Small Modular Reactor (SMR) background

According to the Department of Energy (DOE), Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are nuclear reactors that will (allegedly) produce less than 300 MWs of electricity. Proponents of the technology claim that they will be more cost-effective than traditional large nuclear reactors, and easier to deploy on a large scale as they will (allegedly) be mass produced in factories and shipped to the site for assembly. While the idea for SMRs has been around since the 1950s, this technology is still nowhere near commercial viability, and every indication shows that it will likely never be a reality on a large scale.

 

No public utility in the U.S. has built any SMRs

 

Because SMRs are so risky and will not be commercially viable anytime soon, Wall Street will likely be extremely hesitant to finance these projects. In fact, most of the funding for SMR development to this point has been provided courtesy of taxpayers, as the DOE has spent more than $1.2 billion on SMRs to date and intend to commit at least $5.5 billion more in taxpayer subsidies to this pipedream. Additionally, utility companies will not assume the financial risk for these projects either.

 

Therefore, the only way utilities can finance SMRs is if they force their customers to provide the financing to pay for them by adding them to Indiana’s Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) law. This would allow utilities to charge ratepayers for SMRs while they are under construction, before they are producing any electricity, and even if they NEVER produce any electricity. CWIP essentially forces customers to give utilities interest-free loans. If SMRs are not a good investment for a utility, why are they a good investment for customers?

 

 

SMRs have all the issues associated with traditional nukes:

 

    • High construction cost with lots of cost overruns, and long construction time with lots of delays.

       

      • Vogtle reactors 3 & 4 in Georgia are the only reactors currently under construction in the U.S. They were originally projected to cost $9.8 billion, and are now projected to cost almost triple that at $30 billion for 2,300 megawatts. Construction on Vogtle began in 2013 and it was supposed to be generating electricity by 2016. To date, construction has taken 6 years longer than they projected, and counting.

         

      • In 2017, Santee Cooper abandoned the construction of two reactors at the Summer nuclear power plant in South Carolina. They sunk $9 billion+ into this hole in the ground. Because of CWIP, the customers of multiple utility companies are on the hook to pay for this boondoggle, which will never generate any electricity.

         

      • The DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory is working on the only SMR plans currently being considered in the U.S. The plans are for twelve 60 megawatt SMRs, to be funded by a consortium of municipal electric utilities. 2 of the 30 municipals already backed out a couple of years ago. The cost for this project was estimated at $2.7 billion when the project was proposed in 2017 and it was projected to be online by 2026. Since that time, the cost estimate has more than doubled to $6.1 billion and the projected operational date was pushed back to 2030. The project is still in the conceptual stage, the price has more than doubled, and the timeline has been extended by four years. No construction has been done at all yet.

         

    • High cost of electricityelectricity from existing nuclear power plants is more expensive than electricity from new solar and wind farms

       

    • High cost of decommissioning – it takes around $1 billion dollars per reactor, and one hundred years to fully decommission a nuclear power plant. Utility customers are the ones who pay those costs.

       

    • Nuclear waste – it is lethally radioactive for 250,000 years, and we still haven't figured out what to do with it or where to put it.

       

    • Regular and routine releases of radioactivity into surrounding environmentlots of studies have been done on the effects that the radioactivity in the environment has had on the people who live near nuclear power plants and nuclear facilities.

       

    • Ineffective at Addressing Climate Change - "New nuclear power costs about 5 times more than onshore wind power per kWh. Nuclear takes 5 to 17 years longer between planning and operation and produces on average 23 times the emissions per unit electricity generated. In addition, it creates risk and cost associated with weapons proliferation, meltdown, mining lung cancer, and waste risks. Clean, renewables avoid all such risks." Source: https://eu.boell.org/en/2021/04/26/7-reasons-why-nuclear-energy-not-answer-solve-climate-change

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