the core; moderators such as graphite; and coolants such as helium, liquid sodium or molten salts. On both counts, the prospects for SMRs are poor.
Beyond Nuclear 9th May 2021 read more »