Dr Arjun Makhijani explains why Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) are doomed to fail
Excerpt “…….the core idea of an SMR is that you have smaller reactors. Of course you lose the economies of scale, reactors are big because cost of materials goes according to surface area, and power production goes according to volume, and the larger the reactor the smaller the material needed per kilowatt.
That is the theory and that is why there were small reactors in the fifties, they were proposed and we went to bigger reactors because they were cheaper, all other things being equal. So you go back to smaller reactors, the underlying technology will tell you that the costs per kilowatt, in terms of materials and labour, the number of wells you need per kilowatt, the amount of steel you need per kilowatt will all go up.
The proposal is that all of these costs would be offset by assembly line manufacturing. So you won’t have to set it up on site. And in theory it is a fair idea to evaluate and you ask what is the size of the assembly line you need? And who is going to create this assembly line and the required supply chain, the vessels and the pumps and valves and all of it? So if you look at what the Department of Energy has said, what the industry itself has said is that you can’t – so you are really displacing the heavy capital cost upstream from the reactor sites……
so now instead of having a 10 billion dollar problem, you have got a 50 or a 100 million dollar problem because to .SA Nuclear 01.10.15 P-431 Spark and Cannon set up a supply chain for say 100 or 150 reactors a year, you need that scale of investment……
you need a supply chain investment that is about the same order of kind of an assembly line for airbuses or (indistinct) So it’s very, very huge. So who is 5 going to make all of these orders that will cause some private party to make that investment in the assembly line? With airbuses we know they get advance orders of hundreds of aircraft and they set up their assembly lines. The answer to that question is, no one other than governments…….
How you would handle such a system from a regulatory point of view is 15 mysterious to me because when you have assembly lines, as I note in my paper, you have recalls. Today we have got an 11 million car recall, one of the most reputable companies from perhaps the most technologically reputable country in the world, Germany. What are we going to do if we have 2,000 assembly line reactors that are found to have a fault through design? By design I mean 20 as not properly conceived, or through some cover up, like what happened with Volkswagen. How are we going to deal with it? Are we going to shut them down? Are we going to send them to the manufacturer? Are we going to – it’s unclear…..
the fine 25 print of small module reactors is much, much more complicated economically and in terms of the risks and investments, than their performance have led you to believe. That’s why they’re not – I mean I think – at least two of the four companies that are embarked on it, are already not pursuing it in the United States. Fallen apart before anything was built…. ” http://nuclearrc.sa.gov.au/app/uploads/mp/files/videos/files/151001-topic-4-day-2-transcript-full.v2.pdf