John Quiggan demolishes the case for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors in South Australia
John Quiggan’s Submission to the #NuclearCommissionSAust addressed Question 3.2 of the Issues Papers:
“Are there commercial reactor technologies (or emerging technologies which may be commercially available in the next two decades) than can be installed and connected to the NEM?”
Extract “….Business SA wants Australia to adopt the PRISM reactor, a so-called Generation IV design. Unfortunately, “design” is the operative word here: PRISM is, literally, still on the drawing
(Tell them they’re dreaming • Inside Story http://insidestory.org.au/tell-them-theyre-dreaming 3 of 4 26/06/2015)
It does not exist even in prototype form. The US Department of Energy, along with designers GE and Hitachi, looked at the idea of building such a prototype at the Department’s Savannah River plant a few years ago, but the project has gone nowhere.
Much the same is true of another popular piece of nuclear vaporware, the “small modular reactor.” All but one of the American firms hoping to produce a prototype have abandoned or scaled back their efforts. The remaining candidate, NuScale, is hoping to have its first US plant operational by 2024, with commercial-scale production some time in the 2030s.
And, of course, there’s no guarantee that the new designs will work in economic terms, or that the problems of waste disposal and proliferation can be resolved. Even assuming this optimistic projection is met, small modular reactors aren’t going to be a viable option for Australia any time soon.
Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics from asserting, in its 2012 Australian Energy Technology Assessment, that “SMR technology could potentially be commercially available in the next five to ten years” and presenting it as a low-cost option for 2020. This absurdly optimistic claim was abandoned in the 2013 update, which drastically increased the estimated costs and dropped the claim that the technology would be feasible in 2020.
There is still a chance for nuclear power to contribute to decarbonisation of the global economy in China and other countries with an existing program or the state power to force through a crash program. But these conditions don’t exist in Australia, and there is no serious prospect that they will do so in time to play a substantial role in decarbonisation. Anyone who pretends nuclear power is a serious option for Australia under current conditions is dreaming or, worse still, deliberately diverting attention from the real issues. ……….” http://nuclearrc.sa.gov.au/app/uploads/2015/09/John-Quiggin-29-06-2015.pdf
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