Letter To The Editor: Comparison Of SMR With Other Technologies

ErgoTech, Los Alamos
While I applaud the DPU for looking for innovative ways to meet the community goal of carbon-neutral electrical generation I’m a little disappointed that the review of UAMPS small scale nuclear reactor SMR failed to compare the cost to the tax payers of other options.
At a minimum I would have expected these costs to be included in the County Council Agenda Packet when asking the councilors to make a decision on this topic.

The article by Mr. Glasco in the Post (https://www.ladailypost.com/content/glasco-carbon-free-power-project) suggests that for 40 years, the cost of power will be $65/MWh, with the possibility of a decrease after that. The facility is not expected to be ready until at least 2027 and so a reasonable person should question accuracy of this estimate. 

What new technology been brought on-line and under-budgets? Cost and time overruns are the norm in a project such as this. Indeed, the NuScale press release (https://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/small-modular-reactors/nuscale-targets-smr-cost-below-90mwh-wider-deployment) suggests that $90/MWh may be a more realistic target.

Other, more-mature, carbon-free solutions are now benefiting from cost savings due to scale of installation. In 2017, utility scale installation of wind and solar with storage are being quoted with a median price of less than $40/MWh (https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/Y03Nyg0lZGBrZ8wqDzXSjsSCp50=/1000×0/filters:no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/10041063/Xcel_Solicitation_Report_pdf.jpg)

While solar and wind prices have been decreasing steadily, the challenge has been the variability of these options. Storage now also seems to be benefiting from scale and technology changes making it possibly cost effective even for a base load. Clearly considerable storage would be required, but perhaps we are in a position to use our 62MWh’s of hydroelectric generation on the fairly limited number of occasions where other renewable resources are not available and storage exhausted.

Initial research seems to point to UAMPS SMR being a bad deal – I cannot see how, with the still rapidly decreasing cost of wind, solar and storage even $65/MWh will appear anything other than an outrageously bad deal for the consumers in Los Alamos over the 40 years we’re committed to it. However, I am, by no means an expert and would have liked to see the comparisons created by experts, such as Mr. Glasco and included in the analysis of the SMR approach.