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Setback For Small Nuclear Reactors: B&W Cuts mPower Funding 165

mdsolar (1045926) writes with news that funding for the mPower, a Small Modular [Nuclear] Reactor, has been cut due to the inability to find investors interested in building a prototype. From the article: "The pullback represents a major blow to the development of SMRs, which have been hailed as the next step forward for the nuclear power industry. ... All told, B&W, the DOE, and partners have spent around $400 million on the mPower program. Another $600 million was needed just to get the technology ready for application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for licensing. ... B&W plans to continue low-level R&D on the mPower technology with a view to commercial deployment in the mid-2020s, said CEO James Ferland. But without a major shift in the business environment and in investor perceptions of the risks and rewards associated with nuclear power, that seems fanciful."
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Setback For Small Nuclear Reactors: B&W Cuts mPower Funding

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  • Re:KickStarter? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @12:19AM (#46865309)
    Kickstarter is a good ponzi scheme, projects that succeed are small, low-cost and with potential to go tamagochi-popular and recoup the small initial cost. A movie about your neighbor's cat, a smartphone gadget, that kind of thing. Long-term projects with high costs and a complex design, approval, manufacturing and operation process like a nuclear plant or parts thereof aren't really a good fit to it as it is now.
  • by macpacheco ( 1764378 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @12:23AM (#46865327)

    So you hate nuclear power and have no interest in properly learning about it, instead taking your knowledge from Hollywood sensationalization of radioactivity and nuclear power. We find those by the bucket nowadays. The difference is most don't dare speak, because the aren't sure. Those that actually think they got it right are the most dangerous.
    Here is a source for serious information on nuclear power, without any BS:
      https://class.coursera.org/nuc... [coursera.org]

  • by macpacheco ( 1764378 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @12:51AM (#46865417)

    It has something to do with public negative perception about nuclear power, but it isn't the real driving force. The reason the NRC has become itself anti nuclear is far more related to the millions US politicians gets from fossil fuel lobbies instead. Too many presidents have appointed people to the NRC that are committed to making nuclear power as expensive as possible. Plus it's not like the FAA is much better, I heard a saying that summarizes the FAA pretty darn well "We're not happy until you're unhappy", the NRC is far worse.

  • by mbkennel ( 97636 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @02:23AM (#46865661)

    Because there are engineering designs for pressurized water reactors which work and decades of experience making them, and molten-salt cycle reactors intrinsically dissolve large amounts of high-level waste in a liquid in normal operation---(water soluble too sometimes)---and make every nuclear plant also a horrifyingly nasty radioactive reprocessing plant.

    I'm for fission (not because it's great but because coal and global warming are much worse), but I like my megacuries encased in zirconium, and very solid.
  • by Boronx ( 228853 ) <evonreis@nOspAM.mohr-engineering.com> on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @02:26AM (#46865673) Homepage Journal

    Fukushima was a nuclear disaster. Even if you want to write off anything that happens because of Ma Nature, that doesn't matter since good management post-tsunami could have easily prevented the melt-down and massive release.

    I'm sympathetic to the nuclear industry, but industry proponents really need to get a grip. Both Chernobyl and Fukushima were operated by morons. That just can't happen. It should never happen. There are plenty of smart folk, do what it takes to make sure one of them is in charge the next time a tsunami hits. Follow the damn regulations root out corruption. Bluster and sticking your head in the sand just isn't going to cut it anymore.

  • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @03:48AM (#46865907) Homepage Journal

    I can't see why anyone would spend another dime on a pressurized water reactor again.

    Because so far no-one has managed to demonstrate a successful commercial scale thorium reactor. All the research ones have run into severe problems. There are still many technical problems to be solved, which will require a lot of money. The only people willing to take on that kind of risk are governments looking to build a nuclear industry and research base from scratch, i.e. China and India.

    Even if China or India do demonstrate a working design don't expect to see it in the US any time soon. One of the biggest problems is decommissioning a highly contaminated reactor at the end of its life, and so far it looks like they are saying they will figure that out "later". Good luck getting that past any other country's regulator.

  • Re:KickStarter? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @05:10AM (#46866089)

    I wish Slashdotters wouldn't use the word "ponzi scheme" to mean "thing I don't like". It's got a very specific, very informative meaning that's being casually eroded out of laziness.

  • by AlterEager ( 1803124 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @05:49AM (#46866203)

    Alone the thyroid treated children in germany are already far over 10,000.

    Given that the thyroid cancer rate in the US (for example) seems to be about 13 per 100,000 people year and the population of Germany is about 81 million we'd expect about 10,530 thyroid cancer cases in Germany per year.

    So 10,000 cases in children since 1986 is pretty damn low.

  • by AlterEager ( 1803124 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @06:35AM (#46866335)

    I can't see why anyone would spend another dime on a pressurized water reactor again.

    Because so far no-one has managed to demonstrate a successful commercial scale thorium reactor.

    Lots of people seem to think that all thorium reactors are molten salt.


    People are planning/have already tried burning Thorium in:

    Pebble bed reactors
    Sodium cooled breeders
    Accelerator driven reactors...

  • by JabrTheHut ( 640719 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:38AM (#46866523)
    If they think there will be any need for this by the mid-2020s, they're in for a rude awakening and a nasty financial loss.

    Solar panels have dropped in price by 65% in the last two years. They're expecting another 60% price drop by 2020, and efficiency isn't being sacrificed - it's only getting better, with 25% being achieved in the lab now. Research is also much cheaper - researchers ask for grants such as $5 million or $15 million, not the $1 billion mentioned in the article.

    Combine wind farms, hydro power, solar thermal, and the recent improvements with storing energy, both as potential energy and in batteries, and I doubt any one will want to invest in "small" nuclear reactors, either now or 10 years from now. Solar panels aren't the fix for everything, but they will make it uneconomical to put in place big, expensive nuclear reactors, which are only small and cheap by comparison to even bigger ones.
  • Re:Small is silly (Score:2, Insightful)

    by confused one ( 671304 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:40AM (#46866533)

    They are wanted for two reasons.

    1. small is cheaper. You can build a 100MW reactor for much less than you can build a 1500MW. It costs less to refuel. When it does go down for maintenance or repairs, it costs less to replace the power it was producing (the scale of the backup plant capacity is smaller). We are having problems getting the high cost 1500MW plants built; so, by making the cost an order of magnitude lower, it is hoped we can get the industry moving forward again

    2. Cost savings, consistency in manufacturing and standardization. All the existing plants, even if they are based on a standard design, are one off custom implementations. Everything is built on-site. There is limited standardization. By making the plants in the 100 MW range, you can build the components in an assembly line and put them on a truck or train. You get all the benefits of standardized fixturing and manufacturing. Costs would go down due to stable volume production. When capacity needed to be expanded you could order another system.

    Efficiency would suffer -- you'll probably get better efficiency from the big reactor -- and I'm willing to admit that. However, you'll get zero efficiency when you can't get anyone to fund a 1500MW reactor.

    Before you go off and say it's not possible to build reactors on an "assembly line". I'm 5 miles from a shipyard that turns out a nuclear powered submarine per year. They're Navy spec reactors of roughly the same scale, fueled to run for 30 or 40 years. Components, including fuel, are brought in via train. It is proof that it can be done.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein