Can small modular reactors help mitigate climate change?

INRAG member M.V. Ramana addresses the question of whether SMRs can mitigate the effects of climate change in this really interesting article.


In recent years, there has been much discussion of small modular reactors. Companies developing
such designs have received large amounts of government funding. Lower power outputs of these
reactors will likely result in higher costs in comparison to large nuclear reactors, and even if they
achieve parity, will fail economically, since large reactors are themselves struggling to compete
with renewable sources of electricity. Mass manufacture is unlikely to reduce costs adequately and
might itself become a source of problems, including the possibility of recalls. The history of
problems with non-traditional nuclear reactor designs indicates that they will likely take longer
to commercialize than light-water small modular reactor designs. The problems related to radioactive
waste and nuclear weapon proliferation will persist, though in different technical configurations
depending on reactor design. Small modular reactors fail the tests of time and cost, which
are of the essence in meeting the challenge of climate change. Even the official schedules indicate
that their contributions will be negligible by 2030 and remain small by 2035, when the grid needs
to be nearly completely decarbonized.

Patrick Perkins

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