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  • Small Reactors, Large Potential Impact

    A new report by the Energy Policy Institute, in collaboration with the American Council on Global Nuclear Competitiveness, titled “Economic and Employment Impacts of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors,” investigates how four separate scenarios of small modular reactor (SMR) construction could affect the U.S. economy. Growing interest and discussion surrounding the potential commercialization of small nuclear rectors, both in the U.S. and abroad, makes the study timely and relevant.

    The study investigates potential impacts of SMR manufacturing, construction, and operation on the U.S. economy. Researchers relied on organizational model data contributions from industry members, demonstrating their integral role in new nuclear technology advancement. As the study’s input–output analysis reveals, both the direct and indirect economic impacts are potentially quite robust. Findings taken directly from the study project that:

    • A prototypical 100 megawatt (MW) SMR costing $500 million to manufacture and install onsite is estimated to create nearly 7,000 jobs and generate $1.3 billion in sales, $627 million in value-added impacts (a measure of GDP), $404 million in earnings (payroll), and $35 million in indirect business taxes;
    • The annual operation of each 100 MW SMR unit is estimated to create about 375 jobs and generate $107 million in sales, $68 million in value-added impacts, $27 million in earnings (payroll), and $9 million in indirect business taxes.

    Four scenarios assuming certain levels of energy demand and SMR adoption—high, moderate, low, and disruptive—lay out the economic growth projections for the U.S., using the year 2030 as a benchmark. Nuclear power capacity expansion, SMR market share of that expansion, and U.S. presence in the SMR market are also taken into account. Under a high adoption case in which the U.S. manufactures 40 SMRs annually, the U.S. could see 255,000 jobs created annually, $48.3 billion generated annually in sales, and $23.2 billion generated annually in value-added impacts. Additionally, domestic operation of the reactors through 2030 would mean 81,000 jobs, $23 billion in sales, and $15 billion in value-added impacts.

    Under a moderate adoption case of 30 reactors manufactured annually, the annual growth estimates are 215,000 jobs, $40.5 billion in sales, and $19.4 billion in value-added impacts. Domestic operation of the reactors through 2030 creates 50,000 jobs, $15 billion in sales, and $9.6 billion in value-added impacts.

    Estimates in the low adoption case of a few reactors manufactured annually peg jobs at 21,000, sales at $3.9 billion, and value-added impacts at $1.9 billion. Domestic operation through 2030 generates 7,000 jobs, $1.9 billion in sales, and $1.2 billion in value-added impacts.

    Finally, a disruptive case that assumes an annual production rate in the U.S. of 85 reactors projects that SMR manufacturing and construction would generate 600,000 jobs, $113.5 billion in sales, and $54.6 billion in value-added impacts annually. In this scenario, domestic operation through 2030 means an additional 200,000 jobs, $57.1 billion in sales, and $36.4 billion in value-added impacts.

    Of equal importance to the potential market future of small reactor production is the study’s utility as a base model for vendors to manipulate with their own numbers and assumptions. A model for SMR impact does not currently exist, primarily because the technologies are still in the R&D phase, and the particulars of licensing, cost structures, and insurance are yet undetermined. Indeed the presenters acknowledged the limitations of the model’s scope. But they positively colored the discussion by inviting future studies building on this one that could explore and control for more factors, such as alternative SMR industrial use, how reactor design impacts overall economics, and other costs that have substantial effects on the industry.

    The logical next question is: How do we move forward with SMRs? Here are a few suggestions:

    • Stop subsidies. The reemergence of nuclear power has become too dependent on subsidies, which distort the market place, stifle innovation, and hinder progress.
    • Rely on the market. Government bureaucrats and politicians should not determine what technologies move forward. These are decisions that are best left to the private sector.
    • Fix regulation. The United States’ regulatory regime for nuclear power is insufficient to support a technologically diverse and growing nuclear industry. This lack of capability essentially acts as a barrier to entry for new technologies. To truly move from rhetoric to renaissance, the U.S. must reform its nuclear regulatory policies.
    • Reform waste management. Waste producers have little incentive to push for a solution because they have no responsibility for waste management. Any sustainable regime must reconnect waste producers with waste management. Doing so would increase the attractiveness of reactor technologies that provide less waste, more economical waste management, or easier to manage waste and economically rational waste management solutions.

    Small modular reactors could transform the global energy industry, and such an expansion could lead to thousands of jobs.  But without the correct policy reforms, it will be difficult to move from rhetoric to renaissance.

    Co-authored by Jack Spencer.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Small Reactors, Large Potential Impact

    1. Pingback: Small Reactors, Large Potential Impact - Yachydda is Politically Argumentative and Topical - yachydda.co.uk

    2. Randall Holland, Ari says:

      Sorry, but you have to triple the costs and quadruple the time for installation because of the road blocks that will ensue because of the environmental lobby.

    3. Ron Nord, San Ramon, says:

      Just think what a renaissance it would have been if this Congress would have taken the 'stimulus' money that they blew, the over $800 Billion Dollars that they squandered, all the bail out money that they pissed off and put it into SMR's instead of windmills, perpetual motion machines, solar panels, AlGores Ponzi Scheme and the SEIU and Teachers Pension fund? We could have built 1500 to 2000 1000 Megawatt reactors just in the United States, we could have had everything. That would have generated millions of jobs, an explosion of clean energy for business, homes and industry and would have been free at last of foreign oil. It didn't happen because of Congress being owned by special interests like the 'greens' and the oil businesses, the foreign oil business. We can't have multi-termed Congress thugs and Senatorial fleecers in office to long or the Jack Murtha syndrome starts, the bribes start, the PAC's start, there is no one indispensable, no one. We have to start going after the more than two termed reps and make them honest by voting them out of office on a regular basis. We have to have fresh people in congress and ones that have a background in science rather than attorneys with backgrounds in chicanery, grand theft and pettifoggery and the out and out shanghaiing of the public purse.

    4. TJS, FL says:

      Modular reactors are the way to go. We'd need to blow out the regulatory system in order to clear the path. Basically, like all other aspects of the American economy, get the government the hell out of the way. Let my people GO.

    5. Edward says:

      The reason Congress is so enamored of "green power" is the massive investment in it by T. Boone Pickens and he owns a very big part of the Congress. So, you see, there will be substantial taxpayer monies directed into T. Boone's pet until he gets enough tax $ to satisfy him. (Is that possible?) Even though everyone who is honest readily admits we are decades away from even a fractional contribution to our power requirements by "green power". Coupled with the fact that the population of the US continues to grow rapidly (through immigration mainly) and power usage increases even more rapidly, nuclear energy becomes our ONLY salvation. But expecting leadership from the Congress is madness. I have begun to roam the beaches looking for a bottle with a genie in it. Seems a more rational approach than waiting for Congress to wake from it's slumber and fix the legal snags in developing nuclear power. Remember the old fears that Cherynoble spawned. Anne Coulter expressed it best when she opined that the Soviets couldn't even build a decent washing machine so their nuclear power plants probably weren't a lot better.

    6. B. S. Hagar DVM says:

      WOW- Folks have finally awakened to small local reactors –sort of like the dozens of them aboard our submarines and warships for the last 30 years. It shouldn't be too much of a stretch. Just think,1000 of them or more producing not only immediate use power,but also storage power when the demand was light. Maybe even make some Hydrogen as a clean auto fuel. Nuclear to run our cars and trucks via electrical generation used for hydrogen production . The jobs, the money,an energy economy, the freedom from foreign dependence. Perhaps even the antinuclear folks could see a bright side to this. There are some potential problems, but the technology has matured to prevent them. Nuclear energy is safe. The rest of the world is going for it and leaving us behind.

    7. Pingback: The Absurd Report » Small Reactors, Large Potential Impact

    8. N.Davis, Indianapoli says:

      Most folks have no idea about reactors aboard USN ships. Science and engineering is clouded by emotional polarized political beliefs.

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