The debate over small nuclear reactors

The search for alternatives to Russian energy sources during the war in Ukraine revived interest in small nuclear power plants. Proponents say the stations could provide energy at a lower cost compared to larger stations.

Critics, however, worry about the environmental risks. They also fear that having more power plants will make it easier for some countries to build nuclear weapons.

Small power plants are called Small Modular Reactors or SMRs for short. Modular means the Components power plants can be built at the factory and then assembled where the station is to be built.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, says more than 70 commercial SMR models are in development around the world.

Because they are smaller and easier to build, SMRs are less expensive than larger reactors. However, SMRs provide less power. Large plants typically provide between 1,000 and 1,450 megawatts of electricity while SMRs typically provide between 50 and 300 megawatts.

Rolls-Royce is one company that plans to build SMRs. The company is based in Great Britain. The estimated cost of a Rolls-Royce SMR is $2.5-3.2 billion. The estimated time to build one is five and a half years.

The IAEA said that was two years faster than it took to build a normal nuclear power plant between 2016 and 2021. In comparison, the estimated cost of building a 1,100 megawatt nuclear power plant is between 6 and 9 billion dollars.

NuScale Power is an American company that plans to build SMRs. He is based in the state of Oregon. It plans to build its first SMR in the state of Idaho by 2029 or 2030. And it signed deals last year with two Polish companies to study the possibility of building SMRs to power industry there. -down. Poland wants to depend less on electricity generation from coal.

Rolls-Royce aims to build its first stations in Britain within six years. Last month, Rolls-Royce SMR said it had signed an agreement with a company in the Netherlands, ULC-Energy, to consider building SMRs there.

Rolls-Royce SMR spokesman Dan Gould said that due to the war in Ukraine, “the addiction on Russian gas imports and energy sources have focused people’s attention on energy security.

Environmentalists say having more nuclear reactors will make the problem of how Discard nuclear waste.

Workers are seen near radioactive water storage tanks at the tsunami-crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma city, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, January 15 2020. Photo taken January 15, 2020. (REUTERS/Aaron Sheldrick )

MV Ramana is a professor of public policy and global affairs at the University of British Columbia. He said research suggests there is no proven way to ensure that nuclear waste will not escape in the future.

Ramana said the heat generated by the waste could alter the rock formations where they are stored and let the water run. He said mining activities could weaken the storage location.

Critics also say that introducing SMRs to more countries increases the risk that they could build nuclear weapons. Professor Ramana says an SMR could produce “about 10 plutonium bombs every year”. Ramana said high-level reprocessing technology is not needed to produce the amount of plutonium needed for weapons.

But Gould said Rolls-Royce follows UK and international rules for exporting SMR technology. He said they only export to countries that have signed “international treaties necessary for the peaceful use of nuclear energy for power generation.”

However, Ramana said there was no guarantee nations would follow the rules.

I am Andrew Smith.

Andrew Smith adapted this Associated Press article for VOA Learning English.


words in this story

alternative -not. other choice or option

Components -not. the pieces or parts of something that will be built or put together, such as parts of a car, house, machine, etc.

to assemble -v. assemble and build. For example, a car is assembled in a factory

addiction on/count on -not/-v. to need something or someone for help

Discard -v.put or throw something away where it will no longer be used

shop -v. to keep something in a container, usually for future use or to keep something safe; for example, food is stored in a refrigerator


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