Angelica - Thanks for pointing out the impact of the AIA rule. My radical solution for that costly rule is to eliminate it. After all, the Commission itself is on record as stating that the rule is "not necessary to provide adequate protection."


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2 billion/300MWe for BWRX is quite competitive anyway.

The 1 billion estimation was too good to be true and it's better to be treated as a marketing gimmick.

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I think it was a huge mistake for nuscale to pursue such a large reactor project as it doesnt play to the strengths of SMRs. rather they should pursue a smaller more numerous reactor design for industrial power and heat needs and remote power needs.

the goal should be paving a way for a mass-produced mass accepted reactor whose economics improve with the volume of sales.

it does not make sense to launch yourself into a market in which nuclear is already struggling to cope with cheap gas and market breaking renewables.

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Nov 14, 2023Liked by Angelica Oung

I really don’t like all the SMR doomerism. Big reactors have a place, but there is nothing magic about 1,650GW or whatever ridiculous number EDF wants to build. I agree the problem with the NuScale design is that all the reactors fit in a single pool that ends up being a gigantic civil works project, but that problem doesn’t extend to the entire SMR reactor class.

The fact is that 500MW LWRs were the fastest and cheapest thing around back in the 1960 and early 1970s. There are a lot of reasons, but scaling from 500MW to 1GW has literally NEVER proven to be cost competitive with the smaller reactors, so the arguments about going bigger are just comparing apples to oranges.

Turbine size, reactor size, steam generator size, amount of concrete, amount of decay heat, amount of cooling, etc. All of these get worse the bigger you go and that adds cost period. That doesn’t mean we can build a 450MW reactor easy now given all the constraints everyone is facing (Solar and wind anyone?), but it can be done with 1960s tech.

300MW is going to fit a lot of grid sizes really well...

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I cringe when people point to decisions made in the 1960s to scale up reactors as proof that we need to make the same decisions again in the 2020s.

It's almost never mentioned, but one of the big drivers in quickly scaling nuclear plants was the fact that GE and Westinghouse wanted to dominate the nuclear power plant supply business. They were essentially a duopoly in manufacturing very large turbine generators. They sought to drive skilled manufacturers like Allis Chambers and ALCO out of the market.

The first nuclear age was also a time when utility customers made more profit when power plant costs increased. Their suppliers also liked expanding the scope of their contracts.

Giant power plants are not inherently cheaper per unit of power output, especially if going smaller allows radical simplification by eliminating systems structures and components that are not needed when decay heat production is low enough to be handled with less forced convention.

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There are two kinds of economies of scale: unit economics and production economics. For example, in the computer industry, it was thought that larger and larger mainframe would have better cost-performance for each job to be done. Then came microprocessors and personal computers, made at consumer-market volumes by mass-production techniques, and suddenly, Small Modular Computers looked at lot more attractive.

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Last Energy, Thorcon, Rolls Royce. All are focused on engineering for scale rather than focusing on cool reactor tech. That should be rule number one.

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Do you have a link to the original tweet by Jigar Shah about the cost of the BWRX-300?

Someone needs to call him on this NOAK cost of $6667 / kW. It comes off being fairly negative and not helpful. Their own report on Pathways to Commercial Liftoff, https://liftoff.energy.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/20230428-Advanced-Nuclear-Pathways-to-Commercial-Liftoff-Webinar-vF_web.pdf , gives a generic FOAK cost of $6200 / kW and NOAK of $3600 / kW.

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Don’t expect much help resolving this with our current Energy Secretary.

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