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Do Nuclear SMRs Just Divert Renewable Energy Resources?

Hopes that “small modular reactors” (SMRs) will save the dying nuclear power industry in the U.S. and avert climate change are unfounded—and scaling up SMRs in the U.S. will likely choke off funding and policies that have allowed renewable energy to expand at record levels. This according to a new report issued from nuclear financing expert Dr. Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School.

Cooper says the ongoing collapse of nuclear power in the U.S. is readily apparent in the failure to launch 90% of “nuclear renaissance” reactors, delays and cost overruns for those that got started, the cancellation of projects to increase the capacity of existing reactors, and the early retirement of aging reactors.

He makes the case that nuclear power is among the least attractive climate change policy options (too costly, too slow, and too uncertain) and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable. Cooper argues that pursuing nuclear power as a focal point of climate policy diverts economic resources and policy development from critically important efforts to accelerate the deployment of solutions that are much more attractive – less costly, less risky, more environmentally benign. 

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