Small modular reactors, also known as SMRs, may one day become prevalent at the Savannah River Site. However, a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists organization denounces the use of them.
The report, “Small Isn't Always Beautiful,” was released earlier this month by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The nonprofit group concluded in the report that it would be difficult for the small reactors to generate less expensive electricity, and be safer than the larger reactors.
“It will take many years of manufacturing experience before the industry will be able to confirm that small reactors can be built as cheaply as they say,” said senior scientist Edwin Lyman, in a recent press release. “And that means that it will take massive taxpayer subsidies to get this industry off the ground.”
Lyman said that the Department of Energy should collaborate with the nuclear industry and with Congress to ensure that taxpayers' money is spent only on designs that are safer and more secure than the current reactors.
“In the aftermath of Fukushima, the Energy Department and the industry should not be promoting the false idea that small reactors are so safe they don't need 10-mile emergency planning zones,” Lyman added in the press release.
The Department of Energy is currently undergoing a review process to select a beneficiary of a $226 million grant for the use of small modular reactors. The department has said it feels the reactors would initiate a resurgence of the nuclear industry.
“The Energy Department is committed to restarting our nation's nuclear industry and advancing innovative technologies, like small modular reactors, that will help create new jobs and export opportunities for American businesses and workers, while advancing a sustainable energy future,” said Niketa Kumar, a DOE spokesperson.
Savannah River National Laboratory, an applied research and development laboratory at SRS, previously announced partnerships to potentially bring small modulator reactors to SRS.
“SRNL remains supportive of small modular reactor technology as a viable direction for the future of the nuclear industry,” said Will Callicot, a representative of the laboratory. “We are open to working with parties within the industry who are interested in the application and demonstration of the technology.”
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard news team. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and graduated from Georgia Southern University with a journalism degree in May 2012.