Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Small is not always beautiful

Letter sent to The Times:

As Lady Barbara Judge, now the chairwoman of the Institute of Directors has a long history of involvement in nuclear energy governance, it is surprizing she could include so many inaccuracies as she manages in her business comment article “When it comes to nuclear’s future, it’s time to think small.” (The Times, April 11;

Her arguments follow the equally misguided position paper (Number 10) on nuclear options currently circulated for comment (responses  by 26 April)  by the European Commission Joint Research Centres (JRC - Institute for Energy and Transport ) by the  Strategic Energy Technology (SET) - Plan Secretariat on 6 April, which asserts: “small modular reactors and co-generation plants may develop on a shorter timescale [than 2050, the target date for advanced generation 4 reactors].”
Independent technological and economic studies of this reactor type have discovered many problems, including proliferation, security, multiple siting, radioactive waste and cost.
One such study, “Small Modular Reactors: Safety, Security and Cost Concerns” by the Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Boston, published in September 2013, countered argument that SMRs can be built with a smaller capital investment than plants based on larger reactors, and even cites an earlier, less Panglossian, EU study in its support:
"Economies of scale dictate that, all other things being equal, larger reactors will generate cheaper power. SMR proponents suggest that mass production of modular reactors could offset economies of scale, but a 2011 study by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centres’ Institute for Energy, ‘Economic viability of small to medium-sized reactors deployed in future European energy markets’ (Progress in Nuclear Energy)
concluded that SMRs would still be more expensive than current reactors." 
As we know, large gigawatt reactors attract huge capital costs, and generate power at an astronomically expensive price.
Why is Lady Judge advising Abu Dhabi - bathed in sun 365 days a year, floating on oil and gas - to build nuclear power plants anyway?

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