Small is promising for future of nuclear

Small-scale nuclear reactors with a capacity of up to 300MW could have an increasingly important role to play in the world's future energy mix.

Short development lead-times, simple plant design and straightforward financing are highlighted by business advisor Steve Robertson, director of Douglas-Westwood, as potential areas of benefit attached to small modular reactors (SMRs).

Speaking against a background of rising costs for traditional fuels and aging infrastructure, especially in the US and Europe, Robertson said nuclear was seen as offering a 'reliable base-load at a predictable cost' and that SMRs could be a key part of future energy solutions.

While some countries have, post Fukushima, decided against nuclear in the energy mix, others continued to enjoy a 'nuclear renaissance' in terms of government approval, especially with a cost base of $90.1/MWh for Nuclear compared to $93 for coal, $195 for solar PV and $210 for offshore wind.

"The main geographic focus for SMRs at present is the US," said Robertson. "The US Department for Energy has received three bids for funds to be allocated to SMR projects which could be developed, licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and be commercially operational by 2022."

While the US was therefore likely to see the first installed units, scenarios elsewhere in the world favoured the use of SMRs in situations where growing energy demand was set alongside infrastructure restrictions.

"If the economics of SMRs can be realised then they have a good future," Robertson added. "No source of power is ideal for all and individual countries need a balanced portfolio approach to energy. In that context, fossil fuels, renewables and nuclear all have their pros and cons, and SMRs could have considerable value in many situations."

edie staff


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