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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Can Natural Gas be Bridge? Shell Ad Says Yes

National Geographic Poll: Can natural gas be a bridge to clean energy?

There is an interesting article at National Geographic titled Can Natural Gas Be a Bridge to Clean Energy?. That eminent magazine is promoting the article and wants people to help answer the question it poses; here is a copy of the Tweet that provided me the initial link. Tell us what you think: Can natural […]

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ExxonMobil, XTO, and climate change strategy

On January 24, 2014, the The Society of Environmental Journalists and the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program presented a panel discussion titled The Year Ahead in Environment and Energy. I found out about it via this tweet from Andy Revkin: Video: Enviro journalists on Keystone, gas boom, western drought, much more at […]

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Natural gas price spikes: More than “pipeline capacity”

After posting copies of the energy price charts for January 22, 2014 and highlighting the three delivery points in the eastern US where daily spot market natural gas prices have skyrocketed to more than $70.00/MMBTU (1840 euros/1000 cubic meters), I received the following comment: Doesn’t this have more to do with there not being enough […]

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Natural gas is only cheap if you don’t need it very much

How many times in the past five years have you heard the one about the way that new fracking and horizontal drilling technology have created long term abundance of cheap natural gas in North America? I just took this snapshot of daily energy prices as of January 22, 2014. (The daily energy price page will […]

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Russia using oil wealth to finance nuclear exports

Russia has announced plans to lend Hungary $14 billion at below market rates to finance the construction of additional nuclear energy production units at the existing Paks nuclear power station. The announcement is one more piece of evidence showing that Russia continues to diversify its income by exporting nuclear power stations to as large a […]

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Are natural gas suppliers purposely overproducing?

On December 27, 2013, Matt Wald published a piece in the New York Times titled New Energy Struggles on Its Way to Markets that points to the predictable consequences of having too many energy options chasing too few customers. When there is excess supply compared to demand, prices tend to fall rather dramatically. Falling prices […]

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Professional antinuclear greens resist; greens concerned about climate change embrace

Fissures related to nuclear energy are developing in the monolithic movement known as Environmentalism. The Breakthrough Institute has published a good introduction to the schism titled The Great Green Meltdown: How Economic Arguments Against Nuclear Highlight Environmentalist Delusions. Though this is a simplification, it is generally accurate to describe two sides of the movement that […]

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America’s Natural Gas Alliance ad featuring Georgia Power

The video embedded above illustrates the kind of advertising that the natural gas industry, nuclear energy’s primary competitor, routinely uses to inform the public that it provides a valuable, reliable service. I hope you enjoy the reminder about the importance of communications and the irony of recognizing that the electric power utility company featured in […]

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Truth about shale gas is out there for critical thinkers

I’ve just read a fascinating series of posts about shale gas extraction published on Planned as a five part series, parts 1-4 have been published so far. The titles of each post start with the phrase “The Truth is Out There”. Here is the list of posts published so far: The Truth is Out […]

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Vermont Yankee is latest victim in Big Oil’s price war against nuclear competition

This recent interview on Platts Energy Week makes it clear that low natural gas prices in North America are partially responsible for pushing nuclear power plants off of the grid. Natural gas prices in the US are about 1/3 of global average prices; in any other commodity market, that would be a clear indication of […]

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PBS Need to Know – The Nuclear Option. Damning with faint praise

As a pronuclear advocate who majored in English as an undergraduate, I could not help but notice the frustratingly effective use of slanted language in the above video segment to damn nuclear energy with faint praise. From the very pregnant pause after President Obama says “if it’s safe…..”, to Dr. Lester’s multiply negative statement saying […]

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