Small modular reactors (SMRs) will not offer satisfactory solutions to the most pressing problems of nuclear energy such as high capital cost, safety, and weapons proliferation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has said.
Kennette Benedict, executive director and publisher of the Bulletin, said in an article in the journal that the major impetus for building small nuclear plants is the need to reduce the upfront capital costs of constructing nuclear power stations.
But she said although the initial capital required to build one SMR will be lower, the price of electricity produced by smaller reactors will probably be higher because “capital construction costs for the smaller plants will be higher, relatively speaking, than for larger plants”.
She said: “Without a clear-cut case for their advantages, it seems that small nuclear modular reactors are a solution looking for a problem.”
In December 2013, the US Department of Energy awarded 226 million US dollars (USD) (167 million euros) to Oregon company NuScale to design, develop, and prepare for licensing review its first small-scale nuclear reactor. A grant for a similar reactor was made in 2012 to Babcock and Wilcox, a company with experience building reactors for nuclear submarines.
In January 2014, the US Congress appropriated USD 110 million for funding to support the development of SMRs in 2014.