Over a year ago, the Savannah River National Laboratory announced plans to bring small modulator reactors to the Site. Now, a report advocates against the use of such reactors.
Small modulator reactors are defined as reactors with an electricity output of less than 300 megawatts. They are said to allow for less on-site construction, increase containment efficiency, and heighten nuclear materials security, which would jumpstart a depleting nuclear industry.
The development of the reactors could cost $90 billion in federal funding at the Savannah River Site, or any nuclear site.
“A hundred reactors, each costing about $900 million, including construction costs, would amount to an order book of $90 billion,” said Arjun Makhijani, the author of the report.
Makhijani's report, “Light Water Designs of Small Modular Reactors: Facts and Analysis,” was submitted by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, of which Makhijani is the president.
The report addressed several of the proclaimed advantages of small modular reactors. According to Makhijani, the reactors do not decrease financial risk, as some reports suggest.
“SMRs don't actually reduce financial risk; they increase it, but transfer it from the reactor purchaser to the manufacturing supply chain,” said Makhijani. “SMRs will be commercially obsolete before they are commercially profitable.”
In addition to financial risks, Makhijani also alluded to the job market, stating that employment numbers will not see a significant increase despite popular belief.
“It is fanciful and impractical to believe that SMRs can bring large numbers of industrial jobs to the United States,” he stated in the report.
SRNL announced partnerships to potentially bring small modulator reactors to SRS last March. SRS made the decision in an effort to increase SRS's land assets, energy facilities and nuclear expertise, according to an energy.gov article.
A study underwritten by the American Council on Global Nuclear Competitiveness backed the partnerships by listing advantages in bringing the reactors the Site. Listed advantages include job creation, export of U.S. goods and service, benefits to national security and energy policy and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
The study concluded that total economic impact of bringing them to the Site is between $200 billion and $400 billion.
“SRNL remains supportive of small modular reactor technology as a viable direction for the future of the nuclear industry,” said Will Callicot, a Savannah River National Laboratory representative. “We are open to working with parties within the industry who are interested in the application and demonstration of the technology.”
SRNL is an applied research and development laboratory at the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site.
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard news team and joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and graduated from Georgia Southern University with a journalism degree in May 2012.