What is far more likely to happen if the U.S. scales up SMRs is that they will choke off the funding and policies that have allowed renewable energy to expand at record levels, while SMRs will suffer all of the same woes that have plagued large nuclear reactors, according to a major new report issued today by nuclear financing expert Dr. Mark Cooper.
The higher costs result from: lost economies of scale in containment structures, dedicated systems for control, management and emergency response, and the cost of licensing and security; operating costs between one-fifth and one-quarter higher; and decommissioning costs between two and three times as high.
Large reactors have never been economically competitive and there is no reason to be believe that smaller reactors will fare any better.
Giving nuclear power a central role in climate change policy would not only drain away resources from the more promising alternatives, it would undermine the effort to create the physical and institutional infrastructure needed to support the emerging electricity systems based on renewables, distributed generation and intensive system and demand management.
My paper shows that nuclear power – whether the reactor is large of small – is among the least attractive climate change policy options and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.
According to Dr. Cooper, cost escalation provides half of the explanation for the economic failure of nuclear power.
In the 1980s nuclear could not compete with coal and natural gas.