Steven Chu says one of the most promising areas is small modular reactors (SMRs). If we can develop this technology in the U.S. and build these reactors with American workers, we will have a key competitive edge.
Those are some terrific words, but the message loses some of its impact when the numbers are revealed later down the page. In the 2011 budget, the Administration requested just $39 million for a program aimed specifically at small reactors. That amount of money would not even pay for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission costs of reviewing the license for a single nuclear energy system design certification. In an agency whose total budget request is in excess of $28,000 million ($28 billion), a $39 million line item gets lost in the decimal dust
The Department of Energy’s budget request for FY2011 currently includes more than $1,000 million for small, light water reactors whose allowed market is limited to military vessels. It would seem that technologies used in that program could be used as the basis for prototype licenses for systems like the mPower and NuScale in a process that could take far less than 10 years.
The development of small modular reactors could be accelerated by placing them at remote military bases with extra containment so that real world prototypes can be made without the ten year delay.