Promoters of developing mini nuclear reactors claim the new technology would be a potential game changer for the stagnant U.S. nuclear industry and cheaper to construct than traditional, larger reactors. Small modular nuclear reactors, or SMRs, could also play a part in combating climate change by providing a carbon-free energy source and possibly replacing antiquated fossil-fueled power plants, proponents say.
But one nuclear financing expert argues in a new report that SMRs, which have yet to be built in the United States, would be no cheaper than their larger counterparts. Mark Cooper, a senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at the Vermont Law School, also warns that SMR development would suck up funding that could otherwise be used for what he says are more attractive energy options like wind and solar.
"Large reactors have never been economically competitive and there is no reason to believe that smaller reactors will fare any better," Cooper said. "Giving nuclear power a central role in climate change policy would not only drain away resources from the more promising alternatives, it would undermine the effort to create the physical and institutional infrastructure needed to support the emerging electricity systems based on renewables, distributed generation and intensive system and demand management." Read more »