Small Modular Reactors May Power Your Future Facebook Page  In today’s world of electric cars, large LED televisions, iPhones, phablets, social media and the growing internet, the need for ... more 
Small Modular Reactors May Power Your Future Facebook Page  In today’s world of electric cars, large LED televisions, iPhones, phablets, social media and the growing internet, the need for increased electrical power has become vital for the U.S. to remain competitive on the global energy stage. One way Blue Phoenix believes the U.S. can succeed to “power” its future growth and industrial swagger is by embracing small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) which are typically up to 300 megawatts (MW) in size. There has been quiet support for SMRs over the past 18 months but that support is getting louder and harder to avoid since SMRs may do for energy what the PC did for computing, namely help revolutionize an industry. In fact, despite some pundits saying the nuclear world is a dead investment, the outlook for SMRs is actually much brighter than many have suggested. Sure the Obama administration has certainly been gun shy about pulling the trigger on a national energy policy, but there has been some recent developments in the world of SMRs. In June, NuScale Power, which is backed by a major investment from Fluor Corporation (NYSE: FLR), opened an operations and engineering center in Charlotte, North Carolina. The company, which is did receive funding opportunity announcement for its SMR design from the Department of Energy (DOE), is actively hiring for the new center and for positions in Oregon. Additionally, just last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced his state’s approval for a $260 million tax break for Holtec International’s SMR manufacturing facility in Camden he called an “investment in the city itself”. Considering Holtec was not awarded a DOE contract, it says a lot that the state of New Jersey, with a Republican Governor who may run for President of the U.S. within two short years, sees opportunity for SMRs. These are just two very strong examples the SMR business is alive and well here in the U.S. Here’s another, there is now increased research out of MIT to use floating SMR designs (see our story) which shows you the future of nuclear power will be driven by technology and innovative development. I don’t want to paint the picture that SMRs will be disruptive overnight, that’s not the case. The technology will likely be commercialized in the mid 2020’s. However, now there are even more uses for the byproduct of steam from SMRs that should make legislators more willing to consider its quicker adoption if safety can be concretely established.  According to the DOE, “SMRs can be coupled with other energy sources, including renewables and fossil energy, to leverage resources and produce higher efficiencies and multiple energy end-products while increasing grid stability and security”. So at a time when efficiency is the new battle cry for the energy sector, SMRs can help use less water, reduce our carbon footprint and produce dependable baseload power that is more affordable for isolated communities, and they can be used in remote areas by energy and metals production companies while traditional reactors cannot. Steam generated from SMRs can be used for enhanced oil recovery, cogeneration plants (heat and electricity) and for desalination of water which makes this technology even more cost effective with higher a ROI potential for investors. Keep in mind, with SMR designs capable to be mass produced in factories and shipped by rail, there will be considerable reduction in time to market and the initials capital needed to get these designs commercialized in the next decade. Some SMRs which can be brought to market (an entire turn-key system, fuel, reactor and complete construction) for 1/10th of the $1bln cost to build a new coal-fired power plant. That’s important to keep in mind if the U.S. continues to close aging coal plants.  As for best in class, having a reactor design with a 45 MWe power output makes NuScale truly a more modular reactor than its rivals, especially with increased transport options that meets the DOE wish list of being deliverable by barge, rail or truck. Also, NuScale’s constant operating cycle can help alleviate concerns regarding power disruptions which typically can take days or weeks depending on the reactor design. Granted SMRs need to be fully tested so there is some fear of the unknown with some designs, but at the end of the day, SMRs are not built to compete with output levels from new nuclear plants and they are really only a quarter of the power seen in big reactors. However, these SMRs can produce dependable baseload power that is more affordable for isolated communities and they can be used in remote areas by energy and metals production companies while traditional reactors cannot.  Therefore, the news of expansion over at both NuScale and Holtec may not be as big or well covered in the media as the recent Facebook (NYSE: FB) earnings, but the louder advancement of SMRs is more evidence these cleaner, more scalable, more affordable and site flexible energy designs are more strongly positioned than ever before to help power U.S. communities, and maybe even your future Facebook page.  less 
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Blue Phoenix
Fri, Jul 25, 2014 12:15 PM EDT