Former executive at NuScale Power LLC
- Market interest in SMRs (small modular reactors) – major trends and outlook, including renewable intermittency debate
- Costs and siting overview
- Funding environment and competition
- Regulatory and technological challenges, including potential bottlenecks
What are the key factors driving interest in nuclear and specifically SMRs [small modular reactors]? You mentioned interest in nuclear has increased in the last decade.
How is the debate around the intermittency problem evolving? Is there more recognition of it? You mentioned thinking the grid can’t surmount the intermittency problem even by using renewables with storage and efficiency.
Is it fair to say that nuclear is relatively expensive vs renewables, as many people have said? How do you respond to that argument? Cost is part of this intermittency debate.
You mentioned some other technologies might step in to fix the intermittency problem. What does that indicate for nuclear and SMRs around time frame? Is there a risk that by the time SMRs develop and are ramped up, they may have missed the window?
Could you give an overview of SMRs? I know there are many different technologies within them. Who are the competitors in SMRs and what kind of SMRs are they building?
One of the main aspects of SMRs is they’re smaller plants with fewer megawatts and also have some flexibility around these smaller modules. What might this mean for the customers hoping to generate power from these plants? Where would SMRs have the best opportunity to be used effectively?
What are the key things that SMR developers are considering around sites? Rolls-Royce recently opened talks with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in the UK about getting a pipeline of potential sites and is considering decommissioned larger reactors. Is geology or access to materials and labour the most important consideration? What are the key dynamics and how much of a challenge is securing a pipeline of good sites?
How large a cost difference might there be around different sites? You mentioned potential cost variants when building in the desert. Will there be very significant differences depending on the location?
How confident is the industry that smaller units, footprints and modular units will lead to significant construction efficiencies, given the pipeline and capacity hasn’t yet been developed? Alongside site-specific costs, another big component is obviously manufacturing costs which is a big part of the argument for SMRs and the economies of the small.
What went wrong with the Vogtle plant which led to a doubling of the budget? You mentioned some of the inefficiencies with building larger reactors. Are these things that SMRs won’t face?
Will some of the manufacturing cost savings from SMRs add up to compensate for the economies of scale gained with larger nuclear plants?
Are there cost differences in maintenance between large and smaller reactors? Are they easier to refuel if they’re simpler designs? How is the operations and maintenance cost different there?
Current LCOE [levelised cost of energy] estimates for SMRs are around USD 40-65 per megawatt-hour. What factors might determine where a plant will come in on that range, project to project?
How many cost reductions might there be as the manufacturing capacity develops, perhaps in the 5-10 years after the first SMRs are online? How much cheaper might things become? Could the LCOE change significantly?
What key bottlenecks and challenges could guide the SMR industry over the next 5-10 years?
Do you expect anything to change on the regulatory horizon? There have been positive developments around nuclear winning designations of zero emissions energy, the European Commission making some moves and the Infrastructure Bill. Could these things make a big difference or not really?
Is there anything else around SMRs that you’d like to highlight?
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