According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) submitted an application for an early site permit (ESP) for two or more small modular reactor (SMR) modules at the Clinch River Nuclear (CRN) site on May 12, 2016. NRC accepted the application for docketing and detailed technical review on December 30, 2016.  There are a number of problems with SMR modules that should be understood by the public, as the cost in both monetary resources, the environment and human health could be much higher than we want to pay.  Below find a letter written by Don Safer who serves on the Board of the Tennessee Environmental Council and as Know Nuclear Committee Chair for the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club:

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you.

I urge TVA to abandon its unnecessary small modular reactor project immediately.  Nuclear power is neither clean nor green.  Stop Squandering Money and Resources on this latest false hope of the DOE and the nuclear industry.  The current early site permit application process will likely prove to be an exercise in futility as renewable energy generation growth will make smr’s unnecessary long before any are built.

TVA has abandoned at least 13 nuclear reactors, many after billions were wasted.  Much of TVA’s 25-billion-dollar debt is from these dead-end projects.  Please stop wasting ratepayers’ money on nuclear energy.

The economics of small modular reactors do not make sense even with optimistic pre-construction cost projections.  It is impossible to say how much actual spending would exceed these estimates, but it is almost certain to be substantial.  Watts Bar 1 and 2 were originally projected to cost under $700 million, they were completed decades later at an acknowledged cost of over $13 billion.  Watts Bar 2 is currently inoperable due to a structural failure in a 40-year-old steam condenser.  It is unknown when repairs will be completed, but not for months.

The once hyped US smr business is down to one manufacturer with two possible customers, TVA and UAMPS, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems.  In 2009 TVA made a great decision when it withdrew from plans to be the first in the US to build the Westinghouse AP 1000 reactors.  Construction delays and cost overruns have forced Westinghouse into bankruptcy and the VC Summer and Vogtle reactors may never be finished after billions have been spent.

Small modular reactors are too costly, too slow to bring on line, too uncertain, and have a high environmental impact and risk.  Current national high level radioactive waste disposal practices would leave this dangerous waste on site for decades or much longer after final reactor shut-down.

The future belongs to renewable energy.  All trends point in that direction.  The global increase in renewables in 2015 was 63 GW of wind, 50 of solar, 28 of hydroelectric.  Total nuclear capacity is going down, even France is moving away from nuclear power.

TVA should embrace the future and aggressively add renewable generation to speed up the retirement of coal, nuclear and gas facilities.  TVA should partner with the Clean Line Project to lock in 2 cents per kilowatt hour electricity now.  TVA should embrace all forms of solar energy and energy efficiency.

The sooner TVA starts changing course to put renewables first the smoother the transition will be.

– Don Safer

For more information on the Clinch River Nuclear Site Application, click here.

To contact TVA and express your concerns, click here.