Writer Reese Palley has quite a little rant going on at the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Unfortunately, all the arguments for developing and licensing small, modular nuclear reactors fell on deaf ears at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The commission has no immediate plans even to begin assessing traveling wave or any other small nuclear technology.
It is not as if mini-nuclear technologies are experimental and unproven. [etc.]
Palley is the author of The Answer: Why Only Inherently Safe Mini Nuclear Power Plants Can Save Our World, which I haven’t read. He certainly wants you to know he’s all over those small reactors.
Unfortunately, though, his piece was published today. So was this, at the Department of Energy’s site:
The U.S. Department of Energy today announced the first step toward manufacturing small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) in the United States, demonstrating the Administration’s commitment to advancing U.S. manufacturing leadership in low-carbon, next generation energy technologies and restarting the nation’s nuclear industry. Through the draft Funding Opportunity Announcement announced today, the Department will establish cost-shared agreements with private industry to support the design and licensing of SMRs.
Palley was talking about the NRC, but if DOE is helping with the licensing process, then the NRC will be prepared to review those licenses. The seriousness of this effort was underscored by a quick-to-follow press release from Westinghouse:
"Westinghouse will apply for DOE's small modular reactor investment funds with a consortium of utilities. Access to this investment fund helps lower the barrier to market entry for American companies. Virtually all energy sources that feed the national grid have been developed through public investments in public-private research and development partnerships.
So the die is cast. I took a look over at Terrapower, which Palley touts in his article, but it doesn’t have a press release about this. NuScale hasn’t weighed in either. Babcock and Wilcox had this interesting bit of news – from last week:
Babcock & Wilcox is to restructure its commercial nuclear business, separating its small modular reactor operations from its other nuclear energy related businesses.
The company said that the move was in response to "changing market conditions, growth opportunities and the continuing progress of its small modular reactor (SMR) business."
So there’s that.
Palley’s article confused me because the DOE plan had been in the works for awhile. It’s just a coincidence that the details of the plan sprang forth the same day, but in any event, it’s pleasing to see work moving forward on small reactors. It ought to even please Palley.