The discussion today about nuclear energy is nothing short of tribal, two warring camps shouting slogans at each other. This so-called debate reminds us of a popular beer commercial from years ago where two men couldn’t decide what their preferred characteristic of Millers Light was, whether it “tastes great!” or was instead “less filling”. Applying this beer ad approach to the construction of new nuclear power stations would involve two opposing teams. The pro-nuke squad, attempting to take the environmental high ground (a bold move), would shout out “zero-carbon”. In a previous iteration no longer appropriate, the rallying cry was – compelling from an economic perspective – “too cheap to meter”. The anti-nuclear forces have broken into two opposing squads. The European team, very effective in shutting down nuclear capacity, going with the ever-popular “No more Chernobyls,” while cheeky, cost-conscious Americans (present company included) have been shouting “too expensive to matter”. Like cowards in a bar fight, our views on this are distinctly conciliatory. We believe both sides make solid points. It is obviously premature to discuss the economics of SMR operation. But small modular reactors could eliminate the considerable construction expense and associated interminable delays inherent in the conventional nuclear project by building reactor components in a factory and then assembling the modular units on site. There is no shortage of respected advocates here including, among others, legendary Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
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