Posts Tagged ‘SMR’
To anybody surveying the landscape of nuclear energy right now, it’s becoming more and more obvious that small modular reactors are quickly emerging as a viable and necessary option.
With Progress Energy effectively suspending their reactor initiative last week and with many "First Mover" projects grinding along, it seems plausible that building a full-scale U.S. reactor could be a 10-year, $10-billion undertaking unless the current paradigm changes.
Having licensed designs on the shelf will help; however, few American utilities may willing to run this triathlon without carbon pricing in an projected era of sustained low natural gas prices. Small reactors, however, could offer a different dynamic if developers are able to consummate their designs and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission responds accordingly.
Last week the good news was that Hyperion, the New Mexico company and leading mini-SMR pioneer, signed a memorandum of agreement with the Savannah River National Laboratory to explore the possibility of building a demonstration reactor on the site.
This week the good news is that the project is finding favorable review in South Carolina. In a column in "The State", business columnist Andrew Shain expresses enthusiasm for Hyperion’s business-like attitudes. “Hyperion impressed Savannah River National Solutions officials because the company came showing the technology first instead of asking for money,” reports Shain.
“They were not looking for a hand out from us or the government,” Pete Knollmeyer, vice president of strategic planning at Savannah River National Solutions, tells Shain.
Comments from South Carolina readers are what you’d hope to hear: “Sounds like a Common Sense idea that should have been explored a long time ago.” “The Navy has been running ships the size of cities for years with small nukes.”
It’s good to hear so much hope outside-the-beltway when sometimes there is so little inside.
The Washington Post gets on the small nuclear reactor bandwagon today. Well, sort of.
After reminding readers of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl — and advising folks that environmentalists see nuclear proponent and Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore as a "turncoat" — the Post gets down to business.
"Today supporting nuclear power as a green alternative is quite mainstream" — thanks to President Obama and Bill Gates. The question to build is not when, it is "where and how."
To this end, the Post conjures up the romance of small reactors — in "Any Town, U.S.A." — with a stroll past a movie theatre, the smell of fresh bread from the local bakery, all coupled with the "gentle steam plume" from the cooling tower of your local "miniature reactor that powers the quaint little burg"!
Retiring Ohio Republican Senator George Voinovich says he wants to make the Nuclear Renaissance the legacy of his Senate career. At a press conference yesterday to introducing his new "Enabling the Nuclear Renaissance Act" legislation , Voinovich said he wants nuclear labeled “clean energy” in any Senate bill that mandates the construction of certain forms of energy generation. Most proposals now talk about “renewable energy,” a category from which nuclear is generally excluded.
The Senator said he also wants an additional $54 billion in loan guarantees extended to new construction. In addition, he would fund small modular reactors (SMRs) by having the federal government contribute $1 billion to share the costs of development with the industry over the next ten years.
Voinovich is retiring after two terms in the Senate after serving two four-year terms as Governor of Ohio.
By William Tucker
Last April, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu sounded an optimistic note in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal. While the U.S. is challenged in the manufacturing of full-sized reactors market, he said, an opportunity was opening in small modular reactors in the range of 75 to 150 megawatts.
“Small modular reactors . . have compact designs and could be made in factories and transported to sites by truck or rail. SMRs would be ready to "plug and play" upon arrival. . . . Their small size makes them suitable to small electric grids so they are a good option for locations that cannot accommodate large-scale plants . . .. If we can develop this technology in the U.S. and build these reactors with American workers, we will have a key competitive edge.”
The article caused a flurry of excitement in the nuclear industry where a bevy of companies — ranging from established competitors Babcock & Wilcox (B&W), GE, Westinghouse and General Atomics to emerging companies such as NuScale and Hyperion — were advancing new SMR initiatives. The government was becoming a proponent for serious nuclear energy innovation. Legislation was introduced in the Congress to spur development and $40 million proposed in the President’s FY2011 budget request. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission followed suit projecting approval of a design as early as 2017. TVA announced its interest in SMR deployment. Experienced manufacturers such as Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman were at the ready. And this week, Bechtel jumped on board the SMR express.
Notwithstanding the U.S. awakening in this arena, the rest of the world is moving ahead rapidly. Toshiba has a 10-MW “4S” (Super Safe, Small and Simple) reactor it offering to give to Galena, an isolated Alaskan village, as a demonstration. Russia has a modular reactor it is floating into Siberian villages on barges. Two weeks ago the Koreans announced they are entering the field as well.
Ironically we’ve been building “small modular reactors” for 50 years. They go on U.S. Navy nuclear submarines. The reason B&W has a technical domain in SMRs — and related U.S. manufacturers have expertise in this market — is because it already has a business supplying them to the Navy.
But at the current pace of NRC design and licensing approval, it may be the better part of a decade before anybody can get something out the door in the U.S. By that time, agile Japanese and Korean competitors may have moved out front in the global market.
So is it realistic to think America can compete in this field international? And if not, what can we do about it?