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Nukes – Part 4

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John Benson's picture
Senior Consultant Microgrid Labs

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Microgrid Labs, Inc. Advisor: 2014 to Present Developed product plans, conceptual and preliminary designs for projects, performed industry surveys and developed...

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  • Sep 8, 2020

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In the prior Nukes Papers, I indicated that (1) Gen 3 Nukes could not compete with other renewable generation technologies, (2) Small Modular Reactors (SMR) appeared to have the ability to compete with these where they were required, and (3) there are (at least) three SMR manufacturers that seem to have the ability to achieve economic viability.

In this post we will look at the progress that the three U.S. SMR manufacturers have made, and identify any other potential SMR or other nuke manufacturers.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 8, 2020

From your understanding, John, what's the biggest unknown left in the way of these SMRs? It seems we might safely be past the point where it's not the technical question marks, but more the market or policy ones-- would you agree with that? 

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Sep 8, 2020

One of the things that gave me hope initially that NuScale could make the grade is that they spent much of their early development time modeling their reactor system. Nevertheless, a brand new reactor design is a complicated beastie, and the issues that NRC's ACRS turned up are not surprising, and relatively easy to fix.  There will be other issues that present themselves when they actually start testing the first reactor module before commissioning it. That is one reason I suggested that they push ahead and start building their first plant, even if UAMPS bails out. Commissioning the first two units will give other potential customers confidence that the NuScale design works.

The GEH design is an evolution of a proven design, so there is less risk of initial problems, but they too will encounter these. So they too need to push ahead and build an initial unit.


Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 8, 2020

"I’m not going to review any advanced reactor designs in future Nukes, unless they are able to define a true breakthrough design that I can believe. I worked the first five years of my career in the nuclear industry – first on an “Advanced Reactor” (Clinch River Breeder Reactor), then on GE Gen 2 BWRs (LWR). I know of what I write."

John, then you should know Gen 2 reactors in the U.S. have never resulted in a single fatality, or even a radiation-related injury. If your standard is based on fear for which there's no rational basis, as it appears to be, future advances in nuclear technology will be forced to proceed without your approval.

We can refuse to build airships based on what happened in 1937 with the Hindenburg. But why?

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Sep 14, 2020

The NUSCALE reactor will never be able to compete with natural gas, and by a huge margin. The hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spent on the technology were nothing more than a gravy-train for current and former DOE folks lining their own pockets. Enough already, cut our loses and move on.

Fundamentally, steam cycle based reactors   are an obsolete technology because of their inherently poor efficiency. The only way to dramatically increase efficiency, lower costs and simplify the plant lies with the gas turbine (Brayton cycle). That is precisely the approach of the natural gas plants (combined-cycle), which are the lowest cost and most efficient power plants yet devised.

As to the future of nuclear, need to stop letting the DOE dictate the future and pick marketplace winners-and-losers.

Remains to be seen if advanced reactors can move past the major impediments to their future use: the DOE, massive overregulation by the NRC, exorbitant build costs, and public mistrust.


John Benson's picture
John Benson on Sep 15, 2020

Thanks for the comment Michael & Bob.

Without either a cap & trade system or a carbon tax it will take decades for the price of geologically-sourced natural gas to increase organically. I hope that people of our country realize that climate change is real, needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later, and insist that our leaders enact one or both of these systems. In that case, the rising price of fossil fuels should help to spur the deployment of all renewables, including nuclear.

See the recent post linked below, section 2.1,  for my recommendations on this subject. 

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Sep 17, 2020

CO2 causing catastrophic damage to the planet remains conjecture, at best.

Energy production should be driven primarily by economics, with pollution considerations driven by the reasonable man approach, as opposed to hysterics.

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