|3/23/2015 by mdc|
|Matthew Bandyk reports that a new executive order issued by President Barack Obama to cut greenhouse gas emissions from federal government agencies could finally benefit what has become a pet project of the administration - small modular reactors, aka SMRs. The in-development technology is the only form of nuclear energy to qualify as clean energy under the order....oddly enough.|
The order, announced March 19, requires federal agencies to ensure that increasing amounts of the electric and thermal energy they consume come from low-carbon dioxide-emitting alternative energy sources. At least 10 pert cent of their energy must come from these sources starting in 2016, all the way up to 25 per cent by 2025.
The definition of alternative energy in the order does not include nuclear power in general but specifically small modular nuclear reactor technologies, a term used to refer to a number of proposed designs for portable reactors typically under 300 MW, which are much smaller and potentially cheaper and easier to build than conventional nuclear reactors. With the order, the Obama administration is pushing policies in support of small modular reactors.
SMRs face major challenges before they can ever be deployed, including an apparent lack of private sector interest and the potential for unforeseen problems and cost overruns when building a factory to mass produce the technology. Such a factory could lead to economies of scale that are necessary if SMRs will ever be cheaper than traditional reactors. The failure to find investors caused two NuScale competitors, Generation mPower and Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC, to cut back on their SMR programs, but the declaration by the President may encourage these companies and others to make plans to develop the SMRs on a large scale.