Modular Nuclear Reactors Delayed for a Decade

3 minute Zeihan video.

Demographics and high cost of capital are the reasons he sez.

Zeihan brings up the age of the current US reactor providing US base load.
It seems the US DOE has no problem renewing licenses for older US reactors for a period of 20 years.

the U.S. fleet of nuclear power plants will likely run for another 50 or even 70 years before it is retired

According to Statista there are 92 US nuclear reactors.
6-51+ years old
41-41-50 years old
42-31-40 years old
2-21-30 years old
1-less than 10 years old


And we should be reminded that France has a large number of nuclear plants but has had reliability problems recently due to inadequate maintenance.

Maintenance has to be part of the issue.


A few other news items…

From Sweden, November 17

From the link:
The government has instructed the National Debt Office to take preparatory measures to be able to issue government credit guarantees for investments in new nuclear power. The National Debt Office must assist the Ministry of Climate and Business in the work of designing the detailed regulations for the credit guarantees. As part of the assignment, the National Debt Office must make an assessment of how credit guarantees for investments in new nuclear power affect the risk in the combined guarantee portfolio.

Thirdly, the new policy will make it possible for new nuclear power with a total output of at least 2500 MWe to be brought online by 2035 at the latest.

More nuclear expansion is envisioned out to 2045.

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From France, November 28

From the link:
The company is working on the construction of six new EPR2 reactors in France, two new EPRs in Britain at the Sizewell site, as well as projects in India, the Czech Republic and Poland.

“We are counting on an accelerated rate of construction capacity for large reactors to (build on) what we have today, that is to say one or two per decade, (…) and gradually increase to one or even 1.5 per year,” Remont told reporters at the event.

The EPR-2 is an adaptation of the original EPR design. It is supposedly easier to build, and therefore less costly. EPRs are currently in operation in China and Finland.

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From Poland, November 28

From the link:
Poland has issued a decision-in-principle for the country’s second large-scale commercial nuclear power station, with two South Korea-supplied APR1400 reactors planned for a site to the west of the capital Warsaw.

The decision-in-principle came from the Ministry of Climate and Environment and is formal confirmation that the company’s investment project is in line with the public interest and state policies including energy policy.

This is the second Polish nuclear project announced. The first is a Westinghouse AP1000, of similar design to those operating in China, as well as the Vogtle plants in Georgia, US. The South Koreans were successful in building four large nuclear plants in the United Arab Emirates, so it makes sense the Poles would be interested in their expertise and technology.

  • Pete

France has only one EPR reactor in construction and no EPR2 reactors or any other type of reactor in construction.
India has no EPR reactors in construction.
Czech Republic and Poland have no nuclear reactors of any kind in construction.


OMG LMAO…love it.

People in the industry protect their pensions. They will say anything.

Talking of pensions…woops…

I owned some WHOOPS bonds back in the 1980s. But I got WHOOPS 2, which was federally insured. All good.

Semantics? Does “working on” indicate construction in process or merely planning and permitting in the works?


Everything in the world has a plan. Having a plan is worthless. If that is all it is.

Anticipation has always been part of investing. What are the odds they will deliver on those plans?

Sure, signed contracts are more reliable.

If most of the Pentagon plans which were for WW III had happened…we’d have fought WW III 2000 times by now.

Those plans were made not to be used.

It is more interesting how humans do not follow plans.

From last year…

Then, from this year…

From the article:
The French government now knows where it plans to build each of the next six EPR-2 reactors. Le Bugey, in eastern France, was the latest site chosen.

The French government has now mapped out its new nuclear power plants as part of its quest for low-carbon electricity. It had identified two locations – Penly, in Normandy, and Gravelines, also in France – for six future high-power reactors. The third location is now known: Two reactors will be built in Le Bugey, in eastern France. It was competing with Triscastin, further south, following a proposal from state-owned electricity giant EDF. The Elysée announced the decision at the end of a nuclear policy council convened by French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday, July 19.

  • Pete
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50/50 chance of delivering on those plans. Many of the plans are studying the economics and regulatory requirements to build these nuclear plants.

I’m skeptical too, but for different reasons. For fundamental reasons, any kind of thermal generator is more efficient at larger scales. Small reactors have been around since the 1950s, but they are super expensive. The idea behind SMRs is you can manufacture the components off-site assembly line style and get cost reduction that way.

So far, so good. But they aren’t being manufactured at scale. So even with about $1.5 billion in direct subsidies, plus the IRA’s producer price credit, NuScale was still way too expensive. It probably needs to be about a third the cost, and that’s a heavy lift to make up on the manufacturing end.

Other SMR designs use highly enriched uranium, of which there is no commercial source in the US. That’s a heavy lift too.

I suspect it would take a multi-national consortium dedicated to producing SMRs at scale to make them feasible. Even then there is no guarantee.

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Be careful with your terms. Many Navy reactors use highly enriched uranium, but those are not commercial plants. The Navy reactors need lots of reactivity, so they can quickly go from dead still to full speed and back to dead still, if necessary. The Navy also likes to go thirty or more years between refuelings for each ship, so that is another advantage of HEU. However, commercial power plants do not use HEU, as the IAEA frowns upon the idea, for proliferation reasons, I believe.

Some SMR designs will use High Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU), which is supposed to be between 5% and 20% U-235, and there is indeed now a commercial source in the US.

Urenco is also expanding its uranium enrichment plant in New Mexico, which could be used for HALEU production, if the future demand is there.

  • Pete

I guess the executives at Holtec haven’t watched the Zeihan video that SMR development is supposed to be dead.

December 5, 2023

From the link…
The company said it is aiming to file a construction permit application for the two Palisades SMRs in 2026 with the first SMR-300 plant targeted for mid-2030, subject to regulatory reviews and oversight.

“Siting the first two SMR-300 units at Palisades eliminates the delays associated with erecting the plant at an undeveloped property and confers the many benefits of synergy that accrue from the presence of a co-located operating plant - including shared infrastructure and operational expertise, enhancements to grid stability, and resource optimisation,” Holtec CEO Kris Singh said. “By building at our own site with our own credit and our own at-risk funds, we hope to deliver the dual-unit SMR-300 plant within schedule and budget,” he added.

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A few disadvantages for this Holtec project:

  1. Holtec does not yet have an approved NRC design certification for their SMR. They are currently going through that process with the NRC. The current design in review is for a 160 MWe plant, not the 300 MWe plant referenced in the link. NuScale is currently upgrading their design, as well. The NuScale plant is approved for 50 MWe maximum power, and they are now in the process of upgrading that to a 77 MWe plant. It looks as though Holtec is taking a similar approach.

  2. Holtec, as a company, is a newcomer as a nuclear reactor supplier. There aren’t any Holtec brand reactors currently in operation. The company is, however, currently involved in the industry, by designing and building spent nuclear fuel storage containers. Those containers are currently in use at several nuclear power plant locations in the US. This gives Holtec experience in dealing with the NRC and other aspects of the industry that are peculiar to nuclear-related qualifications and procedures.

A few advantages for Holtec:

  1. Holtec plans to build and operate a nuclear power plant of its own design. This is a departure from other nuclear reactor suppliers, who usually sell to clients such as electric utilities. Westinghouse or GE don’t operate the nuclear reactors they design. In contrast to the recent NuScale experience, Holtec doesn’t need subscribers for ownership, which ultimately doomed the Idaho project. They will need customers for the electric power produced, which should be easier to get once the plants are being built.

  2. Each Holtec plant producing 300 MWe is a step up from the 77 MWe of the NuScale design. This might improve the economics for operating a plant. They will be able to generate and sell more electricity per year, even if the original plant cost is slightly or somewhat higher. 300 MWe seems to be the sweet-spot for several of these SMR designs. GE-Hitachi is currently developing its BWRX-300 plant for use in Canada, among other places. Westinghouse recently announced its AP-300 SMR plant, based on AP1000 technology. The TerraPower sodium cooled SMR is supposed to be 345 MWe, which is in the same range.

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I guess the Poles didn’t get the Zeihan memo either. Or perhaps Zeihan doesn’t understand what is actually going on in the industry.

December 8, 2023

  • Pete
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Berf. The knock on Palisades, almost since it started 50-odd years ago, was “the plant where Combustion Engineering learned how not to build a reactor”.


And what was so wrong about it? Palisades had a 72.2% lifetime capacity factor. During its last 10 full years of operation, the plant had an 88% capacity factor. Not too far off the US average. Construction of the plant took about 5 years from start to commercial operation, which would be very short by today’s standards. Why is the original Palisades plant such a failure? And why does that doom Holtec’s plans for building SMRs there?

  • Pete
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Here’s a run down of the issues at Palisades over the years.

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Did we watch the same video?

My interpretation of the video is that he said SMRs won’t happen this decade in the US but according to Zeihan, meeting future energy challenges will almost certainly require nuclear. Therefore, according to him, someone needs to develop SMR technology “very, very soon.”

So it sounds like Holtec agrees with Zeihan that nuclear will be an important component mix and are investing accordingly.

However, the proposed start date of 2030 is the next decade, so it looks like Zeihan is correct on that point thus far.

The title of the YouTube video, “Modular Nuclear Reactors Are Not the Future of Energy”, isn’t very optimistic.

Zeihan does say some positive things about nuclear power, but my biggest problem is he seemed to imply the NuScale Idaho project was the only thing going. From my previous post, obviously it’s not.

Until it was cancelled, the schedule of the Idaho project was to put the first plant in operation in 2029, and that was if everything went well. First-of-a-kind projects are never 100% on time and on-budget. The Holtec project at Palisades right now has a date of 2030, which isn’t too much different than the Idaho plan. The first Darlington BWRX-300 right now has a schedule of 2029 for first power generation. Sure, Darlington is in Canada, just across Lake Ontario from upstate New York, so its fairly close.

A minor point…
Zeihand said in the video, “with a couple of exceptions”, all of the US nuclear plants are more than 50 years old. The average number is more like 42 years for the 93 currently operating reactors.

  • Pete
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