March 23, 2011
Despite the general pause over nuclear energy as a result of the Fukushima crisis, some analysts believe the end result may be to bring small modular reactors to the fore.
“As improbable as it may sound amid the devastation in northeastern Japan, the nuclear accident may increase the appeal of innovative, small-scale reactors,” Chris Gadomski, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst in San Francisco, tells Bloomberg News. “We’re seeing a knee-jerk reaction saying, ‘get rid of nuclear,’ but that’s not going to happen in the long run,” he says. “There is no other good solution if you want to decarbonize the energy sector. As far as small reactors go, these events in Japan will strengthen their hand as opposed to weakening it.”
Although SMRs are getting a lot of good press lately, including a feature-length article in The American Spectator this month, the finances have not been good. Paul Lorenzini, CEO of NuScale, announced this week that his company would be making layoffs soon if it could not get further financing.
NuScale’s 45-MW reactor would sell for only $200 million and would allow utilities to add power in small increments without betting the company on a $10-billion project. Hyperion Power Generation is offering an even smaller 25-MW reactor for $50 million. The article also cites TerraPower’s 500-MW Traveling Wave Reactor but also notes that Russia is making rapid progress with 35-MW reactor it is mounting on barges. The big surprise is that Argentina is also clearing the ground for a 25-MW experimental prototype it hopes to begin in 2014.
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has said that SMRs represent the U.S.’s last big chance to get back in the game on world reactor construction.
Read more about it at Bloomberg