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Sun Nov 25, 2012, 12:40 AM

Does DOE’s Funding Announcement Mark the End of its Irrational Exuberance for SMRs?

http://allthingsnuclear.org/does-does-funding-announcement-mark-the-end-of-its-irrational-exuberance-for-smrs/

Does DOE’s Funding Announcement Mark the End of its Irrational Exuberance for SMRs?

Ed Lyman, senior scientist
November 21, 2012

On November 20 DOE finally announced that the Babcock and Wilcox Company (B&W) and its “mPower” reactor were the lucky winners of its Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for a cost-sharing program with industry for the design and licensing of “small modular reactors,” or SMRs. Although DOE had originally said the announcement would come in July or August, it decided instead to bury it on Thanksgiving week – not usually a time the agency releases news of which it is particularly proud.

And in fact, the real news is not that a grant was awarded to B&W – this was a near-certainty – but that there was only one winner instead of two. While the initial FOA specified the program was meant to fund “up to two” projects, the widespread expectation was that two grants would be awarded to the pool of four applicants.

<snip>

So what happened to the second grant? One can come up with two theories – either there wasn’t enough money left over once B&W took its cut, or the other applications had so little merit that DOE could not come up with a justification for funding them.

Of the other three applications, one may have been too similar to the B&W concept (the Westinghouse SMR). The other two, NuScale and the Holtec HI-SMUR, are novel designs that have no motor-driven pumps and depend entirely on natural circulation for cooling – frankly, a risky business in view of the uncertainties and challenges of injecting water into overheating reactors and spent fuel pools that were seen during Fukushima. And the credibility of the latter two proposals was recently damaged earlier this month when DOE directed the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina to stop using funds intended for environmental management to support their development at the site.

But ultimately, the decision may have come down to the commercial prospects for the technologies. ... Based on economies of scale, small reactors will produce more expensive electricity than large reactors, all other factors being equal. ...

<snip>


About the author: Dr. Lyman received his PhD in physics from Cornell University in 1992. He was a postdoctoral research scientist at Princeton University's Center for Energy and Environmental Studies, and then served as Scientific Director and President of the Nuclear Control Institute. He joined UCS in 2003. He is an active member of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management and has served on expert panels of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. His research focuses on security issues associated with the management of nuclear materials and the operation of nuclear power plants, particularly with respect to reprocessing and civil plutonium. Areas of expertise: Nuclear terrorism, proliferation risks of nuclear power, nuclear weapons policy


Not mentioned in the article: because the electricity these things generate is so expensive, the main market for them is oil companies - which can use them to melt oil out of tar sands and shale rock.

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Reply Does DOE’s Funding Announcement Mark the End of its Irrational Exuberance for SMRs? (Original post)
bananas Nov 2012 OP
bananas Nov 2012 #1
bananas Nov 2012 #2

Response to bananas (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 12:47 AM

1. "How nuclear will make oil greener" :sarcasm:

http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/how-nuclear-will-make-oil-greener/10879

How nuclear will make oil greener

By Mark Halper | November 30, 2011, 3:32 AM PST

Here’s a statement likely to raise the hackles of some environmentalists: Nuclear power will make oil greener, at least anywhere there are vast fields of oil sands, like in Canada.

<snip>

That’s exactly what several nuclear companies including veteran General Atomics as well as smaller outfits like NuScale Power Inc., Radix Power and Energy Corp., Q-Power Corp., Hyperion Power Generation, General Fusion and Helion Energy Inc. could find themselves doing. So could thorium specialist Flibe Energy.

Each is developing a reactor that is much smaller than the typical reactor that has a gigawatt-plus capacity of a modern nuclear electricity station. (Contrary to popular belief, the Bill Gates-backed Terra Power is not focused on small reactor design, but is concentrating on a large model).

I recently spoke with top executives from all these organizations, for an in-depth report I wrote on the future of nuclear power, published by consulting firm Kachan & Co. Many of them do indeed view the oil sands industry as a target market for their so-called “small modular reactors” (SMRs). One of them, Burnaby, Canada based General Fusion, is even partially owned by a Calgary oil sands company, Cenovus Energy.

<snip>

But when they are ready, look for them in the oil prairies of Western Canada. They won’t eradicate oil’s environmental hazards The bitumen they help extract will still deposit CO2 into the atmosphere when it’s burned as fuel; the oil mining itself will scar the land; and the extraction process requires a lot of water. And, needless to say, the SMRs will have to operate safely and with absolute minimum risk of radiation leaks and weapons proliferation.

<snip>

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Response to bananas (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 12:52 AM

2. Nuclear power, tarsands extraction, and the co-option of the University of Saskatchewan

http://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/follow-the-yellowcake-road


Follow the yellowcake road

Nuclear power, tarsands extraction, and the co-option of the University of Saskatchewan

by D’Arcy Hande • Feb 28, 2012

In 2011 the University of Saskatchewan went truly nuclear, realizing, in many respects, the loftiest ambitions of the uranium industry and its supporters within the provincial government and the university. On October 14, 2011, the University of Saskatchewan board of governors formally approved the incorporation of the Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation (CCNI) “to stimulate new research, development and training in advanced aspects of nuclear science and technology.”

<snip>

But clean energy was not the primary consideration. In fact, the proposal builds upon the dubious concept of using nuclear energy to power the extraction of oil from the Athabasca tarsands, oxymoronically termed “green bitumen” by the industry.

<snip>

The UDP report, released in March 2009, contained 20 recommendations for nuclear development in the province, including one for the creation of a nuclear centre of excellence in Saskatchewan. Shortly afterward, the government announced a public consultation process on the UDP recommendations to be conducted that summer, which was an unexpected public relations disaster: fully 88 per cent of the 2,263 responses rejected the overall strategy of the report. Bill Boyd, then minister of energy and resources, was shaken but undeterred. Boyd interpreted the results to mean, “… it’s neither a green light nor a red light for future uranium development. It’s more like a yellow light – take any next steps with caution.”

Industry, government, and the university unite

What followed was a truly remarkable exercise in pushing the whole nuclear agenda under the political radar. Rather than slowing down and taking a cautionary approach, the government instead began assiduously advancing its program through the University of Saskatchewan, which was apparently a willing partner.

<snip>


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