SMRs – Why Not Now? Then When?

I have shamelessly borrowed the title of one of the talks given during the first day of the Nuclear Energy Insider 4th Annual Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Conference as being representative of both the rest of the agenda and the conversations that I had in the hallways during the breaks.

For the past five years, a relatively small band of stalwarts has been gathering several times per year to talk about their progress in creating a new and improved energy option for the United States. Though nuclear fission has been in commercial use since 1957, the operative design philosophy has been that the way to improve its economics was to build bigger and bigger units in order to take advantage of the “economy of scale.”

SMR proponents believe there is a different way to achieve scale economies. They are investigating several different design philosophies that revolve around finding the right combination of output, physical size, locational flexibility, approval challenges, manufacturability, and construction schedule to attract a sufficient number of timely orders to enable economy of series production. Scale is important, but it’s the size of the overall enterprise, not the size of individual units that will matter.

Over time, the nascent SMR industry has also learned that they need to address a number of additional issues in order to achieve their challenging goal of enabling a useful and economically competitive new energy option based on the known technical advantages — specifically a virtually unlimited resource base of low-cost, emission-free fuel — of using atomic fission as the basic energy source.
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Westinghouse’s Roderick shifts resources from SMR to AP1000

NuScale was the sole winner in the latest round under the DOE’s Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for small modular reactors (SMR). The DOE announced its decision in December 2013. As a result of that decision, Westinghouse has shifted internal resources from working on a 225 MWe SMR to focus more on continued refinements and completion […]

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Accelerator Driven System promoters are playing to irrational antinuclear fears

By Ed Pheil I mentioned at the Thorium Energy Conference 2013 that accelerator driven systems (ADS) were likely to hurt the nuclear industry more than help it with the following discussion. The ADS proponents are justifying their participation, including with thorium, on the basis of two concepts that cater to the anti-nuclear crowd. A) ADS […]

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Fantasy Crossfire debate: Ed Lyman versus Rod Adams on fast breeder reactors

CNN has done a masterful job of seizing the opportunity provided by Robert Stone’s thought-provoking Pandora’s Promise to generate a passionate discussion about the use of nuclear energy — a vitally important topic — at a critical time in American history. The decision makers at that somewhat fading network should be congratulated. Of course, generating […]

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I want a nuclear plant in my backyard. So do some of my neighbors

  Watch more video from the CNN channel on Frequency   Though I sometimes suffer from the blues, I am not crazy — I swear. Even though I am just a guy who often blogs in my PJs, I’m also pretty sure that I am not a nobody. In fact, none of us are nobodies, […]

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On Plutonium, Nuclear War, and Nuclear Peace

By NNadir I trust — and I hope I am justified in this — that no one wants a nuclear war. I know I don’t. We already have a set of environmental problems that are worse than a limited nuclear war, and may be facing an environmental crisis that might be as dire as a […]

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Big bets in energy technology from “Beyond Petroleum”

As an energy industry observer with a long memory, I was somewhat bemused by a recent interview aired on Platts Energy Week. Bill Loveless sat down with David Eyton, BP’s head of technology, to talk about the exciting new technologies that his company is developing. The company is making substantial investments; in June 2013, BP […]

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Open letter to Ralph Nader from Timothy Maloney – Atomic energy is much better than you think

By Timothy Maloney, PhD Editor’s note: Timothy Maloney has written a number of text books about electrical circuits, electricity, and industrial electronics. The below is a copy of a letter that he wrote to Ralph Nader in response to an opinion piece published by CounterPunch under the headline Why Atomic Energy Stinks Worse Than You […]

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Effective long form advertisement describing Westinghouse AP1000

Westinghouse seems intent on taking advantage of the growing capabilities of the internet to distribute effective messages about the value of its products. It may be difficult to explain the benefits of a nuclear reactor producing 1,110 MW of reliable emission-free electricity in a 15 or 30 second TV spot. It might also be difficult […]

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Smaller nuclear power plants can be beautiful, despite the opposition of the UCS

Dr. Edwin Lyman, Senior Scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists, has published a paper titled Small Isn’t Always Beautiful: Safety, Security, and Cost Concerns about Small Modular Reactors that poses many questions about the development of SMRs. I’ve seen Dr. Lyman taking notes and asking questions at a number of SMR related conferences; […]

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Advances in high temperature nuclear reactor fuel – TRISO integrity at 1800 C!

The Idaho National Laboratory released the following exciting news on September 25, 2013. IDAHO FALLS — A safer and more efficient nuclear fuel is on the horizon. A team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have reached a new milestone with tristructural-isotropic (TRISO) […]

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Can nuclear energy save Detroit?

Update: (August 2, 2013) – American Atomics is now claiming that there is no site in Detroit that is large enough to house the infrastructure that they are planning to build. Here is a link to their post. http://safereactor.org/post/57104636966/no-room-in-detroit It is a pretty incredible claim for a company that currently has no facilities. Supposedly the […]

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