Small modular nuclear reactors (SMR): New report raises concerns about feasibility

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A recent report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) casts doubt on the feasibility of deploying small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) to meet global energy demands. Despite the initial promise of these smaller reactors, the report highlights significant challenges related to cost, construction time, and risk.

Too Expensive
The IEEFA report emphasizes the high costs associated with SMR projects. Data shows that the few existing SMRs, along with those under development, have consistently exceeded budget estimates. For example, the NuScale project in Idaho saw its costs nearly double from initial projections, leading to its cancellation. The authors argue that the funds allocated to SMRs could be more effectively spent on developing renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, and battery storage, which are currently more affordable and quicker to deploy.

Too Slow to Build
Construction delays plague SMR projects worldwide. The Shidao Bay project in China, initially slated for a four-year completion, took twelve years. Similar delays have been observed in Russia and Argentina. The report notes that despite optimistic timelines from SMR advocates, historical evidence suggests these projects will continue to face significant delays, making them an unreliable solution for urgent energy needs.

Too Risky
The report also raises concerns about the inherent risks of SMRs. The untested nature of SMR technology, combined with unpredictable costs and lengthy development times, poses a substantial risk. Additionally, standardized designs mean that a failure in one reactor could have widespread repercussions. The potential for unforeseen issues in operations, maintenance, and decommissioning adds to the uncertainty surrounding SMR deployment.

Summary
The IEEFA report concludes that SMRs are not a viable near-term solution for global energy needs. Instead, it advocates for a focus on renewable energy sources, which are more cost-effective, quicker to deploy, and safer. The report urges regulators, utilities, investors, and government officials to prioritize renewables over SMRs, emphasizing that renewables offer a more practical and immediate path toward energy transition.

You can read the full report at this link.

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