Small Modular Reactors (SMR) are increasingly hailed as an effective way for using nuclear power to curb the climate crisis without the major risks associated with conventional nuclear plants, but Germany’s nuclear industry is sceptical whether the small reactors really can help boost international climate action, Christian J. Meier writes for the Süddeutsche Zeitung. While conventional reactors are often very expensive to build and operate, SMRs would drastically cut construction time and, according to their developers, also reduce costs through a much simpler design. US company Nuscale says an SMR it is currently constructing could produce power at a price comparable to that of natural gas. Moreover, SMRs can be operated much more flexibly than conventional reactors and can thus provide backup capacity for power systems dominated by intermittent renewable energy sources, Meier writes. However, Nicolas Wendler of industry association Nuclear Technology Germany (KernD) says SMRs are always going to be more expensive than bigger reactors due to lower power output at constant fixed costs, as safety measures and staffing requirements do not vary greatly compared to conventional reactors. “In terms of levelised energy costs, SMRs will always be more expensive than big plants.” In order for SMRs to be profitable, these should run at maximum utilisation most of the time, Wendler argues, concluding that the potential on the German market would not be much greater than what is needed to adjust oscillating renewable power production.
Clean Energy Wire 5th Nov 2020 read more »