Get Small Nuclear Reactors Off the Starting Blocks—Now!
Dec. 23—Mass production of modular nuclear reactors to industrialize developing countries, until fusion power comes online! That was the title I used when I last wrote about the ongoing efforts to make small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs)—in the EIR issue of November 16, 2018. SMRs will be a reliable source of a steady supply of electrical power. Some few positive steps have been taken in a few countries, including in the United States.
But the funding available to get the SMRs out of the test laboratories and deployed commercially does not match the interest expressed in SMRs exhibited by many concerned individuals around the world who acknowledge the necessity of SMRs for power generation, desalination and other societal benefits. Consequently, the existing funding also does not match the plans for development and production of this revolutionary generation of advanced nuclear reactors.
The capability to manufacture a safe and sound SMR could hardly be the only objective of SMR developers. The more important objective is to develop the capability to fabricate these SMRs in large numbers concurrently. According to one estimate, if the United States wants to secure 25% of the potential global SMR market, it must establish an assembly line to produce 28 to 30 NuScale-type SMRs annually. But this estimate, implying the addition of perhaps 10 gigawatts of nuclear power capacity per year around the world through SMRs, is completely insufficient to the demand: Seventy-five countries in the world currently cannot provide 1,000 kilowatt-hours per year per person, which is less than 10% of the American level, and 1.1 billion people still have no access to electricity at all.
If this blight on humanity is to be dramatically and quickly changed, it is SMRs that will do it, for reasons this article will demonstrate.
A new international credit system will have to be established by leading industrial nations, to enable them to export capital goods on a large scale to the developing countries, enabling them to grow rapidly and productively and to thereby tackle poverty. SMRs represent a crucial category of such exports during the immediate future. It must begin by the mid-2020s, but it will only happen with such a new, and relatively vast, global generation of credit.
In other words, plans and programs to set up highly-productive “assembly lines” to manufacture these SMRs are an integral part of an overall SMR development. That process has yet to take off due to lack of adequate appreciation of their potential by those who should know better, and behind the scenes blocking by green malthusians. This is manifest in the lack of funding to jump start the many projects. SMRs will be considered a success when deployed in large numbers in energy-hungry nations, most of which are located in Africa, Asia and Latin America.