SMALL MODULAR NUCLEAR REACTORS: ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY ASSESSMENT

UoM administered thesis: Phd

Abstract

In order to provide decision and policy makers with the necessary tools to assess diverse sustainable energy futures, a set of 30 sustainable energy supply indicators was brought together based on the fundamentals of the so-called 'three pillars of sustainable development' - economic, social and environmental. Similarly, an innovative extra set of 10 indicators was created solely to evaluate the attractiveness of investing in a particular energy technology as it was recognised that for energy technologies to be available their investment projects have to be sufficiently attractive to justify doing so. Later on, upon utilisation of a refined cost-capacity estimation technique, the economics of near term Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) were characterised assuming a UK context. In addition, evidence that economies of scale are only piecewise valid for nuclear technologies was found. Therefore, using a new cost escalation by parts approach, the special case of Micro Nuclear Reactor (MNR) economics was also investigated. As a result, the attractiveness of investment and the techno-economic sustainability indicators of near term SMRs and MNRs were evaluated in a UK context and compared to those of typical large scale light water reactors in a similar context. On one hand, it was found that if SMRs are to be available it is most likely going to be in the form of multiple reactor configurations rather than single one-by-one cases. Results suggest that, if no further cost reductions are demonstrated, single SMRs may only be a more attractive investment than large reactors if suitability for remote locations and/or size of investment are a limitation. On the other hand, acknowledging that they are prone to compete in a different market niche, single MNRs were identified as a potential investment opportunity for large non-domestic electricity consumers, especially for those requiring heat and power. Results indicate that the cost of electricity generated by MNRs could be similar to the price of electricity currently paid by large individual firms. Thus, excluding MNRs which are intended to compete in a different market, the attractiveness of investment of near term SMRs and typical large scale light water reactors was found to be directly proportional to their size or capacity and to improve with multiple reactor configurations. In contrast, the techno-economic sustainability of the three nuclear energy technologies investigated was found to be inversely proportional to their size or capacity.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date31 Dec 2021