The POLITICAL reasons to support NuScale Power's Small Modular Reactors


Or any other reactor of the same type, of course.

The POLITICAL reasons to support NuScale Power's Small Modular Reactors /img/nuscale-smallest-reactor.jpg

A couple of weeks ago I discovered an introduction to Nuscale and its Small Nuclear Reactors (SMRs), which have the following features:

  • small enough to be transported on truck or barge (see figure)
  • high modularity: you can “string together” up to 12 SMRs as one single power plant
  • cheaper, faster construction: the reactor pool is built while the SMRs are built in a factory
  • capability to work as intermittent “battery backups with a 2-year charge” for intermittent sources of renewable energy
  • passive cooling; even when a reactor fails “doesn’t require any additional water”
  • Seven Layers of Defense

Before sharing why I like those reactors, allow me one small digression into classical sci-fi:

Long time ago, in an Empire far far away…

“[On the planet Siwenna]…the small city stations supplying power for heating and lighting homes [were] controlled by the tech-men: A hereditary, specialized group which supervised the power plants.”

But when Hober Mallow asked one of those tech-men: “What if the nuclear generators break down?” that tech-man had a nervous breakdown himself. Because no member of his caste had the slightest idea of how to repair those generators, let alone build new ones.

Back to Small Modular Reactors:

In my humble opinion, in addition to all the properties above, really viable SMRs must NOT have the same limits of those in Siwenna. This means that they must have:

  • design that are fully, openly accessible, to be validated to death by as many independent experts as possible
  • including all their software, of course. We don’t want a nuclear equivalent of the 737 MAX failure
  • installation and maintenance procedures always subject to the strictest, continuous surveillance by local, independent experts, who are fully qualified to perform such tasks because…
  • All the knowledge necessary to perform certification, maintenance, sourcing of materials, upgrades, etc.. of the SMR is accessible without restrictions
  • Above all: SMRs must be accessible, at the smallest possible cost and without strings attached, to whatever community wants them, wherever it is (see below)

The reason why I say so is in the “Executive Summary” of this other post of mine:

“The main, long term impact of renewables or nuclear is the one that would be valuable even if environmental problems did not exist: they change the structure and placement of political power. And the least energy you need, from whatever source, the greater your freedom is.”

A really energy-independent community can be much less subject to external political control; it is much less likely to want political control over its neighbours; and its members may very likely have much less reasons to search for a better life elsewhere.

If SMRs like those by NuScale were also accessible as I argue above, and combined with extraction of uranium from seawater they may make really energy-independent, that is more free, thousands of communities worldwide, from single neighborhoods to whole counties. That is their main value.

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