Can Modular Nuclear Make Sense?

August 17, 2017

Can nuclear be part of a no-carbon future?
The answer is yes, if only because China has decided that it will.
Meanwhile, still a lot of concept-proofing to do before we can expect utilities to buy in to “new” nuclear. Here’s an example.


NuScale Power is a company with a mission – to build the first small modular nuclear reactor in America. As of now, they are certainly on track. In January, NuScale submitted the first design certification application for any SMR in the United States to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

This week, a mere two months later, NRC has accepted their design certification application – light speed for our nuclear bureaucracy. By accepting the DCA for review, the NRC staff confirms that NuScale’s submission addresses all of the NRC requirements and contains sufficient technical information to conduct a full review.

It seems NuScale has all its ducks in a row, absolutely critical for as fast a review and licensing as possible. Those ducks included about 12,000 pages of technical information from over 800 NuScale staff and about 40,000 NRC staff-hours in pre-application discussions and interactions.

Even so, the review will take most of 40 months, after which NRC will issue a design certification that will be valid for 15 years for NuScale to construct this new type of power plant.

The first commercial NuScale power plant is planned for construction on the site of the Idaho National Laboratory for the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and operated by experienced nuclear operator Energy Northwest.

Says NuScale CEO John Hopkins, “There is a real need to upgrade American infrastructure to provide for clean and reliable electricity to spur growth in the U.S. There is a real need to boost American manufacturing, and create American jobs.”


17 Responses to “Can Modular Nuclear Make Sense?”

  1. rsmurf Says:

    rIcK peRRY is the head of the energy dept, they most likely gave him a pic of some crap (a box with wires coming out connecting to the power grid and a sign that says safe clean power) and of course since he doesn’t have a clue he approved it! And dont reply with that is not how the approval process works.

  2. Ron Voisin Says:

    Nuclear power is evil in any form.
    Free wind and solar is the only way forward.
    I’m heavily invested in Beany and Cecil propeller caps.

  3. wpNSAlito Says:

    Meh…OK. But like other traditional power plants, it still depends on a stable water supply, and what makes me all yippy-skippy and happy-clappy about wind turbines and PV solar plants is their usefulness in water-poor areas. Furthermore, they don’t have to be vulnerable to
    – climactic overheating of coolant water supply
    – vulnerability to rain bombs when sited along a river
    – vulnerability to lower water supplies in more likely droughts
    – local SLR and storm surge

    Hey, it’s just my thang.

    • All these criticisms are valid which it comes to Generation 3 and 3+ nuclear power.

      However 4the generation is a very different beast. The same criticisms do not necessarily apply. Whether they do or not, and whether there are other significant problems, we simply don’t know yet. The approval process (ideally done independently in multiple countries) will help us find out.

      The climate problem is big enough that I’m not willing to reject without strong evidence anything which might help.

  4. Nuclear is the only energy technology with an inverse learning curve: the more we have installed the more expensive it’s got. Nuclear has always promised some glittering future, and it’s always been just over the horizon. When I was a boy, we were promised that it would be “too cheap to meter”.

    We can produce all our electricity using wind and solar, at half the price of coal and one third or less the price of nuclear, and these costs continue to decline. The new South Australian concentrated solar power plant will deliver “baseload” electricity at just US$56/MWh, which is extraordinarily cheap. And it produces no toxic by-products, doesn’t need prodigious quantities of water, is safe, and has enough stored power to stabilise the grid even with 100% renewables. It too is new technology, but its costs have halved in 5 years. ( )

  5. Mike Bray Says:

    The nuclear process is far fro carbon or problem free.
    There are millions of tonnes of radioactive uranium mining tailings in northern Saskatchewan, location of the world‘s richest deposits.
    Nuclear waste is still an unsolved problem, with save storage required for many thousands of years.
    The whole nuclear industry has a long history of lies, deceit and cover ups.
    Nuclear sucks in any form. Go with renewables, energy efficiencies and conservation.

    • webej Says:

      All these negative comments about nuclear seem to gloss over entirely the difference between modular fourth/fifth generation nuclear designs and traditional nuclear. Modular new designs seek to:
      -not require lots of water or even any
      -not depend on uranium mining (if it’s thorium)
      -not generate the same waste (there are designs in which the existing waste can be burnt up and smaller amounts or much shorter lived waste remain)
      -not depend on siting requirements
      -passive safety features

      Whether any of these designs is viable and which is preferable are debatable, but simply listing the problems of the current crop of post WW2 government subsidized plutonium atom bomb breeding LWR reactors is just knee-jerk BS.

      Many of the startups are outside the USA, since the regulatory regime (40 months! Good thing the Manhattan project didn’t carry that burden) here serves to keep existing parties in place.

  6. Kaj Luukko Says:

    For many years I fighted against climate skeptist. Now I meet these energy skeptist every where. I really don’t know wich one are more dangerous to our future: climate change denial or nuclear power opposition.

    IPCC says we need renewable energy, carbon capture and storage and nuclear power. Why are you against IPCC in energy but not in climate issues?? Now when CCS seems to fail, we can’t abandon nuclear. Well, chinese will show us how to do it. A bunch of PWR’s under construction and the first HTR-PM coming on line soon.

    • rsmurf Says:

      Well because its so frigging dangerous i.e. chernoble, fukushima THEY BOTH HAPPENED AND MORE WILL HAPPEN. Stop with the nuclear BS.

      • Kaj Luukko Says:

        I just compared climate denial to nuclear opposition and this is why. Both have just empty claims without scientifical sources or proofs.

        Nuclear one of the most safe energy source. No one died in Fukushima accident. Including Chernobyl the statistics look like this.

        • “not one death” is deceptive. The rate of thyroid cancer in Fukushima prefecture post tsunami has skyrocketed in children and young adults – the same thing happened downwind of Chernobyl. While Thyroid cancer is curable it is only so if caught early before it metastasizes. There is zero need for nuclear power reactors – wind, solar, geothermal are all completely safe technologies and in the case of the first two energy storage techniques as well as grid designs exist to overcome any demand problems. Additionally we don’t have the decades needed to bring a nuke, of any generation, online – we need solutions today. It’s already too late to avoid the 2C limit now we need to avoid a spiral uipwards to extinction level temperatures.

    • Kaj Luukko Says:

      For some reason the system doesn’t accept the link I’n trying to apply. One more try:

      You can also google “how deadly is your kilowatt”.

      • rsmurf Says:

        You really need to read a little before you make stupid comments.


        Two people died immediately as a result of the blast at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine – then part of the Soviet Union – on 26 April 1986. Another 29 died in hospital during the next few days. The longer-term impact of the radiation, however, has proved harder to quantify.

        Two decades ago, John Gittus of the Royal Academy of Engineering told the UK government there could eventually be around 10,000 fatalities. Today, some – notably environmental groups – put the death toll well into six figures.

        But that’s the extreme end of the estimates. “The only deaths that have been firmly established, either individually or statistically, are the 28 victims of acute radiation syndrome and 15 cases of fatal child thyroid cancer,” says Wade Allison of the University of Oxford.

        “The government prints the number of people who died as a result of the 2011 disaster in the newspapers every day. [In some other prefectures], the [death toll] amounts to 300-400 people in each prefecture, but in Fukushima it is over 8,000 people,” Jousan, a US director and producer who has been living and working in Japan since 1990, said.

        “It is very telling about the situation in Fukushima. It is hard for everyone who is affected by the tsunami, who lost their homes and lost their families. But [in Fukushima], people are not able to go back home, they are unable to work because people won’t buy food from Fukushima, farmers cannot farm anymore. It is affecting people, and more people are dying because of that.

  7. rsmurf Says:

    And most of this crap is EXPERIMENTAL plus it still uses nuclear material, dangerous for thousands of years! Lets just scrap the use of nuclear material for good, its not necessary, its dangerous, its rediculous to use the most dangerous crap on the planet to BOIL WATER.

  8. smithpd1 Says:

    This NuScale concept may be ready quickly, which is good, but it is basically small PWR, subject to similar safety considerations with loss of coolant. In the slightly longer term, I rather like the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, being developed jointly by ORNL and China. It is inherently safer, has lower waste (higher burnup), and can even burn waste from other reactors.

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