The claims of the "small nuclear power" lobby about cheaper electricity can't really be proved except after a fleet of SMRs is put into operation. This is the "Catch 22" of the SMR industry.
The economic problems for small reactors are compounded by the greater need for staff, including security staff. In the USA, security requirements mean having armed guards deployed at reactors around the clock.
The economic obstacle is linked to the safety obstacles. The safety of the proposed compact designs is unproven - for instance, most of the designs call for weaker containment structures.
The necessity to make reactors affordable clashes with the need for safety. For example, the containment structure needs to be strong, and the whole unit protected from internal and external risks, including terrorist attacks.
Some developers of SMRs are recommending the positioning of the reactors underground, as a safety measure. This raises its own safety risks, for example, the question of flooding. In an emergency, it would be harder for crews to get access. Underground siting, as with other safety initiatives, would increase costs.
For Australia, the SMR lobby has visualised small reactors being suitable for remote places, with small electric grids. But this would also involve issues of licences and security inspections, adding to the costs and complexity of the industry.
Other issues of costs and safety concern the transport of radioactive fuels to the reactors, and of radioactive waste management. The nuclear industry is very fond of proclaiming that wastes from small thorium reactors would need safe disposal and guarding for "only 300 years". Just the bare 300!
The Australian Senate is currently debating a Bill introduced by Cory Bernardi, to remove Australia's laws prohibiting nuclear power development. The case put by SMR Technologies, as presented in The Australian newspaper is completely inadequate. The public deserves a better examination of this plan for Small Modular Reactors SMRS. And why do they leave out the operative word "Nuclear" -because it is so on the nose with the public?
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