Small modular reactors could be economic

30 July 2001

There are no substantive technical issues that would hinder the development and deployment of small modular nuclear reactors (SMR) in remote areas, according to a study prepared for Congress by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology.

The DoE study looked at the feasibility of a variety of domestic and foreign reactor designs of up to 50MWe. The most technically mature SMRs could be available for deployment before the end of the decade, provided that certain technical and licensing issues are addressed, it says.

SMRs represent an option for remote areas that are deficient in electric transmission and distribution infrastructures, and they could be economic, the study says. For example, a generic 50MWe SMR could generate electricity for 5.4 to 10.7 cents per kWh, and a 10MWe SMR for 10.4 to 24.3 cents per kWh, the study says. This compares favourably with the rates industrial customers pay for electricity in some communities in Alaska and Hawaii, which vary from 5.9 to 36.0 cents per kWh, depending on the location, type and size of the power plant, fuel cost and ease of transporting fuel.

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