Utilities Starting to Like the Looks of Small Modular Reactors
For utilities, a small reactor has several advantages, starting with cost. Small reactors are expected to cost about $5,000 per kilowatt of capacity, or $750 million or so for one of Babcock & Wilcox's units. Large reactors cost $5 billion to $10 billion for reactors that would range from 1,100 to 1,700 megawatts of generating capacity. _WSJ
Power utility companies are beginning to see the wisdom in small, modular, factory-built reactors, which cost much less per unit than do large, conventional nuclear reactors. Construction time for installation of small reactors could be cut in half -- or more. And everyone understands that it is the time of construction which can make or break large industrial projects.
Companies such as NRG Energy Inc., Duke Energy Corp. and Southern Co. are planning large reactors that cost up to $10 billion apiece and can generate enough electricity to power a city the size of Tulsa, Okla.
But there is growing investor worry that reactors may have grown so big that they could sink the utilities that buy them. An increasingly global supply chain for big reactors also worries investors.
"We think the probability that things will go wrong with these large projects is greater than the probability that things will go right," said Jim Hempstead, senior vice president at Moody's Investors Service. He warns that nuclear-aspiring utilities with "bet the farm" projects face possible credit downgrades.
...For utilities, a small reactor has several advantages, starting with cost. Small reactors are expected to cost about $5,000 per kilowatt of capacity, or $750 million or so for one of Babcock & Wilcox's units. Large reactors cost $5 billion to $10 billion for reactors that would range from 1,100 to 1,700 megawatts of generating capacity.
While large reactors are built on site, a process that can take five years, the mPower reactors would be manufactured in Babcock & Wilcox's factories in Indiana, Ohio or Virginia and transported by rail or barge. That could cut construction times in half, experts believe.
Because they could be water-cooled or air-cooled, mPower reactors wouldn't have to be located near large sources of water, another problem for big reactors that require millions of gallons of water each day. That could open up parts of the arid West for nuclear development.
The first units likely would be built adjacent to existing nuclear plants, many of which were originally permitted to have two to four units but usually have only one or two.
Down the road, utilities could replace existing coal-fired power plants with small reactors in order to take advantage of sites already served by transmission lines and, in some cases, needed for grid support. Like any other power plants, these small reactors could be easily hooked up to the power grid.
One of the biggest attractions, however, is that utilities could start with a few reactors and add more as needed. By contrast, with big reactors, utilities have what is called "single-shaft risk," where billions of dollars are tied up in a single plant. _WSJ_via_SeekerBlog
Another advantage of small, modular reactors is that a lot more of them can put put into many more widespread locations -- providing a tougher, more resilient, distributed power generation system. It will also make it harder for faux environmentalist dieoff.org lefty-Luddites to stage their shut-down protests at all of them -- or even most of them.
Of course, when a nation is burdened with a regime such as Obama Pelosi, it has its work cut out for it just to survive. Creating a clean, abundant, and prosperous life might require a bit of rearranging of the national organisational chart.