Report: Small modular reactors face uphill battles

The IEER report suggests that NuScale, which operates from this design center in Corvallis, and other small modular reactor developers would require billions in advance orders to build their markets.
Courtesy NuScale Power

The IEER report suggests that NuScale, which operates from this design center in Corvallis, and other small modular reactor developers would require billions in advance orders to build their markets.

A new report suggests that small modular reactor projects would require massive order volumes, involvement from Chinese companies and large taxpayer subsidies in order to be viable.

The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, a Washington, D.C. think tank, called out Corvallis’s NuScale Power among projects in seven states that would “likely require tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies or government purchase orders, create new reliability vulnerabilities, as well as serious concerns in relation to both safety and proliferation.”

The report is called “Light Water Designs of Small Modular Reactors: Facts and Analysis,” and focuses on light water reactor designs.

NuScale has put in for tens of millions of Department of Energy funds in order to back its small modular reactor developments. NuScale’s small modular reactors feature “first-of-its-kind passive safety design, years of real-world testing of its technology and almost 100 patents,” according to the company.

The company is also working with Oregon and other Western states on a demonstration project that will study the “deployment of safe, affordable nuclear energy” from small modular reactors.

The IEER report suggests that it would require $90 billion in initial orders for small modular reactors to pencil out.

“SMR proponents claim that small size will enable mass manufacturing in a factory and shipment to the site as an assembled unit, which will enable considerable savings in two ways,” IEER researchers wrote. “It would reduce onsite construction cost and time. Second, mass manufacturing will make up in economies of volume production what is lost in economies of scale. In other words, modular reactors will be economical because they will be more like assembly-line cars than hand-made Lamborghinis … A hundred [mPower] reactors, each costing about $900 million, including construction costs … would amount to an order book of $90 billion, leaving aside the industry’s record of huge cost escalations.”

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