ArticlePDF Available

Small Modular and Advanced Nuclear Reactors: A Reality Check



Nuclear power has been declining in importance over the last quarter century, with its share of global electrical energy generation decreasing from 17.5 percent in 1996 to around 10 percent in 2019. Small modular and advanced nuclear reactors have been proposed as potential ways of dealing with the problems— specifically economic competitiveness, risk of accidents, link to proliferation and production of waste— confronting nuclear power technology. This perspective article examines whether these new designs can indeed solve these problems, with a particular focus on the economic challenges. It briefly discusses the technical challenges confronting advanced reactor designs and the many decades it might take for these to be commercialized, if ever. The article explains why the higher construction and operational costs per unit of electricity generation capacity will make electricity from small modular reactors more expensive than electricity from large nuclear power plants, which are themselves not competitive in today’s electricity markets. Next, it examines the potential savings from learning and modular construction, and explains why the historical record suggests that these savings will be inadequate to compensate for the economic challenges resulting from the lower generation capacity. It then critically examines arguments offered by advocates of these technologies about job creation and other potential uses of energy generated from these plants to justify subsidizing and constructing these kinds of nuclear plants. It concludes with an assessment of the markets for these technologies, suggesting that these are inadequate to justify constructing the necessary manufacturing facilities.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. For more information, see
This article has been accepted for publication in a future issue of this journal, but has not been fully edited. Content may change prior to final publication. Citation information: DOI
10.1109/ACCESS.2021.3064948, IEEE Access
VOLUME XX, 2021 1
Date of publication xxxx 00, 0000, date of current version xxxx 00, 0000.
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/ACCESS.2017.Doi Number
Small Modular and Advanced Nuclear Reactors:
A Reality Check
M. V. Ramana1
1Liu Institute for Global Issues, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, V6T 1Z2, Canada
Corresponding author: M. V. Ramana (e-mail:
ABSTRACT Nuclear power has been declining in importance over the last quarter century, with its share of
global electrical energy generation decreasing from 17.5 percent in 1996 to around 10 percent in 2019. Small
modular and advanced nuclear reactors have been proposed as potential ways of dealing with the problems
specifically economic competitiveness, risk of accidents, link to proliferation and production of waste
confronting nuclear power technology. This perspective article examines whether these new designs can
indeed solve these problems, with a particular focus on the economic challenges. It briefly discusses the
technical challenges confronting advanced reactor designs and the many decades it might take for these to be
commercialized, if ever. The article explains why the higher construction and operational costs per unit of
electricity generation capacity will make electricity from small modular reactors more expensive than
electricity from large nuclear power plants, which are themselves not competitive in today's electricity
markets. Next, it examines the potential savings from learning and modular construction, and explains why
the historical record suggests that these savings will be inadequate to compensate for the economic challenges
resulting from the lower generation capacity. It then critically examines arguments offered by advocates of
these technologies about job creation and other potential uses of energy generated from these plants to justify
subsidizing and constructing these kinds of nuclear plants. It concludes with an assessment of the markets for
these technologies, suggesting that these are inadequate to justify constructing the necessary manufacturing
INDEX TERMS energy resources, fission reactors, nuclear power generation, power system economics,
small modular reactors, advanced reactors
Countries around the world have expressed an interest in
developing or deploying Small Modular or Advanced Nuclear
Reactor designs. The International Atomic Energy Agency
records 72 designs in its biennial report on Small Modular
Reactors (SMRs) [1]. While there have been earlier efforts to
develop and market SMRs, these have not been successful
[2][4]. Promoters of SMRs make promises about how these
reactors are the future for nuclear power, solving many of the
problems that have held back the technology [5][9]. They
also assert that SMRs are uniquely suitable to evolving energy
markets, because of technical characteristics like load
following capabilities and their ability to produce high-
temperature heat.
This perspective article evaluates some of these claims, in
the backdrop of an important constraint: economic
competitiveness. It starts with a brief overview of the historical
evolution of nuclear power and the drivers for SMR
development. This is followed with discussions of the
economic challenges that confront SMRs, the designs that are
more likely to be built in the near to medium-term future. It
then examines a few of the other arguments made by
advocates of these technologies to obtain government support.
It concludes with some prognostic comments about markets
for these reactor designs.
Underlying the drive for SMRs and advanced nuclear reactors
is the decline in nuclear power over the last quarter century,
coming down from providing 17.5 percent of the global
electrical energy generated in 1996 to around 10 percent in
2019 [10], [11]. The main problem has been economics. As
the 2003 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study put it
baldly, “Today, nuclear power is not an economically
competitive choice” [12, p. 3]. The same study also identified
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. For more information, see
This article has been accepted for publication in a future issue of this journal, but has not been fully edited. Content may change prior to final publication. Citation information: DOI
10.1109/ACCESS.2021.3064948, IEEE Access
VOLUME XX, 2021 3
the risk of accidents, the production of radioactive waste, and
the link to nuclear weapons production as problems.
This economic evaluation was made just as the global
nuclear energy market was said to be on the verge of what was
termed a nuclear renaissance [13][17], propelled in the
United States by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that offered
various guarantees and incentives to nuclear power [18].
That hoped-for renaissance fizzled out in a few years and
by 2012, John Rowe, former chairman and CEO of Exelon
Corporation, then the largest nuclear operator in the United
States, candidly admitted: “Let me state unequivocably that
I’ve never met a nuclear plant I didn’t like…Having said that,
let me also state unequivocably that new ones don’t make any
sense right now” [19]. The new ones that Rowe was talking
about were the Advanced Passive 1000 (AP1000) reactor
designs being built in the states of Georgia and South Carolina
in the United States.
Both of these vastly exceeded the initial cost estimates, with
the Vogtle project currently forecast to cost $29 billion
compared to $14 billion when construction started [20], [21].
When construction started, the utility in charge projected that
the first of the two reactors being built wouldcome online in
2016 and the second one in 2017” [20]. As of February 2021,
neither reactor has started operating.
The other nuclear project in South Carolina was abandoned
in 2017 after $9 billion were spent on it [22]. The failure
caused Westinghouse, the company directly or indirectly
responsible for the design of the majority of the world’s
nuclear reactors, to file for bankruptcy protection [23], [24].
This pattern of cost and time overruns was observed in other
countries as well. In France, the Flamanville 3 project is
“running a decade behind schedule” and “expected to cost
12.4 billion euros” [25] much higher than the 3.3 billion euros
forecast when construction started [26, p. 39]. The
construction cost of Russia’s Leningrad NPP-2 power plant
went up from an estimated 133 billion rubles to 244 billion
rubles (about 8 billion USD) [27, p. 171]. India’s
Koodankulam reactors were estimated in 2010 to cost Rs.
131.71 billion [28], but this went up to Rs. 224.62 billion ($3.5
billion) [29].
Some countries, most prominently China, have continued to
build nuclear plants. But construction in all countries has
slowed down substantially in comparison with earlier plans
and global projections for nuclear power capacity have
decreased. The ongoing nuclear construction should be
viewed as part of these countries adopting a strategy that
involves building out many different sources of power rather
than a focus on nuclear power, and in the context of much
larger installations of solar and wind energy [10].
It is in this context that one should view the argument that
if nuclear power needs to grow, it could only be on the basis
of a new generation or novel kinds of nuclear reactors. Small
modular reactors or advanced reactors are part of such hoped-
for solutions.
We start with a few clarifications about nomenclature. The
terms small”, modular”, and advanced reactors do not
refer to any specific design or designs and there is considerable
overlap between different categories. Note that almost all of
these are only conceptual designs and not operational or fully
complete designs. While SMR designs should possess the two
characteristics that are explicitly included in their name,
namely “small” and “modular” (defined later), the category of
advanced nuclear reactors is quite vague and in principle any
reactor design today can claim to be advanced. Indeed, many
of the nuclear reactors constructed in the world today have
been a result of programs from the 1980s and 1990s to develop
“advanced” designs, including advanced light water reactors
[30][33]. Further, many reactor designs can be considered an
advanced reactor or an SMR or both. For example, the Xe-100
high temperature reactor is listed as an SMR by the
International Atomic Energy Agency [1], but received $80
million in 2020 from the U.S. Department of Energy’s
Advanced Reactor Demonstration program.
During the early 2000s, there was an organized international
research effort to develop what were called Generation IV
nuclear energy systems, that were to provide significant
improvements in economics, safety, sustainability, and
proliferation resistance [34]. Generation IV reactors can be
small or large. Regardless of size, various characteristics of
Generaion IV reactors do apply to many SMR and advanced
nuclear reactor designs.
The most pertinent of these characteristics for our
discussion is their technological readiness, or lack thereof.
When this initiative was established in 2000 “with the aim of
fostering the research and development necessary to underpin
the development of a new generation of nuclear energy
systems”, the goal was “commercial deployment by 2020
2030” [35, p. 4323]. That deadline has slipped, and the 2018
update from the Generation IV forum concluded that
“readiness for commercial fleet deployment” has been pushed
back to “around 2045 (for the first systems)” [36].
This lengthening deadline is because these so-called
advanced reactor designs are incomplete, with major
technological challenges that need to be overcome before they
can be considered ready for deployment. In 2015, the French
Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN)
examined these reactor designs and concluded that “the SFR
[Sodium‐cooled Fast Reactor] system [is] the only one of the
various nuclear systems considered by GIF [Generation IV
International Forum] to have reached a degree of maturity
compatible with the construction of a Generation IV reactor
prototype during the first half of the 21st century; such a
realization, however, requires the completion of studies and
technological developments mostly already identified” [37].
Note that the timeline of “first half of the 21st century” is
well beyond the kinds of timelines required for meeting the
more ambitious climate mitigation challenges laid out by the
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. For more information, see
This article has been accepted for publication in a future issue of this journal, but has not been fully edited. Content may change prior to final publication. Citation information: DOI
10.1109/ACCESS.2021.3064948, IEEE Access
VOLUME XX, 2021 3
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other
international and national agencies. Experience has shown that
SFRs, the one Generation IV design held out by IRSN as
relatively mature, are expensive, prone to accidents, and to
operational problems [38].
Now we turn to SMRs. As their name suggests, these are
designed to produce relatively small amounts of power
compared to the current nuclear reactor fleet, with small being
defined as less than 300 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The
term modular is used to refer, in part, to the idea that one
nuclear reactor with a large power output is replaced with
many reactors with smaller power output. The other sense in
which the term modular is used is to emphasize that, instead
of trying to build the whole nuclear plant on the site from
scratch, the reactor is assembled on site from various modules
that have been manufactured in factories.
The terms “small” and “modular are just two
characteristics of the design and there are a range of fuels,
moderators, and coolants that could be used in different kinds
of SMRs [1], [39]. Depending on design choices, the physical
size of these plants can be small or large, with little connection
to the generation capacity.
Small reactors, modular or not, are expected be more
expensive per unit of output because of something that
economists have known for decades and termed economies of
scale [40][42]. Larger reactors (or other power plants for that
matter) are cheaper on a per megawatt basis because their
capital and operating costs, which represent material and work
requirements, do not scale linearly with generation capacity.
This is reflected in a general rule of thumb followed in
industrial engineering which uses a power law to relate the
capital costs of production facilities with different capacities,
with an exponent that is usually chosen to be 0.6 [43, p. 421].
Other studies use different numbers for the exponent (e.g. 0.55
used in a study by the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories [44]) but
none of them expect that the exponent will be one. With an
exponent of 0.6, if there are two plants of size S1 and S2, the
ratio of their capital costs K1 and K2 is given by:
$ (
This formula implies that, all else being equal, a SMR with
a power capacity of 200 MW would have a construction cost
of around 40 percent of the cost of constructing a 1000 MW
reactor, whereas it would generate only 20 percent of the
electricity. Thus, the 200 MW SMR has roughly twice the cost
per MW of capacity. Similarly, operating an SMR will also be
more expensive per MW of capacity in comparison with a
large reactor due to diseconomies of scale. Both of these
factors will result in a higher cost per unit of electricity
Small modular and advanced nuclear reactor designers
often argue against the application of such scaling laws
because, according to them, their designs are so different from
current reactors as to invalidate scaling. While that might have
some truth, and these power laws cannot be taken as exact
ways to calculate costs, the general principle about economic
losses due to smaller size will still hold.
Further, there are two corollaries that flow from this
argument about differences in designs. First, the lack of
experience with these designs means that estimates of cost and
construction time are much more uncertain, and will likely
suffer from the huge overruns that have been typical of “First
of a Kind” projects [45][47]. Second, new designs will mean
that the process of getting safety approvals ought to be more
demanding, at least in any well-designed and well-functioning
regulatory system, and thus more expensive. To give a sense
of scale of expenditures involved, the development of the
NuScale SMR design had cost $957 million till March 2020,
of which the U.S. government has contributed $314 million
[48]. It is expected that another $500 to $700 million will have
to be spent before the design receives the regulatory approval
for construction to commence [49], [50]. This total research
and development cost of roughly $1.5 billion is for a scaled
down, light water reactor design, the most prevalent nuclear
reactor design in the world.
Completely new designs envisioned by Advanced nuclear
reactor and some SMR developers should cost even more to
translate from conceptual design to one that is licensed to be
constructed. There is simply no appetite within the private
sector to underwrite such large risky investments. A good
illustration is Bill Gates who has spent billions on various
philanthropic efforts but still seeks government subsidies for
his nuclear venture [51][53].
Proponents of small modular reactors argue that they can make
up for the lost economies of scale by savings through mass and
modularized manufacture in factories and resultant learning
[54][60]. Learning in this context refers primarily to the
reduction of cost with increased construction. It is often
quantified through a learning rate, which is defined as the
percentage cost reduction associated with a doubling of units
produced [61].
The economic case for SMRs critically rests on fast
learning. What do we know about learning? Early in this
century, a study from the University of Chicago concluded
that “a reasonable range for future learning rates in the United
States nuclear industry is 3 to 10 percent” [61, pp. 424]. Even
the upper estimate is low compared to most other energy
technologies [62][64].
Further, for such rates of learning as expected for the
nuclear industry, the same SMR design will have to be
manufactured by the thousands, for the cost of electricity from
SMRs to break even with the corresponding cost of electricity
from large reactors [39]. There is unlikely to be a market for
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. For more information, see
This article has been accepted for publication in a future issue of this journal, but has not been fully edited. Content may change prior to final publication. Citation information: DOI
10.1109/ACCESS.2021.3064948, IEEE Access
VOLUME XX, 2021 3
so many highly priced SMRs; these units will not even
competitive with large nuclear power plants, let alone other
sources of electricity. Expert assessments of projected costs of
SMRs bear out the prognosis that learning will not adequately
compensate for diseconomies of scale [72], [73].
Sustained learning would also require just one or two
standard reactor designs to be chosen for build-out in those
large quantities. However, as mentioned earlier, roughly six
dozen SMR designs are in various stages of development in
multiple countries [1]. It is very unlikely that one, or even a
few designs, will be chosen in a coordinated fashion by
different countries and private entities, discarding the vast
majority of designs that are currently being invested in.
In the case of large nuclear reactors, there are many, very
different, designs being constructed even now, after decades
of construction experience. SMRs and advanced reactors
under development currently have very different designs and
seek to exploit different niches. Such differences do not help
with standardization.
The prognosis for cost reductions is even worse. When we
look at the historical record, the evidence suggests that at the
fleet level nuclear power could even have what has been
termed a negative rate of learning. In the United States and
France, the two countries with the largest nuclear reactor
fleets, reactors that were constructed later actually cost more
than those constructed earlier [65][71]. If this pattern holds
for SMRs, it would mean that a small reactor will never catch
up on cost with a large reactor of similar design.
As mentioned earlier, SMR promoters emphasize the
importance of “modular construction”, wherein many
components of the reactor are manufactured in factories and
put together on the site, to reduce cost. This has become
standard practice in much of today's manufacture, for
example, in house construction. The practice has also been
incorporated into nuclear reactor manufacture for a while,
especially by Westinghouse.
Westinghouse has emphasized this practice in the design of
the AP1000 reactor and that of the proposed, but never built,
pebble bed modular reactor in South Africa [74, p. 1860], [75].
But the experience of the AP1000 reactors built in the United
States and China shows that this strategy is also problematic,
albeit in a different way from conventional manufacture. Most
importantly, nuclear reactors built in a modular fashion are not
spared the curse of high capital costs. As a former member of
the Georgia Public Service Commission, the state utility
authority overseeing the Vogtle nuclear power plant in the
United States, told the Wall Street Journal, “Modular
construction has not worked out to be the solution that the
utilities promised” [76].
A specific example of how modular construction has not
helped concerns one of the important parameters that
determines the economics of a nuclear project: the time to
construct a nuclear plant. Building a large nuclear plant, from
the first pour of concrete to being able to power homes and
offices, takes about ten years [10]. As against this historical
reality, modular construction was expected by its proponents
to reduce the time frame dramatically. In 2014, for example, a
senior Westinghouse official claimed that the “AP1000 design
saves money and time with an accelerated construction time
period of approximately 36 months, from the pouring of first
concrete to the loading of fuel” [77]. In contrast, the Haiyang
project in China took around 9 years to go from construction
start to being declared commercial [78]. Construction costs,
too, grew dramatically. The AP1000 reactors under
construction in the United States have fared even worse.
The AP1000 is by no means a one-off case. There is a long
history of underestimating the time it would take to complete
a nuclear power plant around the world. Indeed one study of
construction cost overruns showed that 175 out of the 180
nuclear projects examined had final costs that exceeded the
initial budget, on average by 117 percent; they took on average
64% more time than projected [47], [79]. What is special about
the AP1000 is that it was supposed to be an exception to this
pattern because of “modular construction” and it ended up
becoming one more instance of this pattern.
Small modular reactors, too, have suffered cost and time
overruns. For example, Russia’s KLT-40S that is intended for
deployment on a barge as a floating nuclear power plant, has
taken about four times as long as originally projected. Initial
projections in 2006 foresaw the plant being constructed in
about three years, but it took over 12 years for the plant to be
connected to the grid [10]. Cost estimates have quadrupled.
There have been no further orders for the KLT-40S.
When confronted with the economic challenges associated
with SMRs and advanced nuclear reactors, advocates of these
technologies resort to a number of other arguments to persuade
policy makers to offer support. In what follows, we examine a
few of these.
One reason frequently offered for why governments should
support SMR development is that investing in SMRs will lead
to job creation [80][83]. Of course, investment in SMRs will
lead to jobs. That is but a trivial observation. The real question
is whether the number of jobs created by investing a certain
amount of money in SMRs exceeds the number of jobs created
by investing the same amount of money in a different but
comparable energy technology.
Although there is no data on jobs from SMRsbecause
SMRs have not been deployed at any meaningful level to
measure employment figuresthe literature is clear that
nuclear power generates fewer jobs than renewables like solar
and wind energy per unit of energy generated [84], [85]. To
the extent that one can make prognoses about the number of
jobs that might be created by advanced and small modular
nuclear reactors, the outlook would be even more bleak. Most
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. For more information, see
This article has been accepted for publication in a future issue of this journal, but has not been fully edited. Content may change prior to final publication. Citation information: DOI
10.1109/ACCESS.2021.3064948, IEEE Access
VOLUME XX, 2021 3
of these designs are aimed at reducing the numbers of
operators, because the main challenge faced by nuclear power
is cost. There are even those who envision nuclear reactors
operating in a completely automated fashion (for example
[86]), or with minimal operators (e.g., [87]). Thus, one would
expect SMRs and advanced to generate fewer jobs per unit of
electricity output (in megawatt-hours) in comparison to other
energy technologies.
Conversely, because nuclear jobs are high paying, operating
costs of nuclear power plants will be very high. For example,
the nuclear reactor developer Oklo in the United States has
stated that it anticipates 15 full time and well-paying jobs
that are available to local residents with a high school
education” for its 1.5 MW plant [88]. The document does not
define what well-paying means. According to the U.S. Bureau
of Labor Statistics, the annual pay for US nuclear power plant
operators, distributors, and dispatchers in 2019 was $85,950
[89]. (Note that this is the wage for someone with a high
school diploma or equivalent qualification at the time of entry,
not for a highly educated nuclear engineer, who can earn over
$120,000.) Putting these together, just the operational cost of
electricity from an Oklo reactor will be $109 per megawatt
hour if the reactor were to operate at a 90 percent capacity
factor, which is an optimistic assumption for a remote site
where the nuclear plant will have to vary its output according
the changes in demand or load. In other words, even if the
capital cost of the reactor and fueling cost are zero, the cost of
electricity from a hypothetical Oklo power plant will be nearly
three times that of new solar or wind power plants [90]. Note
that this is just the generation cost at the busbar and the costs
for transmission and distribution have to also be incorporated
to compare with residential costs.
Since the cost of solar and wind power are declining, the
difference will be even greater by the time the Oklo reactor
moves from theoretical proposal to a licensed and
constructible design. This large difference in costs implies that
SMRs would be likely be much more expensive even after
accounting for the system costs of other ways of managing the
variability of solar and wind power, such as adding storage.
The dismal economics of Oklo mean that if any are actually
built, it will be because of large government subsidies. Given
this dependence on government funding, one can expect that
even in the best case, only a few such reactors will be
constructed, which then means that the number of jobs
generated will be miniscule.
The capability to adjust a plant’s power production to respond
to variations in electricity demand is termed load following.
Several advocates have argued that SMRs are capable of load
following [56], [91][94]. Some of these authors refer to the
ability to change output over relatively long periods of time,
for example, between night and day. However, with the
increased share of variable (what is sometimes termed
intermittent) electricity sources such as wind or photovoltaic
power, some nuclear designers have emphasized the capability
of SMRs to quickly change their output in response to changes
in the outputs of wind or solar plants (for example [94]). Load
following capabilities would be essential to the deployment of
SMR designs “off the grid” in remote areas.
Although nuclear power plants are capable of load-
following operations, and this has been done in some
countries, particularly in France and Germany, nuclear
reactors do have technical limitations that constrain their
capability to operate in a load-following mode [95], [96].
From a technical point of view, shutting down, restarting, or
varying the output power are all more challenging for nuclear
power plants, especially water-cooled reactors, compared to
other electricity sources. Frequent and steep temperature
changes accelerate interactions between the nuclear fuel and
the metallic cladding, which, with time, might lead to rupture
of the cladding and the escape of fission products. Such
changes can reduce operating life and increase maintenance
Because of such safety concerns, regulators require the
power variation rate to be confined within specific margins. In
currently deployed nuclear technologies, the range of allowed
power variation rates is between 15 percent of the rated
power per minute. The European Utilities Requirements
(EUR) document requires the capability to operate between 50
and 100 percent of the plant’s rated power over a day, with a
rate of change of electrical output of 3 to 5 percent of the rated
power per minute [95]. This limited ability to change outputs
from nuclear reactors might not be fast enough to compensate
for the potentially rapid changes of outputs from wind and
solar power plants.
While load following may be technically possible,
operating reactors in this mode would decrease their economic
competitiveness. The challenge arises from the fact that
nuclear power plants have high fixed (capital) costs.
Therefore, it makes more economic sense to operate them
continuously near their maximum capacity in order to improve
the return on investment. On the other hand, oil-fired or gas-
fired peaking plants are better used to cover peak electricity
demand because of their low capital and high fuel costs.
Operating nuclear reactors in a load-following mode would
reduce the capacity factor, which would increase the cost of
electricity generated in these.
When deployed on a grid in conjunction with a large share
of renewable energy sources, nuclear plants will not operate
with the typical 90 to 95 percent capacity factors that are
typically assumed in economic analyses of these power
sources. Should the capacity factor decrease, the cost of
generation will increase because the capital and operating
costs will have to spread out over fewer kilowatt-hours. In the
case of the NuScale SMR, the cost of generating electricity
goes up by about 20 percent if the capacity factor is reduced
from 95 percent to 75 percent [50]. Given the already poor
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. For more information, see
This article has been accepted for publication in a future issue of this journal, but has not been fully edited. Content may change prior to final publication. Citation information: DOI
10.1109/ACCESS.2021.3064948, IEEE Access
VOLUME XX, 2021 3
economic prospects for SMRs, this penalty will essentially
rule out deployment of these technologies in a load-following
Small modular reactor advocates propose that the energy
not utilized to produce electricity is used for other purposes,
such as desalination [97][99], or co-generating hydrogen
[91], [100]. Such strategies are also proposed by advocates for
renewable energy sources [101][107]. For most SMRs,
hydrogen is produced by using electricity to electrolyze water,
the same as when using renewables. The key difference is that
the costs of nuclear energy, especially from SMRs, are
prohibitively high and rising, whereas the costs of renewables
are low and declining. More narrowly, renewables benefit
from the almost zero marginal costs of solar and wind energy
because they don’t incur any fueling costs and operator costs
are minimal. A few SMR and advanced reactor designs that
do not use water for cooling might be able to do high-
temperature electrolysis at higher efficiencies. However, as
discussed earlier, these designs are far from ready and it is not
possible to carry out any meaningful economic analyses of
these at present.
Proponents claim that SMRs and advanced reactors have
improved safety, reduce radioactive waste generation, and
increase proliferation-resistance. Before we address the
veracity of this claim, it should be remembered that SMRs and
advanced nuclear reactors also suffer these problems, albeit to
different extents from standard large light water reactors.
Thus, building SMRs or advanced reactors will also expose
citizens to these risks.
Because SMRs and advanced reactors encompass a large
number of disparate designs, it is not possible to make
generalized statements. For example, SMRs based on fast
reactor technologies will produce a lower quantity of nuclear
waste per unit of electricity generated, whereas SMRs based
on light water reactor technologies will produce more waste
per unit of electricity generated; but both pose higher risks of
proliferation as compared to large light water reactors [117].
(The difference between SMRs based on fast reactor
technologies and those based on LWRs is the burnup; the
former typically envision in-situ breed-and-burn to maximize
fuel burnup whereas the latter typically adopt a simplified all-
in/all-out core management scheme that lowers the burnup; in
both cases, the smaller size of the reactors contributes to
lowering the burnup because more neutrons will escape the
core in comparison to larger reactors).
The volume of waste is not always the most relevant
variable; the size of the geological repository needed for waste
burial is dependent on heat production and waste composition
[118]. Wastes from fast reactors and other forms of SMRs not
based on light water reactor technology can be corrosive
and/or pyrophoric and dealing with these forms is more
complicated and the necessary processing before disposal
might actually end up increasing the volume [119]. Many
SMR and advanced nuclear reactor designs are fueled by
plutonium, which necessitates the processing of spent fuel,
often at a reprocessing plant; reprocessing plants could
produce increased quantities of different kinds of radioactive
wastes [120], [121].
When it comes to the risks of accidents, all else being equal,
a smaller reactor could be safer because of the smaller
inventory of radioactive material and lower amount of energy
available for release during an accident. However, all else is
seldom equal. Small modular reactor proposals often involve
building multiple reactors at a site to try to lower costs by
taking advantage of common infrastructure elements.
NuScale, for example, proposes to build twelve reactor
modules at each site. Multiple reactors at a site increase the
risk that an accident at one unit might either induce accidents
at other reactors or make it harder to take preventive actions at
others. It is also possible to have multiple units simultaneously
undergoing accidents if the underlying reason for the accident
is a common one that affects all of the reactors, such as an
earthquake. With multiple reactors, the combined radioactive
inventories might be comparable to that of a large reactor.
More generally, the technical characteristics of SMRs do
not allow them to simultaneously solve all these problems
[122]. When examined in detail, SMR and advanced nuclear
reactor designs that are being developed turn out to make
choices about which problem to focus on and make trade-offs
between desired features. Designs that optimize one metric,
say waste volume, might make other challenges, such as the
risk of severe accidents, more acute.
The evidence so far suggests that there is little demand for
SMRs. SMRs developed in Russia (KLT-40S), China (HTR-
PM), and South Korea (SMART) have not found customers
[10]. In the United States, the first proposed SMR project
involving the construction of a NuScale reactor design has run
into trouble, with many utilities that had signed up for the
project choosing to exit the process as the high cost became
more evident [108][110].
Although many developing countries claim to be interested
in SMRs, few seem to be willing to invest in the construction
of one. Good examples are the cases of Jordan, Ghana and
Indonesia, all of which have been touted as promising markets
for SMRs, but none of which are buying one [111][113].
Niche markets, for example, remote mines and
communities that are not otherwise served by the grid and that
are currently electrified using diesel plants with very high fuel
costs, are quite limited. Indeed, even in a best case scenario,
where economics plays no part and where nearly every
potential user of SMRs purchases a small modular reactor, the
net demand from remote mines and communities in Canada
was shown to be far smaller than the minimum demand
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. For more information, see
This article has been accepted for publication in a future issue of this journal, but has not been fully edited. Content may change prior to final publication. Citation information: DOI
10.1109/ACCESS.2021.3064948, IEEE Access
VOLUME XX, 2021 3
necessary to construct the factories needed to build these
reactors [114]. Further, such remote sites have often provided
attractive renewable opportunities [123]-[125].
The lack of adequate demand, either in niche markets, grid
connected markets, or developing countries, is a major
constraint because of the emphasis on modular construction
by SMR and advanced nuclear reactor designers. As one SMR
designer admitted, “A supplier would have to foresee a
sufficient market to invest in factories large enough to achieve
economy of mass production from production runs of many
hundreds of turnkey plants” [115, p. 688].
If there is no market to set up a factory, then SMR plans run
into a chicken and egg problem: without the factory, they
cannot ever hope to achieve the theoretical cost reductions that
are at heart of the strategy to compensate for the lack of
economies of scale.
Expectations that small modular or advanced nuclear reactors
will rescue nuclear power are unlikely to be met. Most
advanced nuclear reactor designs are simply not ready for
deployment or commercialization because of technical
problems. Small modular reactors, for their part, start off being
less economical than large reactors because of their smaller
power outputs without correspondingly smaller costs. Various
methods of modifying SMRs and advanced nuclear reactors to
load-follow or co-generate hydrogen or desalinate water do
not help. Nuclear advocates seem to be clutching at straws by
emphasizing these options.
Pursuing SMRs will only worsen the problem of poor
economics that has plagued nuclear power and make it harder
for nuclear power to compete with renewable sources of
electricity. The scenario is even more bleak as we look to the
future because other sources of electricity supply, in particular
combinations of renewables and storage technologies such as
batteries, are fast becoming cheaper.
Finally, because there is no evidence of adequate demand,
it is financially not viable to set up the manufacturing facilities
needed to mass produce SMRs and advanced reactors. All of
these problems might just end up reinforcing The Economist
magazine’s observation from the turn of the century: “nuclear
power, which early advocates thought would be ‘too cheap to
meter’, is more likely to be remembered as too costly to
matter” [116].
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. For more information, see
This article has been accepted for publication in a future issue of this journal, but has not been fully edited. Content may change prior to final publication. Citation information: DOI
10.1109/ACCESS.2021.3064948, IEEE Access
VOLUME XX, 2021 9
[1] IAEA, “Advances in small modular reactor technology
developments: A supplement to: advanced reactors information system
(ARIS) 2020 edition,” International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna,
[2] J. R. Egan, “Small reactors and the ‘second nuclear era,’”
Energy, vol. 9, no. 910, pp. 865874, 1984, doi: 10.1016/0360-
[3] D. T. Ingersoll, “Deliberately small reactors and the second
nuclear era,” Prog. Nucl. Energy, vol. 51, no. 45, pp. 589603, 2009.
[4] M. V. Ramana, “The forgotten history of small nuclear
reactors,” IEEE Spectrum, May 2015.
[5] J. Hansen, “‘It’s the future’: How going small may fuel nuclear
power’s comeback,” CBC News, Jun. 25, 2019.
[6] G. Black, M. A. Taylor Black, D. Solan, and D. Shropshire,
“Carbon free energy development and the role of small modular reactors:
A review and decision framework for deployment in developing
countries,” Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev., vol. 43, pp. 8394, Mar. 2015,
doi: 10.1016/j.rser.2014.11.011.
[7] I. N. Kessides, “The future of the nuclear industry
reconsidered: Risks, uncertainties, and continued promise,” Energy Policy,
vol. 48, pp. 185208, 2012.
[8] R. Rosner and S. Goldberg, “Small modular reactors key to
future nuclear power generation in the U.S.,” Energy Policy Institute of
Chicago, Chicago, U.S.A., Nov. 2011.
[9] B. K. Sovacool and M. V. Ramana, “Back to the future: Small
modular reactors, nuclear fantasies, and symbolic convergence,” Science,
Technology, & Human Values, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 96125, 2015, doi:
[10] M. Schneider and A. Froggatt, “The world nuclear industry
status report 2020,” Mycle Schneider Consulting, Paris, Sep. 2020.
[Online]. Available:
[11] BP, “Statistical review of world energy 2020,” BP, London,
Jun. 2020. Accessed: Jun. 17, 2020. [Online]. Available:
[12] S. Ansolabehere et al., “The future of nuclear power,”
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2003. Accessed: Jun. 07, 2017.
[Online]. Available:
[13] S. Squassoni, “Nuclear renaissance: Is it coming? Should it?,”
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C., 2008.
[14] NUKEM, “Nuclear renaissance: U. S. A: Coping with the new
NPP sticker shock,” NUKEM Market Report, pp. 143, Apr. 2008.
[15] A. Bhatt, “We cannot afford to miss nuclear renaissance:
Manmohan,” Hindu, Sep. 01, 2007.
[16] B. K. Sovacool, “Questioning a Nuclear Renaissance,” Global
Public Policy Institute, Berlin, Germany, GPPi Policy Paper 8, 2010.
[17] A. N. Stulberg and M. Fuhrmann, Eds., The nuclear
renaissance and international security. Stanford, Calif: Stanford
University Press, 2013.
[18] CBO, “Nuclear power’s role in generating electricity,” United
States Congressional Budget Office, Washington, D. C., 2008.
[19] J. McMahon, “Exelon's 'nuclear guy': no new nukes,” Forbes,
Mar. 29, 2012.
[20] S. Hargreaves, “First new nuclear reactors OK’d in over 30
years,” CNNMoney, Feb. 09, 2012.
[21] NIW, “Conventional nuclear newbuild projects (generation III+
or earlier) currently under construction,” Nuclear Intelligence Weekly, vol.
14, no. 38, p. 6, Sep. 18, 2020.
[22] A. Lacy, “South Carolina spent $9 billion to dig a hole in the
ground and then fill it back in,” The Intercept, Feb. 06, 2019.
[23] D. Cardwell and J. Soble, “Westinghouse files for bankruptcy,
in blow to nuclear power,” The New York Times, Mar. 29, 2017.
[24] T. Hals and E. Flitter, “How two cutting edge U.S. nuclear
projects bankrupted Westinghouse,” Reuters, May 02, 2017.
[25] D. Vidalon and G. D. Clercq, “EDF warns Flamanville weld
repairs to cost 1.5 billion euros,” Reuters, Oct. 09, 2019.
[26] EDF, “Annual report 2005,” Électricité de France, Paris, 2005.
Accessed: Dec. 28, 2020. [Online]. Available:
[27] A. Diakov, “Status and prospects for Russia's fuel cycle,” Sci.
Glob. Secur., vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 167188, 2013.
[28] MoSPI, “Project implementation status report of central sector
projects costing Rs. 150 crore & above (April-June, 2010),” Ministry of
Statistics and Programme Implementation, New Delhi, 2010.
[29] MoSPI, “Project implementation status report of central sector
projects costing Rs. 150 crore & above (January-March, 2015),” Ministry
of Statistics and Programme Implementation, New Delhi, 2015.
[30] OTA, “Nuclear power in an age of uncertainty,” U.S. Congress,
Office of Technology Assessment, Washington, D. C, OTA-E-216, 1984.
[31] A. Y. Gagarinski, V. V. Ignatiev, V. M. Novikov, and S. A.
Subbotin, “Advanced light-water reactor: Russian approaches,” IAEA
Bull., vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 3740, 1992.
[32] NRC, “Policy, technical, and licensing issues pertaining to
evolutionary and advanced light-water reactor (ALWR) designs,” Nuclear
Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C., SECY-93-087, Apr. 1993.
[33] P. A. David and G. S. Rothwell, “Measuring standardization:
An application to the American and French nuclear power industries,” Eur.
J. Polit. Econ., vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 291308, Sep. 1996, doi: 10.1016/0176-
[34] GIF, “A technology roadmap for generation iv nuclear energy
systems,” U.S. DOE Nuclear Energy Research Advisory Committee and
Generation IV International Forum, GIF-002-00, 2002.
[35] T. Abram and S. Ion, “Generation-IV nuclear power: A review
of the state of the science,” Energy Policy, vol. 36, pp. 43234330, 2008.
[36] GIF, “GIF R&D outlook for generation IV nuclear energy
systems: 2018 update,” Generation IV International Forum, 2018.
Accessed: Jun. 18, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.gen-
[37] IRSN, “Review of generation IV nuclear energy systems,”
Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, Paris, Apr. 2015.
Accessed: May 23, 2015. [Online]. Available:
[38] IPFM, “Fast breeder reactor programs: History and status,”
International Panel on Fissile Materials, Princeton, 2010.
[39] A. Glaser, M. V. Ramana, A. Ahmad, and R. Socolow, “Small
modular reactors: A window on nuclear energy,” Andlinger Center for
Energy and the Environment at Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., An
Energy Technology Distillate, Jun. 2015. Accessed: Aug. 30, 2020.
[Online]. Available:
[40] J. Haldi and D. Whitcomb, “Economies of scale in industrial
plants,” J. Polit. Econ., vol. 75, no. 4, pp. 373385, 1967.
[41] H. I. Bowers, L. C. Fuller, and M. L. Myers, “Trends in nuclear
power plant capital-investment cost estimates - 1976 to 1982,” Oak Ridge
National Lab., Oakridge, TN, NUREG/CR--3500, 1983.
[42] R. Cantor and J. Hewlett, “The economics of nuclear power:
Further evidence on learning, economies of scale, and regulatory effects,”
Resour. Energy, vol. 10, pp. 315335, 1988.
[43] National Research Council, Nuclear wastes: Technologies for
separations and transmutation. Washington, D.C.: National Academy
Press, 1996.
[44] M. Moore, “The economics of very small modular reactors in
the North,” presented at the 4th International Technical Meeting on Small
Reactors (ITMSR-4), Ottawa, Nov. 2016, Accessed: Oct. 09, 2018.
[Online]. Available:
[45] E. W. Merrow, Industrial megaprojects - Concepts, strategies,
and practices for success. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2011.
[46] B. Flyvbjerg, “What you should know about megaprojects and
why: An overview,” Proj. Manag. J., vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 619, 2014, doi:
[47] B. K. Sovacool, A. Gilbert, and D. Nugent, “Risk, innovation,
electricity infrastructure and construction cost overruns: Testing six
hypotheses,” Energy, vol. 74, pp. 906917, Sep. 2014, doi:
[48] J. L. Hopkins, “Building a 100 percent clean economy:
Advanced nuclear technology’s role in a decarbonized future,” presented
at the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. For more information, see
This article has been accepted for publication in a future issue of this journal, but has not been fully edited. Content may change prior to final publication. Citation information: DOI
10.1109/ACCESS.2021.3064948, IEEE Access
VOLUME XX, 2021 9
Energy, Washington, D. C., Mar. 03, 2020, Accessed: Jun. 23, 2020.
[Online]. Available:
[49] P. Chaffee, “DOE agrees major new commitment to NuScale,”
Nuclear Intelligence Weekly, vol. XIV, no. 8, pp. 67, Feb. 21, 2020.
[50] M. V. Ramana, “Eyes wide shut: Problems with the Utah
associated municipal power systems proposal to construct NuScale small
modular nuclear reactors,” Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility,
Portland, OR, Sep. 2020. Accessed: Oct. 13, 2020. [Online]. Available:
[51] T. Gardner, “Bill Gates’ nuclear venture plans reactor to
complement solar, wind power boom,” Reuters, Aug. 28, 2020.
[52] K. Houser, “Bill Gates: U.S. leaders must embrace nuclear
energy,” Futurism, Dec. 31, 2018.
[53] N. Aschoff, The new prophets of capital. London ; Brooklyn,
NY: Verso, 2015.
[54] M. Carelli, B. Petrovic, C. W. Mycoff, P. Trucco, M. E. Ricotti,
and G. Locatelli, “Economic comparison of different size nuclear
reactors,” Cancun, 2007.
[55] M. Carelli et al., “Economic features of integral, modular,
small-to-medium size reactors,” Prog. Nucl. Energy, vol. 52, no. 4, pp.
403414, 2010.
[56] D. Shropshire, “Economic viability of small to medium-sized
reactors deployed in future European energy markets,” Prog. Nucl.
Energy, vol. 53, no. 4, pp. 299307, 2011.
[57] G. Locatelli, C. Bingham, and M. Mancini, “Small modular
reactors: A comprehensive overview of their economics and strategic
aspects,” Prog. Nucl. Energy, vol. 73, pp. 7585, 2014, doi:
[58] S. Boarin and M. E. Ricotti, “An evaluation of SMR economic
attractiveness,” Sci. Technol. Nucl. Install., vol. 2014, 2014, doi:
[59] B. Mignacca and G. Locatelli, “Economics and finance of
Small Modular Reactors: A systematic review and research agenda,”
Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev., vol. 118, Feb. 2020, doi:
[60] C. Lloyd, A. R. M. Roulstone, and C. Middleton, The impact of
modularisation strategies on small modular reactor cost. American
Nuclear Society, 2018.
[61] UC, “The economic future of nuclear power,” University of
Chicago, Chicago, U.S.A., 2004.
[62] A. McDonald and L. Schrattenholzer, “Learning rates for
energy technologies,” Energy Policy, vol. 29, pp. 255261, 2001.
[63] E. S. Rubin, I. M. L. Azevedo, P. Jaramillo, and S. Yeh, “A
review of learning rates for electricity supply technologies,” Energy
Policy, vol. 86, pp. 198218, Nov. 2015, doi:
[64] I. Mauleón, “Photovoltaic learning rate estimation: Issues and
implications,” Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev., vol. 65, pp. 507524, Nov.
2016, doi: 10.1016/j.rser.2016.06.070.
[65] N. Boccard, “The cost of nuclear electricity: France after
Fukushima,” Energy Policy, vol. 66, pp. 450461, Mar. 2014, doi:
[66] A. Grubler, “The French pressurised water reactor
programme,” in Energy Technology Innovation: Learning from Historical
Successes and Failures, A. Grubler and C. Wilson, Eds. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 146162.
[67] A. Grubler, “The costs of the French nuclear scale-up: A case
of negative learning by doing,” Energy Policy, vol. 38, no. 9, pp. 5174
5188, 2010.
[68] N. E. Hultman, J. G. Koomey, and D. M. Kammen, “What
history can teach us about the future costs of U.S. nuclear power,”
Environ. Sci. Technol., vol. 40, no. 7, pp. 208894, 2007.
[69] J. G. Koomey and N. E. Hultman, “A reactor-level analysis of
busbar costs for US nuclear plants, 19702005,” Energy Policy, vol. 35,
pp. 56305642, 2007.
[70] L. E. Rangel and F. Lévêque, “Revisiting the cost escalation
curse of nuclear power,” IAEE Newsletter, vol. Third Quarter, Third
Quarter 2013.
[71] P. Eash-Gates, M. M. Klemun, G. Kavlak, J. McNerney, J.
Buongiorno, and J. E. Trancik, “Sources of cost overrun in nuclear power
plant construction call for a new approach to engineering design,” Joule,
vol. 4, no. 11, pp. 23482373, Nov. 2020, doi:
[72] A. Abdulla, I. L. Azevedo, and M. G. Morgan, “Expert
assessments of the cost of light water small modular reactors,” Proc. Natl.
Acad. Sci., vol. 110, no. 24, pp. 96869691, 2013.
[73] L. D. Anadón, V. Bosetti, M. Bunn, M. Catenacci, and A. Lee,
Expert judgments about RD&D and the future of nuclear energy,”
Environ. Sci. Technol., vol. 46, no. 21, pp. 1149711504, 2012, doi:
[74] R. A. Matzie, “AP1000 will meet the challenges of near-term
deployment,” Nucl. Eng. Des., vol. 238, pp. 18561862, 2008.
[75] E. Wallace, R. Matzie, R. Heiderd, and J. Maddalena, “From
field to factoryTaking advantage of shop manufacturing for the pebble
bed modular reactor,” Nucl. Eng. Des., vol. 236, pp. 445453, 2006.
[76] R. Smith, “Prefab nuclear plants prove just as expensive,” Wall
Street Journal, Jul. 27, 2015.
[77] N. Shulyak, “Westinghouse AP1000® pwr: Meeting customer
commitments and market needs,” presented at the 10th International
Conference: Nuclear Option in Countries with Small and Medium
Electricity Grids, Zadar, Croatia, Jun. 01, 2014, Accessed: Mar. 31, 2017.
[Online]. Available:
[78] IAEA, “Power reactor information system (PRIS) database.”
[79] B. K. Sovacool, A. Gilbert, and D. Nugent, “An international
comparative assessment of construction cost overruns for electricity
infrastructure,” Energy Res. Soc. Sci., vol. 3, pp. 152160, Sep. 2014, doi:
[80] P. Lyons, “Challenges: Nuclear power today and megawatt size
reactors,” presented at the Workshop on Safe and Secure Megawatt-Size
Nuclear Power Workshop, Mar. 2016, Accessed: Jul. 23, 2018. [Online].
[81] EPI, “Economic and employment impacts of small modular
reactors,” Energy Policy Institute, Boise, Idaho, Jun. 2010.
[82] M. Bowen, “Enabling nuclear innovation: Leading on SMRs,”
Nuclear Innovation Alliance, Oct. 2017. Accessed: Dec. 30, 2020.
[Online]. Available:
[83] Expert Finance Working Group on Small Reactors, “Market
framework for financing small nuclear,” Department for Business, Energy
& Industrial Strategy, London, 2018. Accessed: Jun. 10, 2019. [Online].
[84] Z. Kis, N. Pandya, and R. H. E. M. Koppelaar, “Electricity
generation technologies: Comparison of materials use, energy return on
investment, jobs creation and CO2 emissions reduction,” Energy Policy,
vol. 120, pp. 144157, Sep. 2018, doi: 10.1016/j.enpol.2018.05.033.
[85] M. Wei, S. Patadia, and D. M. Kammen, “Putting renewables
and energy efficiency to work: How many jobs can the clean energy
industry generate in the US?,” Energy Policy, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 919931,
Feb. 2010, doi: 10.1016/j.enpol.2009.10.044.
[86] E. Teller, M. Ishikawa, and L. Wood, “Completely automated
nuclear reactors for long-term operation,” Lawrence Livermore National
Lab., UCRL-JC--122708, 1996. Accessed: Dec. 30, 2020. [Online].
[87] R. Carper and S. D. Schmid, “The little reactor that could?,”
Issues in Science and Technology, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 8289, 2011.
[88] Oklo, “Aurora environmental reportCombined license
stage,” Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Rockville, MD, 2020. Accessed:
Dec. 17, 2020. [Online]. Available:
[89] BLS, “Nuclear power reactor operators,” U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics, Jul. 06, 2020.
(accessed Dec. 30, 2020).
[90] Lazard, “Lazard's levelized cost of energy-Version 14.0,”
Lazard, New York, Oct. 2020. Accessed: Dec. 30, 2020. [Online].
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. For more information, see
This article has been accepted for publication in a future issue of this journal, but has not been fully edited. Content may change prior to final publication. Citation information: DOI
10.1109/ACCESS.2021.3064948, IEEE Access
VOLUME XX, 2021 9
[91] G. Locatelli, S. Boarin, A. Fiordaliso, and M. E. Ricotti, “Load
following of Small Modular Reactors (SMR) by cogeneration of hydrogen:
A techno-economic analysis,” Energy, vol. 148, pp. 494505, Apr. 2018,
doi: 10.1016/
[92] D. Lee, “B&W mPowerTM program,” presented at the IAEA
SMR Technology Workshop, Vienna, Austria, Dec. 2011, [Online].
[93] J. Surina and M. McGough, “The NuScale value proposition:
Simple, safe, economic,” presented at the Platts, Mandarin Oriental Hotel,
Washington, DC, Feb. 18, 2015, Accessed: Mar. 27, 2019. [Online].
[94] D. T. Ingersoll, C. Colbert, Z. Houghton, R. Snuggerud, J. W.
Gaston, and M. Empey, “Can nuclear power and renewables be friends?,”
presented at the 2015 International Congress on Advances in Nuclear
Power Plants, Nice, France, May 2015, Accessed: Apr. 20, 2020. [Online].
[95] NEA, “Technical and economic aspects of load following with
nuclear power plants,” Nuclear Energy Agency, OECD and International
Atomic Energy Agency, Paris, 2011.
[96] J. Persson et al., “Additional costs for load-following nuclear
power plants: Experiences from Swedish, Finnish, German, and French
nuclear power plants,” Elforsk, Stockholm, Rapport 12.71, 2012.
[97] S. Kim, Y.-D. Hwang, T. Konishi, and H. Hastowo, “A
preliminary economic feasibility assessment of nuclear desalination in
Madura Island,” Int. J. Nucl. Desalination, vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 466476,
2005, doi: 10.1504/IJND.2005.007017.
[98] G. Locatelli, S. Boarin, F. Pellegrino, and M. E. Ricotti, “Load
following with Small Modular Reactors (SMR): A real options analysis,”
Energy, vol. 80, pp. 4154, Feb. 2015, doi: 10.1016/
[99] D. T. Ingersoll, Z. J. Houghton, R. Bromm, and C. Desportes,
“NuScale small modular reactor for Co-generation of electricity and
water,” Desalination, vol. 340, pp. 8493, May 2014, doi:
[100] X. Yan et al., “A small modular reactor design for multiple
energy applications: HTR50S,” Nucl. Eng. Technol., vol. 45, no. 3, pp.
401414, Jun. 2013, doi: 10.5516/NET.10.2012.070.
[101] F. Calise, F. L. Cappiello, R. Vanoli, and M. Vicidomini,
“Economic assessment of renewable energy systems integrating
photovoltaic panels, seawater desalination and water storage,” Appl.
Energy, vol. 253, p. 113575, Nov. 2019, doi:
[102] A. Alkaisi, R. Mossad, and A. Sharifian-Barforoush, “A review
of the water desalination systems integrated with renewable energy,”
Energy Procedia, vol. 110, pp. 268274, Mar. 2017, doi:
[103] T. S. Uyar and D. Beşikci, “Integration of hydrogen energy
systems into renewable energy systems for better design of 100%
renewable energy communities,” Int. J. Hydrog. Energy, vol. 42, no. 4, pp.
24532456, Jan. 2017, doi: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2016.09.086.
[104] G. Glenk and S. Reichelstein, “Economics of converting
renewable power to hydrogen,” Nat. Energy, vol. 4, no. 3, Art. no. 3, Mar.
2019, doi: 10.1038/s41560-019-0326-1.
[105] V. G. Gude, N. Nirmalakhandan, and S. Deng, “Desalination
using solar energy: Towards sustainability,” Energy, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 78
85, 2011, doi: 10.1016/
[106] N. Ghorbani, A. Aghahosseini, and C. Breyer, “Assessment of
a cost-optimal power system fully based on renewable energy for Iran by
2050 Achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions and overcoming the
water crisis,” Renew. Energy, vol. 146, pp. 125148, Feb. 2020, doi:
[107] A. Ahmad and M. V. Ramana, “Too costly to matter:
Economics of nuclear power for Saudi Arabia,” Energy, vol. 69, pp. 682
694, May 2014, doi: 10.1016/
[108] A. Cho, “Several U.S. utilities back out of deal to build novel
nuclear power plant,” Science, Nov. 04, 2020.
[109] S. Patel, “Shakeup for 720-mw nuclear SMR project as more
cities withdraw participation,” Power Magazine, Oct. 29, 2020.
[110] M. V. Ramana, “Is nuclear power Utah’s future? Red flags
raise doubt,” Deseret News, Oct. 27, 2020.
[111] M. V. Ramana and A. Ahmad, “Wishful thinking and real
problems: Small modular reactors, planning constraints, and nuclear power
in Jordan,” Energy Policy, vol. 93, pp. 236245, 2016.
[112] M. V. Ramana and P. Agyapong, “Thinking big? Ghana, small
reactors, and nuclear power,” Energy Res. Soc. Sci., vol. 21, pp. 101113,
Nov. 2016, doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2016.07.001.
[113] B. K. Cogswell, N. Siahaan, F. Siera R, M. V. Ramana, and R.
Tanter, “Nuclear power and small modular reactors in Indonesia: Potential
and challenges,” Indonesian Institute for Energy Economics and Nautilus
Institute for Security and Sustainability, Jakarta, Indonesia and Berkeley,
CA, USA, Apr. 2017. Accessed: Apr. 29, 2017. [Online]. Available:
[114] S. Froese, N. C. Kunz, and M. V. Ramana, “Too small to be
viable? The potential market for small modular reactors in mining and
remote communities in Canada,” Energy Policy, vol. 144, p. 111587,
2020, doi: 10.1016/j.enpol.2020.111587.
[115] IAEA, “Status of small reactor designs without on-site
refuelling,” International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Nuclear Energy
Series IAEA-TECDOC-1536, 2007.
[116] Economist, “A new dawn for nuclear power?,” The Economist,
May 17, 2001.
[117] A. Glaser, L. B. Hopkins, and M. V. Ramana, “Resource
requirements and proliferation risks associated with small modular
reactors,” Nucl. Technol., vol. 184, pp. 121129, 2013.
[118] H. Feiveson, Z. Mian, M. V. Ramana, and F. Von Hippel,
Managing spent fuel from nuclear power reactors: Experience and lessons
from around the world,” International Panel on Fissile Materials,
Princeton, 2011.
[119] L. Krall and A. MacFarlane, “Burning waste or playing with
fire? Waste management considerations for non-traditional reactors,”
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Aug. 31, 2018.
[120] M. V. Ramana and F. Von Hippel, “Plutonium separation in
nuclear power programs: Status, problems, and prospects of civilian
reprocessing around the world,” International Panel on Fissile Materials,
Princeton, 2015. Accessed: Jan. 16, 2017. [Online]. Available:
[121] M. V. Ramana, “Technical and social problems of nuclear
waste,” Wiley Interdiscip. Rev. Energy Environ., vol. 7, no. 4, p. e289,
Aug. 2018, doi: 10.1002/wene.289.
[122] M. V. Ramana and Z. Mian, “One size doesn’t fit all: Social
priorities and technical conflicts for small modular reactors,” Energy Res.
Soc. Sci., vol. 2, pp. 115124, Jun. 2014, doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2014.04.015.
[123] F. Boyse, A. Causevic, E. Duwe, and M. Orthofer, “Sunshine
for mines: Implementing renewable energy for off-grid operations,”
Carbon War Room and The Johns Hopkins University School of
Advanced International Studies, Washington, D. C., 2014. Accessed: Feb.
21, 2021. [Online]. Available:
[124] TUGLIQ Energy Company, “Glencore Raglan mine renewable
electricity smart-grid pilot demonstration,” ecoENERGY Innovation
Initiative, Nunavik, Northern Quebec, 2016. Accessed: Dec. 28, 2019.
[Online]. Available:
[125] NRCAN, “Front end engineering design study (feed) of
Xstrata’s Raglan renewable electricity micro-grid & smart-grid pilot
demonstration,” Natural Resources Canada, Aug. 15, 2018.
programs/eii/16152 (accessed Jun. 01, 2019).
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. For more information, see
This article has been accepted for publication in a future issue of this journal, but has not been fully edited. Content may change prior to final publication. Citation information: DOI
10.1109/ACCESS.2021.3064948, IEEE Access
VOLUME XX, 2021 9
M. V. Ramana received the Ph. D. degree in
theoretical physics from Boston University in 1995.
He has held post-doctoral positions at the University
of Toronto and the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. He has held various positions at
Princeton University’s Program in Science and
Global Security from 1998 to 2004 and again from
2009 to 2016. Between 2004 and 2009, he was
Fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in
Environment and Development, Bangalore, India.
Since 2017 he is the Simons Chair in Disarmament,
Global and Human Security and Director of the Liu
Institute for Global Issues at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs,
University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. In 2020-21, he is a
scholar at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, Vancouver. He is
a member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials, the International
Nuclear Risk Assessment Group, and is part of the group that produces the
annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report. He is the author of The Power
of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India (Penguin Books, 2012) and
co-editor of Prisoners of the Nuclear Dream (Orient Longman, 2003). He
is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (2003) and a
Leo Szilard Award from the American Physical Society (2014). In 2017-18,
he was chosen as a Distinguished Lecturer by the Sigma Xi Society.
... Cost of electricity might be expected to be higher than that for large reactors, because of loss of economies of scale. For industrial plant in general, construction costs per unit of output rise much more slowly with larger plant size [33]. However, modelled results [53] indicate that costs per MW would be similar to conventional reactors, even considering the cost overruns these have often experienced. ...
... The South Carolina plant was abandoned in 2017 after $9 billion expenditure. The initial cost estimate for the Georgia plant was $14 billion with a 2016-2017 start-up date, but a recent cost estimate is $29 billion, and is still under construction in 2021 [33]. ...
Full-text available
Nuclear energy currently accounts for a declining share of global electricity, but it is possible that rising concerns about global climate change and China's ambitious nuclear program could reverse this trend. This review attempts to assess the global future of nuclear power, showing how the optimistic forecasts in the early days of nuclear power have been replaced by far more modest forecasts. The review first discusses the controversies surrounding nuclear power. It then briefly examines the prospects for three proposed reactors of the future: Small Modular Reactors; Generation IV breeder reactors; fusion reactors. It finally discusses the social and political context for nuclear power, both today and in the future.
... Stakeholders emphasize the term "modular" because the approach to its construction is modularized, allowing it to be fabricated in parts at the factory and assembled in situ. These reactors are well known for being cost effective, efficient to manufacture, and stable baseload power [18] [19].Previous research studies have been conducted to assess the constraints and feasibility of implementing SMR in developing countries, following all applicable requirements [20] [21]and it has been determined that it is an ideal fit, though for both developed and developing countries. In addition, the NPG has identified four potential sites for Ghana's first nuclear power plant, of which the preferred site will be selected by the end of 2022, and prior to that the analysis of historical data in all four sites is still in progress. ...
Full-text available
Hydro and thermal power plants have been Ghana's two main sources of energy generation for many years, but due to deficiencies in electricity supply and demand, electricity access has remained a major concern among stakeholders. The pursuit for a commercial nuclear power plant had been inactive until 2006 and 2007 when Ghana experienced a major electricity crisis, the country decided to incorporate nuclear power into its energy mix as a possible solution to the electricity crisis. Ghana reports strong vendor interest in its nuclear plan, though there are several infrastructural issues to be addressed prior to the nuclear power implementation. The development of the appropriate environment and infrastructure for deployment of a nuclear power plant is robust and challenging especially for a developing country like Ghana. This work emphasizes on the strength and opportunity aspects associated with the current electricity issues and solutions identified. Through a systems engineering lens, these aspects are presented in this research work by adopting a V-model concept, to simply visualize the research finding's verification and validation process.
... Kuznetsov pointed to similar factors: reducing complexity, sizing the reactor for transportability, off-site refueling, multi-module sites, and higher thermal efficiencies [5]. However, some studies question the cost reduction potential [6] and technological advantages of SMRs [7]. ...
The first-of-a-kind (FOAK) nuclear plants built in the last 20 years are 2X over budget and schedule in the US and some European countries. One of the nuclear industry's proposed remedies is the small modular reactor (SMR). SMR designs leverage five factors to be more economically competitive than large reactors: 1) multiple units; 2) increased factory production and learning; 3) reduced construction schedules; 4) plant design simplification and 5) unit timing. There are currently no bottom-up studies that quantitatively account for these factors and compare different near-term light water reactor SMRs with Gen III + large plants. This work presents a nuclear plant cost estimating methodology using a detailed bottom-up approach for over 200 structures, systems, and components. The results compare relative costs for two large pressurized water reactors, one with active safety and one with passive safety, to two SMR designs, one with multiple reactor power modules and one with a single reactor module. Passive safety systems showed noticeable savings at both the large and small-scale reactors. The power uprating of an SMR by 20% resulted in ∼15% savings in the overnight unit capital cost. Overall, if built by an inexperienced vendor and work force, the two SMRs' overnight costs were higher than large reactors, since significant on-site labor still remains while losing economy of scale. However, the single-unit SMR had significantly less total person-hours of onsite labor, and if built by an experienced workforce, it could avoid cost-overrun risks associated with megaprojects.
... 15 Meanwhile, intense enthusiasm for entirely untested Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) continues despite these technologies being irrelevant for rapid climate action and almost certainly more expensive than conventional reactors. 16 As we have documented, 17 this intense enthusiasm is particularly odd by comparison with a country like Germany, which is phasing out nuclear power. The UK has a far more abundant and cost-effective renewable resource and a nuclear industry that performs particularly poorly when compared with Germany and other countries. ...
Full-text available
At a time when such discussions are muted in academic enquiry, media coverage and wider energy policy, Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) have provided crucial analysis of the role that militaries play in influencing the direction and speed of low carbon transitions. 1 Indeed it is remarkable given the central role that war and the military have played in past energy transitions and how large global military spending continues to be, 2 that there seem only such marginal levels of academic curiosity regarding how contemporary energy system dynamics might be shaped by military imperatives. There is tendency in contemporary analysis of 'sustainability transitions' for example, to treat energy and other 'systems' as discrete and bounded, governed by their own internal properties and seemingly disconnected from wider dynamics. This leaves questions of how military ambitions shape the direction of energy policy trajectories almost entirely unaddressed. A key example of these tendencies can be seen in conventional energy policy analysis of UK commitments to new nuclear power, the UK being one of the few OECD countries still enthusiastically pursuing the technology. As we discuss below, given the now clear disadvantages of new nuclear compared to renewables, this commitment does not make sense when considered simply within the confines of energy policy rationales. What we have outlined through research spanning several years, is that a key driver of the UK's intense enthusiasm for new nuclear reactors stems from elite imperatives to sustain the capabilities, skills, and supply chain activities necessary for Britain to build, maintain, and operate the nuclear propelled submarines that underpin its nuclear weapons system. In other words, civil nuclear channels a subsidy towards military nuclear activities. At a time when the UK Government seeks to 'build back better' following the COVID-19 pandemic and sees nuclear as playing a role in this, our analysis holds potentially significant implications for the UK's climate action, for discussions concerning the health of British democracy-and for the building of a more peaceful and less militarised world. The oddity of UK nuclear commitments We are currently living through momentous and global shifts in energy systems. Over the past decade, renewables have surpassed official expectations with rapid construction and plummeting costs. Renewables now increasingly offer the cheapest energy sources worldwide. 3 As highlighted by recent Lazard data, cost advantages of renewables over new nuclear now typically dwarf costs of managing intermittency. 4 Costs of batteries and other storage and grid management options are also declining rapidly. 5 Between 2010-2019 wind costs fell globally by 70% and solar costs by 89%. 4 Nuclear costs on the other hand, have risen by 26% over the past decade. 4 Indeed, global nuclear new build continues to stagnate. 6 is plagued by delays and cost overruns. 6 with leading nuclear companies face bankruptcy or potential insolvency. 7 Some are withdrawing entirely from nuclear investment, because it is no longer After speaking at SGR's 'Transition Now' conference, Phil Johnstone teams up with Andy Stirling, both of the University of Sussex, to reveal even more evidence of the unwelcome institutional links of nuclear energy. > >
Globally, more than 740 million people live on islands which are often seen as ideal environments for the development of renewable energy systems. Hereby, they play the role to demonstrate technical solutions as well as political transition pathways of energy systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The growing number of articles on 100% renewable energy systems on islands is analyzed with a focus on technical solutions for transition pathways. Since the first “100% renewable energy systems on islands”‐article in a scientific journal in 2004, 97 articles handling 100% renewable energy systems on small islands were published and are reviewed in this article. In addition, a review on 100% renewable energy systems on bigger island states is added. Results underline that solar PV as well as wind are the main technologies regarding 100% RES on islands. Not only for the use of biomass but for all RES area limitation on islands needs to be taken more seriously, based on full energy system studies and respective area demand. Furthermore, it is shown that there is still not the same common sense in the design approach including and starting at the energy needs as well as on multi‐sectoral approach. The consideration of maritime transport, aviation, cooling demands, and water systems beyond seawater desalination is only poorly considered in existing studies. Future research should also focus on developing pathways to transform the existing conventional infrastructure stepwise into a fully renewable system regarding also the interconnections with the mainland and neighboring islands. This article is categorized under: Policy and Economics > Green Economics and Financing Energy Systems Economics > Economics and Policy Energy Systems Analysis > Economics and Policy Energy Systems Analysis > Systems and Infrastructure Ninety‐seven articles handling 100% renewable energy systems on small islands are reviewed, most of them belonging to Europe while further regions are underrepresented in scientific literature.
Full-text available
The interest toward Small Modular nuclear Reactors (SMRs) is growing, and the economic competitiveness of SMRs versus large reactors is a key topic. Leveraging a systematic literature review, this paper firstly provides an overview of “what we know” and “what we do not know” about the economics and finance of SMRs. Secondly, the paper develops a research agenda. Several documents discuss the economics of SMRs, highlighting how the size is not the only factor to consider in the comparison; remarkably, other factors (co-siting economies, modularisation, modularity, construction time, etc.) are relevant. The vast majority of the literature focuses on economic and financial performance indicators (e.g. Levelized Cost of Electricity, Net Present Value, and Internal Rate of Return) and SMR capital cost. Remarkably, very few documents deal with operating and decommissioning costs or take a programme (and its financing) rather than a “single project/plant/site” perspective. Furthermore, there is a gap in knowledge about the cost-benefit analysis of the “modular construction” and SMR decommissioning.
Full-text available
Transition of Iran's power system from 2015 to 2050 through three scenarios was modelled. Two scenarios present a transition pathway towards a fully renewable run power system with different involved sectors (power only, power sector coupled with desalination and non-energetic gas sectors). The third scenario is based on the country's current policies. The energy model performs an hourly resolution to guarantee meeting energy demand for every hour of the whole year. It is found that renewable energy resources in Iran can satisfy 625 TWh of power sector demand in 2050. Further, it is technically and economically feasible that electricity demand for supplying 101 million m³ desalinated water and 249 TWhLHV synthetic natural gas for non-energetic industrial gas demand can be supplied via renewable resources. A 100% renewable power system with 54 €/MWhel levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) is more cost-effective than the current power system in Iran with 88.3 €/MWhel LCOE in 2015. LCOE of the system can decrease further and reach to 41.3 €/MWhel in 2050 via sector coupling. On the other hand, the current policies of the country lead to an inefficient power system with a LCOE of 128 €/MWhel and 188 Mt/a emitted CO2 in 2050.
Full-text available
The recent sharp decline in the cost of renewable energy suggests that the production of hydrogen from renewable power through a power-to-gas process might become more economical. Here we examine this alternative from the perspective of an investor who considers a hybrid energy system that combines renewable power with an efficiently sized power-to-gas facility. The available capacity can be optimized in real time to take advantage of fluctuations in electricity prices and intermittent renewable power generation. We apply our model to the current environment in both Germany and Texas and find that renewable hydrogen is already cost competitive in niche applications (€3.23 kg⁻¹), although not yet for industrial-scale supply. This conclusion, however, is projected to change within a decade (€2.50 kg⁻¹) provided recent market trends continue in the coming years. >>> Full paper access:
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) based on established light-water technology have gained a lot of attention from the nuclear industry; however, the potential that SMRs have to reduce the cost of nuclear construction has been under-studied. Modularisation is a cost reducing mechanism where a SMR power plant is subdivided into smaller units, or modules. These modules can be produced offsite in a controlled environment, potentially offering cost reductions that offset their apparently higher capital costs. This paper will investigate the effects modularisation and standardisation might have on SMR capital costs. Modularisation and standardisation not only reduce direct and indirect costs, respectively, but also enable activation of other cost-reducing mechanisms, such as shifting construction work from site to a factory, transferring learning between tasks, and achieving economies of multiples. It will show that constructing a SMR using the same methods as current large reactors is not economically feasible and will demonstrate how modularisation reduces SMR capital costs. The primary constraints on module size are imposed by weight and height transport limitations, linking reactor size to ease of modularisation. This leads to an analysis of which SMR components and structures should be targeted for modularisation in order to achieve optimal cost benefits.
Full-text available
Nuclear energy-producing nations are almost universally experiencing delays in the commissioning of the geologic repositories needed for the long-term isolation of spent fuel and other high-level wastes from the human environment. Despite these problems, expert panels have repeatedly determined that geologic disposal is necessary, regardless of whether advanced reactors to support a “closed” nuclear fuel cycle become available. Still, advanced reactor developers are receiving substantial funding on the pretense that extraordinary waste management benefits can be reaped through adoption of these technologies. Here, the authors describe why molten salt reactors and sodium-cooled fast reactors – due to the unusual chemical compositions of their fuels – will actually exacerbate spent fuel storage and disposal issues. Before these reactors are licensed, policymakers must determine the implications of metal- and salt-based fuels vis a vis the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and the Continued Storage Rule.
Small modular reactors have been proposed as an alternative energy supply option for electrified processes in remote mining projects and communities in Canada, which currently have a high reliance on diesel fuel generators. This paper examines the size of this potential market for SMRs by quantifying the electricity demand for remote mining projects, late-stage exploration projects, and remote communities that are not connected to the central electricity grid. The paper also calculates the Levelized Cost Of Energy for SMRs and other energy alternatives including diesel, solar, wind, and a diesel-wind hybrid option. The analysis shows that the potential market for SMRs in Canada is currently too small to justify investment in manufacturing facilities for SMR construction and the cost of generating electricity using SMRs is significantly higher than the corresponding costs of electricity generation using diesel, wind, solar, or some combination thereof. These results suggest that SMRs will be too expensive for these proposed first-mover markets for SMRs in Canada and that there will not be a sufficient market to justify investing in manufacturing facilities for SMRs.
This paper presents a novel methodology for the management of the solar energy and seawater desalination, using water storage systems. The investigated plant includes photovoltaic panels, supplying a reverse osmosis unit for freshwater production. This novel methodology, based on the use of a water storage basin, allows one to avoid electric storage systems, determining a stable water production and maximizing the water self-consumption. The water storage basin allows one to obtain a significantly different trend of the freshwater availability with respect to the photovoltaic production, mainly occurring during the central hours of the day. The plant is dynamically simulated in TRNSYS environment. The proposed plant is assumed to operate in small Mediterranean islands, rich in solar energy and seawater availability, featured by a scarce freshwater availability and dramatically high freshwater costs. As main case study, Pantelleria Island (South Italy) is selected. The system energy performance is calculated in detail implementing accurate models for all the system components. Special control strategies are implemented in order to maximize the system profitability, evaluated by considering both capital and operating costs. The developed system is extremely profitable: the achieved payback period is about 1.3 years, mainly due to high capital cost of freshwater in the reference scenario. A remarkable water saving equal to 80% is obtained, also reducing the dependency of the Island from the water transported by the tank ships. For the selected case study, the sensitivity analyses suggest adopting a solar field area equal to 6436 m², avoiding an increase of the water storage basin and of the maximum and minimum operating pressures of the reverse osmosis unit single train.
Despite decades of effort, the nuclear industry does not yet have a working solution for managing spent fuel and high level waste, the most radioactive products generated by nuclear power plants. Although many scientific and technical bodies have endorsed geological disposal as the preferred solution to this problem, there remain significant uncertainties about the long-term performance of repositories and behavior of the nuclear wastes to be stored in these facilities. Apart from a minority of countries, most countries have not chosen any sites for a repository. Further concerns about the long-term safety of repositories arise from the experiences of failures and accidents at pilot facilities. One reason for the absence of operating repositories decades after they were first proposed is widespread public opposition to such facilities. Polls have revealed that substantial majorities of people consider nuclear waste with dread and do not approve plans to dispose of radioactive wastes near them, or, often, far away either. Nuclear power advocates have typically dismissed public concerns as resulting from a lack of understanding of scientific facts but this explanation does not withstand scrutiny. Technical approaches to dealing with nuclear waste, such as reprocessing of spent fuel, mischaracterize the social concerns and therefore do not help gain public acceptance. Concern about radioactive waste has contributed to the failure of the propaganda effort by the nuclear industry to market nuclear power as a solution to climate change. The absence of a solution to waste negatively affects the future expansion of nuclear energy.