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The Future Of Nuclear Power Might Be A Non-Starter

SMRs aren’t the holy grail we thought they would be.

Will Lockett
Published in
4 min readJun 13, 2024

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In theory, nuclear power is incredible. It is by far the safest form of energy we have ever created and has one of the lowest carbon footprints of any energy source. No wonder, there is a huge international effort for us to rapidly adopt nuclear power to fight climate change. However, nuclear power plants take literal decades to deploy. What’s more, it costs an insane amount to build these plants, and these costs are passed on to the consumer, making nuclear energy the most expensive on the market. However, Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) promise to solve this by making the technology far more flexible, scalable and affordable. As such, many see SMRs as the future of nuclear power. But, a recent study by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) found that the promise of SMRs is hollow. Let me explain.

Let’s start with what an SMR actually is. The idea is to miniaturise a nuclear reactor so that it can be built in a factory off-site and shipped to the eventual power plant. All a power plant has to do is order the number of reactors they need, typically around 5–10, and within a year or two of ordering, the site can be fully deployed and provide power. Even better, if energy demand grows or wanes, they can either give back or…

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Will Lockett
Predict

Independent journalist covering global politics, climate change and technology. Get articles early at www.planetearthandbeyond.co