Small Modular Reactors are Needed to Meet Climate Change Goals

Climate change is not a passing fad. It will shape the future of our energy mix, ref. A. The energy mix will be natural gas fired electric plants, solar and wind together with nuclear. The need for nuclear is clear because the size, operating characteristics and economics of wind and solar cannot replace our coal fired electric power plants. When our government decides to suspend the subsidies for wind and solar, new construction of these plants will halt because of their high electric generating costs.

The International Atomic Energy Commission defines a small nuclear reactor as a plant that produces less than 300 MW of electricity. Several reactor designs are being considered for small nuclear power plants. The designs include modular pressurized water reactors, molten salt reactors, liquid metal-cooled fast reactors, high-temperature gas cooled reactors, pebble bed modular reactors and nuclear batteries.

Small modular reactors (SMR’s) have several important advantages when compared with the medium to large nuclear power plants.
1. SMR’s can operate independently of the national grid or support a very small grid.
2. The average size of coal plants planned for retirement, from 2016 to 2025 is 145 MW’s. The coal plant sites can easily be used to install SMR’s. SMR’s can be installed to to meet specific needs for the particular location.
3. The small nuclear plants will be manufactured in a controlled factory environment. Each SMR will be transported to the site in need of electric power generation.
4. The cost of SMR’s can be reduced with the construction of many units at a single location. Modular reactors with a standard design provide economies of scale based on the number of units produced.

A. Byus, Linda, “Addressing climate change with smaller-scale nuclear” Nuclear News, p25, March 2016