small modular reactors

Does DOE’s Funding Announcement Mark the End of its Irrational Exuberance for SMRs?

, Director of Nuclear Power Safety, Climate & Energy

On November 20 DOE finally announced that the Babcock and Wilcox Company (B&W) and its “mPower” reactor were the lucky winners of its Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for a cost-sharing program with industry for the design and licensing of “small modular reactors,” or SMRs.  Although DOE had originally said the announcement would come in July or August, it decided instead to bury it on Thanksgiving week – not usually a time the agency releases news of which it is particularly proud.  Read more >

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Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

, former co-director


Ed Lyman testified today to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Energy and Water Development Subcommittee on small modular nuclear reactors:

He argued that some advocates are overstating the benefits and downplaying the potential pitfalls of small reactors.

Although some light water [small modular reactor] concepts may have desirable safety characteristics, unless they are carefully designed, licensed, deployed and inspected, [they] could pose comparable or even greater safety, security and proliferation risks than large reactors.

Ed’s full testimony is available here, and a video of the hearing is available on the committee’s website.

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Testimony on Small Nuclear Reactors

, former co-director

Ed Lyman testified to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources this morning as part of a hearing on two bills related to nuclear power.

The first, The Nuclear Power 2021 Act (S. 512), would support the development and licensing of small modular reactors. The second, The Nuclear Energy Research Initiative Improvement Act of 2011 (S. 1067), would direct the Secretary of Energy to conduct a research program to determine how to reduce nuclear power plant construction costs.

In his testimony Ed explains why small modular reactors at best offer only modest advantages over larger reactors, and unless they are carefully designed, licensed, deployed, and inspected, they could pose greater safety, security, and proliferation risks. He also argues that any research on cutting construction costs also should investigate how to increase reactor safety and security.

Panel 1:

  • John E. Kelly, deputy assistant secretary for nuclear reactor technologies, Department of Energy
  • Steven G. Chalk, deputy assistant secretary, Department of Energy

Panel 2:

  • Edwin Lyman, senior scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Joe Colvin, president, American Nuclear Society
  • James T. Bartis, senior policy researcher, RAND Corporation
  • Brian Siu, policy analyst, Natural Resources Defense Council
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