The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) hosted a Webinar on May 30th focused on concerns regarding so-called "small modular reactors," the nuclear power establishment's latest desperation move to try to gouge ratepayers and/or taxpayers. The giant proposed new reactors (1,100 Megawatts-electric to 1,600 MW-e) haven't worked out too well, so the nuclear power industry and its friends in government have decided to try the opposite extreme of the spectrum.
But as Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey of St. Louis points out, at 200 to 300 MW-e, these proposed "small modular reactors" are not all that small. The now permanently shutdown and dismantled Big Rock Point atomic reactor in northern MI, for example, was "just" 70 MW-e, yet still unleashed severe radioactive contamination into its surroundings. As another example, Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 -- the first atomic reactor to meltdown and explode after the 3/11/11 earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan (and evidence has mounted that the earthquake alone plunged Unit 1 into meltdown mode, even before the tsunami hit an hour later) -- was "only" 480 MW-e, by comparison.
The SACE Webinar featured Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research; Autumn Hanna, Senior Program Director at Taxpayers for Common Sense; Tom Clements, Southeast Nuclear Campaign Coordinator with Friends of the Earth; and Sara Barczak, High Risk Energy Choices Program Director with Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. SACE has posted the audio recording, as well as the slide show, for the presentation.
SMRs would be even more expensive, per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated, than super-sized reactors. SMRs would be heavily to entirely subsidized by taxpayers and/or ratepayers. SMRs are being targeted at such places as the badly contaminated, former nuclear weapons production complex at Savannah River Site, South Carolina; however, other locations, such as in Missouri, have also been targeted with SMRs.
SMRs would inevitably involve "break-in phase" dangers, from errors in design and construction, to unforeseen "bugs" in the systems, to operator inexperience. And SMRs would leave unresolved nuclear power's half-century old, "insurmountable risks," from disastrous accident potential, to the unsolved radioactive waste problem, to the many downsides of the uranium fuel chain.
The proposed new reactor targeted at Iowa, just canceled by Warren Buffett's MidAmerican Energy, was an SMR (see entry immediately below).