Doubts and anxieties about the much touted Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

Some players have reportedly already pulled back from SMRs, including Westinghouse and Babcock & Wilcox, at least in part because of competition from cheaper energy sources.

“The cost per megawatt-hour doesn’t necessarily come down just because you’re building a smaller plant,” says Ryan Fitzpatrick, deputy director of the clean-energy program at the think tank Third Way. “There have to be cost savings derived through other processes.”

Those could include things like shorter construction times and new design features that reduce regulatory expenses. But the key to driving down costs would be setting up factories to crank out a lot of reactors, says Neil Todreas, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT…..

That, however, may present a bit of a chicken-and-egg challenge: securing financing to build the plants will probably require a lot of orders, but it would be hard for a company to obtain those orders before it could reliably produce reactors cheaply.

In addition, the Union of Concerned Scientists has raised separate questions about how safe and secure the plants will really be. Among other issues, the group noted that a widely distributed network of smaller but more numerous reactors could make it harder to safeguard nuclear material that, among other dangers, can be used to make dirty bombs.

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