US Scheme to Challenge Russian Dominance in Nuclear Energy Faces Major Obstacles – Including an Overreliance on Russia

Back in November, the US Department of State and the Slovak Ministry of Economy co-hosted the inaugural Project Phoenix Workshop and Launch Event in Bratislava.  More than 15 countries from Europe and Eurasia region were there to discuss the goal of building out new nuclear energy capacity – specifically US small nuclear reactors (SMRs) in Eastern Europe and Eurasia.

It is argued that these SMRs differ from larger reactors by requiring less fuel, offering more flexibility in location and having the ability to be prefabricated and shipped. Project Phoenix aims to deploy SMRs in Europe and Eurasia, thereby helping countries eventually turn completely away from Russian energy and nuclear know-how. But there are multiple problems with the US scheme. Here are just a few:

  • The SMR technology is unproven and isn’t cost-effective.
  • The West is dependent on Russia for multiple stages of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Nevertheless, the US is pushing the narrative that the deployment of SMRs will help liberate countries from Putin’s designs for a neo-Soviet empire. The question confronting those Eastern European and Eurasian countries in attendance at the Project Phoenix event is exemplified by Armenia. It draws 40 percent of its energy from its Soviet-era Metsamor nuclear power plant, but has already been issued multiple lifetime extensions. Areg Danagoulian, an associate professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT, taps into the American narrative as he writes on the Armenian decision:

Meanwhile the Armenian government has been busy exploring replacement alternatives, such as possibly US-built small modular reactors (SMRs), seen as a viable replacement. Armenian officials have also entered in discussions with Russia about the possibility of replacing the Soviet-era VVER-440 reactor with the much larger and more modern Russian VVER-1200 design. While the US option is not easy—mainly because of the lack of readiness of most SMR designs—the Russian option is particularly fraught. Armenia is reluctant to further increase its energy dependence on Russia, given Putin’s campaign of neo-Soviet expansionism. This is further exacerbated by the technical and economic difficulty of hosting a 1200-megawatt electric VVER-1200 unit on a grid that on average consumes only about 1,000 megawatts.

This is a route that the US hopes many Eurasian countries choose, and they’ll no doubt get the Europeans to eventually play along (the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia are slated to get the SMRs first – maybe by the mid 2030s), but let’s look at the problems with this plan.

In a story reminiscent of Boeing, here’s what happened with a SMR company in Utah, from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

NuScale Power Cooperation, the first company in the United States to secure approval for the design of a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR), ended its contract with the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) on Wednesday. The companies cited rising costs as the reason for terminating the contract.

Throughout the development process, NuScale made several ill-advised design choices in an attempt to control the cost of its reactor, but which raised numerous safety concerns. The design lacked leak-tight containment structures and highly reliable backup safety systems. It also only had one control room for 12 reactor units despite the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) typically requiring no more than two units per control room. Additionally, the company led efforts to sidestep critical safety regulations, including requirements for offsite emergency response plans to protect nearby communities. But NuScale’s justification for all this regulatory corner-cutting—that the design is “passively safe”—was undermined when concerns about its passive emergency core cooling system arose late in the design certification process.

Nevertheless, SMRs are at the vanguard of Western strategy. More from Undark:

Respected thinkers such as former U.S. president Barack Obama, French president Emmanuel Macron, and Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates have toasted the idea of small modular reactors, or SMRs, as a potentially reliable, almost-emissions-free backup to intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Advocates claim that because SMRs will be smaller than the giants that currently dominate horizons, they will be safer, cheaper, and quicker to build. Although SMRs will have only a fraction of the power-generating capacity of traditional nuclear power reactors, proponents envision that they will, one day, be assembled in factories and transported as a unit to sites — like Sears’ mail-order Modern Homes of the early 1900s…

But SMRs are just as likely to face similar delays and cost overruns. Currently, there are just two existing advanced SMR facilities in the world that could be reasonably described as SMRs: a pilot reactor in China and Russia’s diminutive Akademik Lomonosov. More small reactors are under construction in China, Russia, and Argentina, but all of them are proving even more expensive per kilowatt than traditional reactors.

The US SMR companies rely heavily on subsidies to be economically competitive, and even that wasn’t enough for NuScale, which secured $4 billion in federal tax subsidies. Similarly, Project Phoenix is being carried out in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Small Modular Reactor Public-Private Program, and will no doubt lean heavily on the public side of the ledger.

Last year, the US Export-Import Bank and US International Development Finance Corporation issued “letters of interest” to invest up to $4 billion in Poland’s SMR development projects, and similar letters have also been offered for Romanian projects.

Project Phoenix is partnering with the Three Seas Initiative (3SI) – “a politically inspired, commercially driven platform for improving connectivity between thirteen EU Member States allocated between Baltic, Adriatic and Black seas.” Led by the US, Germany, and the European Commission, 3SI has an investment fund advised by Amber Infrastructure Group, which promises “an attractive return to the investors.” The Three Seas Fund was created under Luxembourg law, which means it’s liable to a subscription tax of 0.01% of the fund’s net assets and is exempted from the payment of the capital gains tax, income tax, and wealth tax.

Started in 2019, 3SI has made a lot of investments, but little actual infrastructure has been built, none of which is a SMR. Involved parties continue to iron out “ultimate return on investment calculation.”

Even if funds like 3SI find a way to marry attractive returns to cost-effective SMRs being built, there’s another big problem with the US plan, though: how will they do it without Russia?

Nearly 50 percent of the world’s uranium enrichment is done by the Russian nuclear energy firm Rosatom, whose subsidiary Tenex is the only company in the world commercially selling Haleu – a high-assay low-enriched uranium that could be a key fuel source for SMRs. More from OilPrice:

Firstly, Rosatom is a major exporter of nuclear fuel, providing the U.S. with 14 percent of its uranium in 2021. Meanwhile, utilities across Europe purchased around a fifth of their uranium from Rosatom, and they have been unable to diversify their uranium sources since cutting other energy ties with Russia. Rosatom also provided 28 percent of the U.S.’s enrichment services in 2021.”

Further, Rosatom is not just limited to Russia, holding ownership of several nuclear plants around the world. By the end of 2021, one in five nuclear plants worldwide was either in Russia or was Russian-built. Rosatom has repeatedly stepped in to help finance nuclear plants in countries that want to expand their nuclear power sectors but don’t have the money to do so. Many of these plants fall under a build-own-operate model, relying on Rosatom for their operation.

The EU, despite 13 sanction packages against Russia, has yet to target its nuclear industry. And according to Euratom Supply Agency, the EU increased imports from Russia of nuclear fuel and services for the bloc’s Russian-designed reactors again in 2023 compared to 2021. Five countries – Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary and Slovakia – bought 30 percent more conversion services from Russia and 22 percent more enrichment. Even RFE/RL admits the challenges for the US:

Westinghouse, an U.S. nuclear power company, is already seeking ways to offer alternative fuel in Europe, but it will take some time to get all the licenses and approvals. In addition, there are concerns that fuel from the United States might be more expensive, and it is unclear how Westinghouse would handle the waste-management system.

Nonetheless, Germany, which worsened its energy predicament last year by shutting down its remaining six nuclear power plants, continues to push for EU countries to end their relationship with Russia’s nuclear industry. If this sounds familiar to the rejection of Russian pipeline natural gas in favor of US LNG, well, it is. And the same players are pushing the envelope. Here’s Robert Habeck, the German economy and climate minister:

“Across the EU, we must keep making ourselves independent from Russia.” Habeck added, “The nuclear sector is still outstanding. It is not justifiable that this area is still given preferential treatment. Nuclear technology is an extremely sensitive area, and Russia can no longer be seen as reliable partner within it.”

The only option European countries who rely on Russia for nuclear fuel would be to shutter their plants like Germany did, because despite US-led programs like Project Phoenix and the Three Seas Initiative, there’s no one else prepared to step in and fill Russia’s role for conversion services and enrichment.

And even if the US is able to convince European countries and a few Eurasian ones to go with its SMR technology, the only supplier able to provide the fuel on a commercial scale is Russia’s Tenex. Despite all the money the US is throwing around, little progress is being made, and the reliance on Russia is even causing delays for a company founded by one of the world’s richest individuals:

[Bill] Gates has gone so far as to invest a chunk of his fortune in a firm he founded, TerraPower, a leading nuclear innovation company. Gates’s TerraPower has an even longer way to go, although it too is cashing in on subsidies. The U.S. Department of Energy has pledged up to $2 billion in matching funds to construct a demonstration plant in Wyoming. Yet TerraPower recently announced it’s facing delays of at least two years because of difficulties securing uranium fuel from its lone supplier: Russia.

The Senate’s recent border and Ukraine spending package contained more than $2 billion in funds for uranium processing as the Biden administration is “gravely concerned” about Russia’s dominance in the field. It seems a little late in the game to be waking to this reality, but that’s where the US is. US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is now calling on Congress to ban uranium supplies from Russia and throw more money at domestic enrichment, but estimates are that it would take at least five years of heavy investment for the US to end its dependence on Russian imports of enriched uranium.

Meanwhile, the US imported $1.2 billion worth of Russian uranium last year – an all-time high. Russia is also considered the world leader when it comes to the export of nuclear plant development. It can not only build a plant and provide the fuel, but it often trains local specialists, deals with safety questions, and disposes of the waste. It has recently built or is building reactors in Türkiye, Egypt, Argentina, and has been making a major push into Africa. Rosatom is constructing a Center of Nuclear Science and Technologies in Rwanda, and Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia have signed similar deals with Rosatom. Countries such as Ghana, Uganda, Sudan and DRC also have cooperation agreements with Rosatom. There are at least 50 countries that have some level of nuclear cooperation with Russia.

The case of Turkiye is illustrative. Ankara had been trying to get a nuclear power plant built for 50 years before signing a deal with Russia in 2010 to build the Akkuyu plant in Turkiye. Back in the 1990s Ankara had bids from Westinghouse + Mitsubishi, AECL, and Framatome + Siemens but had to cancel because it was going to cost more than the Turkish government could afford at the time.

Türkiye eventually pivoted to Russia’s build-own-operate model because it was an arrangement Ankara could afford. Under this arrangement, Russia financed, built, and is delivering the fuel to Akkuyu, which began operations last year. Russia will also handle the waste. For the moment Rosatom owns 75 percent of the shares in the plant, although it reserves the right to sell a project share of not more than 49% to other investors’, thus keeping the controlling interest of 51 percent.

Türkiye will buy a fixed proportion of the power at a fixed price of 12.35 ¢/kWh for 15 years. The proportion will be 70 percent of the output of the first two units and 30 percent of that from units 3  and 4 over 15 years. The remainder of the power will be sold by the project company on the open market. After 15 years, when the plant is expected to be paid off, the project company will pay 20 percent of the profits to the Turkish government.

Turkish nuclear engineers are also receiving training from the Russians. As the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says: “Given the costs for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the plant, as well as for the management and transport of the waste, this was considered ‘an economically well-negotiated agreement’ by nuclear energy policy experts. In short, it was a good deal for Turkey.”

So it’s clear why these types of deals are attractive to countries.

On the other hand, the US argument is for a more expensive, unproven and less safe technology. Oh, and you end up relying on Russia anyways.

If the US gets its SMR designs ironed out, and really wants to move forward with deploying the reactors, there is another country with a big (and rapidly growing ) presence in nuclear conversion and enrichment (assuming the US doesn’t do it itself) that could possibly help the West replace Russian services. There’s another problem there, however. China is also on the enemy list.

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  1. vao

    But SMRs are just as likely to face similar delays and cost overruns.

    In current news, the French new generation EPR in Flamanville is incurring yet another delay (albeit very small compared to previous ones), and will not be connected to the electrical network and start producing energy before mid-2024.

    If everything goes well. And that will be a delay of more than 12 years.

    For a cost of €13.2G.

    Four times the original estimate. Which will probably grow to €19G once all financial costs are included.

    There’s no one else prepared to step in and fill Russia’s role for conversion services and enrichment.
    Russia will also handle the waste.

    An important point is that Russia is not just a major player in uranium enrichment, it is also indispensable when it comes to re-processing spent fissile material.

    As an example, France (which has its own enrichment facilities) only performs a first re-processing step with spent fuel, extracting plutonium for its atomic arsenal. The resulting depleted uranium is sent to Rosatom, which transforms it into fuel for nuclear reactors — and stores away the highly-depleted uranium and nasty nucleides that cannot be turned into anything useful for the atomic energy industry.

    It is my understanding that every European country is in the same situation: want to recycle spent fuel? The address is Rosatom, Seversk, Russian Federation.

    I presume this will not change with the new kind of special fissile material required by SMR.

    1. Michaelmas

      vao: I presume this will not change with the new kind of special fissile material required by SMR.

      It’ll depend. See my comment below. In the cases of some of these SMR technologies — e.g. TerraPower and Oklo — the point of them is that they’re fast breeder reactors, and the Oklo technology only runs on and will recycle used fuel.

    2. digi_owl

      Basically what is going on across everything. All the dirty industries were exported to Russia and China in order to avoid the environmentalists and the unions demanding changes (or downright closure) that would cut into corporate, and thus stockholder, earnings. Thing is though that said industries are the backbone of the rest of the economy, providing the raw materials and energy for producing all those widgets that keep the masses entertained and docile.

      1. vao

        In France, the point has been raised that, should the government cancel the contract with Rosatom, then France might have to ready itself for receiving, warehousing, and managing that whole unusable pile of highly-depleted uranium and nasty nucleides resulting from the re-processing of spent fuel from French power plants, but which is for now stored away in Siberia (together with the similar piles from other countries).

    3. Revenant

      Is €13.2G shorthand for €13.2 billion? I.e. 13.2 GigaEuros?

      It is not an Anglophone convention. Is it a French one?

      1. vao

        Correct, G=Giga, M=Mega, and so on. Betraying my technical background.

        Oh, and dates are YYYY-MM-DD, ISO-norm, no ambiguity as to months and days.

  2. Mikerw0

    There are two simple potential explanations for all of this…

    Either these companies are proficient at extracting massive subsidies from governments for SMRs and if they don’t work out, oh well, nice tax break.

    Or, they think the laws of engineering and economics have been repealed, can sell a nice story to the street (Nuscale), and that this scheme might work.

    You choose.

  3. The Rev Kev

    That bit about NuScale developing a small modular nuclear reactor while cutting every corner that they could was scary stuff. Did they think that the government would just give them a waiver on all this stuff? They were literally building the next Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. And yet they thought that they could get away with it but at least Utah was smart enough to bail. But maybe NuScale Power Cooperation’s real aim was to just bring in investors and work out how to build those reactors later. Wouldn’t be the first time something like that happened.

    But what gets me is this. You could take Conor’s excellent post here and use it as a briefing document. Show those in charge that no matter how much they wish to get rid of Russia, it is not going to happen. The world is far too reliant on their expertise and knowledge as they never exported this industrial know-how. And yet all those world leader’s just go on pretending that they can get their way by just wishing it. In a better world they would acknowledge the situation and just move on but instead they want all these wild schemes. Maybe we need less lawyers in government and more engineers and no, software engineers do not count. The Chinese leadership has lots of engineers in their ranks and it shows.

  4. Michaelmas

    Conor Gallagher: The SMR technology is unproven and isn’t cost-effective.

    This is a good, up-to-date overview for its length, but misleading in one significant aspect.

    There is no “the” SMR technology.

    Rolls-Royce’s SMR technology (a relatively conventional three-loop pressurized water reactor) is radically different from Gates’s TerraPower (a fast reactor where a small enriched fuel core breeds Plutonium-239 in a larger mass of non-fissile but ‘fertile’ depleted uranium); which is different yet again from Oklo Inc. (a fast micro-reactor running on so-called “nuclear waste,” or partially used fuel).

    These SMRs are just what I happen to know about; there are other alternatives being developed. Nuclear technology is in general much more various than most people know.

    At the nuclear age’s birth there may have been a thousand-plus different designs and directions possible, according to Alvin Weinberg (responsible for the standard Boiling Water Reactor design and the molten-salt reactor). The nuclear plants designs we got resulted in large measure from nation-states’ bomb-building programs (see forex Vao’s description above of France very limited recycling to extract plutonium for bombs) and, in the US, the prioritization of commercial corporations making profits, which drove the move to a once-through fuel cycle and the introduction of the pernicious concept of “nuclear waste.”

    Why does any of this matter? Because nuclear power done right, with closed fuel cycles, could provide 20,000 years of power for human civilization.

  5. Piotr Berman

    One benefit of global economy is that allows specialization. Reaching the top in a technological field may be simple following a genius, or gradual process of accumulating designs and experience that can loose value if you interrupt activity for, say, ten years and the experts retire or go to other fields. In the second case, the cost of entering the market, or re-entering can be beyond capability of finance dependent private companies.

    Observing from orbit, it is wasteful to duplicate such efforts. Down on Earth, it is not competitive. Thus key steps in micro-chip production require products of two companies, one Dutch, one German. Russia, a minor miner of titanium, produces the best titanium for aerospace. Japan has best niobium technologies. I guess a long list can be compiled, and quite a few leaders are in USA, but Russia and China have their specialties too. This is the product of globalization after the fall of Soviet Union, as countries could rely on products from anywhere.

    Difficulties of staying on top are also present in military technologies. For example, Russia had huge problems with drone program that was promising breakthroughs since at least 2015. When it begun to be critical for an actual war, Russia had to exchange key technologies with Iran, to military benefit of both. In the case of peaceful atom, the West somehow dropped the ball, in part of anti-nuclear sentiment in a number of key countries. Back in the day, I thought that France, Japan and Korea will sufficiently preserve their programs, but that does not seem to be the case.

    Nuclear power is a particularly tough case. I follow news from RosAtom videos, practicing my Russian in the process, so I know some principles they claim. One is to use prototype(s) for 6 years domestically before offering it for export, so development cycle is long, idea, “lab” testing, then construction, then real life testing, 15 years seems to be minimum. At it does not have to work! RosAtom has a steady stream of military orders, and a national priority — one of the concepts for post-oil Russia. Chinese nuclear program has similarly deep pockets. But the West has several somewhat sketchy programs. Canada promises to test small nuclear power in its Arctic, perhaps it will work. Or not.

    One can have many conclusions, but one is that the current Western effort of splitting the globe again into blocks that sanction each other to the hilt is dangerous in extreme. It aims to maintain Western monopoly on state of the art in key technology, thus dominating other blocks, preferably broken into individual countries. It will surely delay the transition away from fossil fuels, on top of relatively minor risks like thermonuclear war (the former will surely happen, the latter… one can hope will not).

    1. Yves Smith

      Please provide support for your claim regarding Russian gimmies for Iranian drone technology. I have not seen anyone but you assert this.

  6. MicaT

    I would recommend the following podcast for the best info I’ve found on nuclear. He explains the technology, and the economics.

    In brief. SMR are a range of sizes and technologies. Most on the drawing boards are just small ( 300MW) Gen 3) pressurized water reactors.
    The main advantage is economy of scale. Price reduction in numbers.
    Even the big AP1000 reactors benefit from building multiple ones. But the smaller ones even more so they cost less in numbers.

    The days of bespoke reactors is over. Currently there are 94 in the us and there aren’t more than 4 that are the same.
    The really small reactors which are factory built and transported in whole to the site might be further out before they are common. Lots of opportunities for these in more remote locations.

    Haleu fuel is in Gen 4 high temperature gas cooled reactors. I think I read that China has 1 or 2 on line. Its a great design with huge potential and safety features. None in the US as far as I know.

    If the US wants to do nuclear then it needs to provide long term stability to the companies who are providing the specialized products. Haleu being one of them.

    1. vao

      The main advantage is economy of scale.

      These are the economies due to mass-production.

      The economies of scale work in the reverse direction: every kind of thermal power plant (coal, oil, gas, nuclear, biomass…) is more efficient the larger it is. This is alluded to in the article:

      More small reactors are under construction in China, Russia, and Argentina, but all of them are proving even more expensive per kilowatt than traditional reactors.

      If the objective is to produce the most energy for the least inputs (not just fuel, but also all the metals, concrete, and synthetic materials needed for the plant itself), then I do not see the point of SMR — apart from niche applications that is (e.g. those Russian atomic ice-breakers). Which ultimately undermines the economies derived from mass-production.

      1. MicaT

        I’d recommend the podcast. He explains it quite well. Bigger isn’t always cheaper.
        Smaller means smaller cranes, piping, pumps, less concrete, smaller forms.
        Faster construction means less expensive. And again the cumulative effect of building the same thing multiple times at the same location greatly speeds up building.

        He makes the point that at a new installation with say 8 x 300MW units the first is more per watt than a AP1000. But each successive unit gets faster and labor/time is a huge cost factor and it ends up being faster and less expensive than the larger ones.

        Its a compelling argument

        1. Jams O'Donnell

          Bigger may mot be cheaper, but “the cumulative effect of building the same thing multiple times” for an equivalent output is that inevitably much more duplication of physical material is required – contrary to what you assert. Some things just can’t be made any smaller, also duplication of many components at a smaller scale will almost always lead to more material being used than in making one large component. Economy of scale is almost a physical law, and a huge amount of effort would be required to overcome this.

  7. Maxwell Johnston

    Conor, thank you for yet another fine article. I don’t know if it was intended to be humorous, but I chuckled several times.

    In his 2014 book “The Colder War”, Marin Katusa described in detail RU’s primacy in the nuclear energy sector. The west’s political leadership wasn’t paying attention, and now–ten years on–there are still no easy or quick solutions at hand.

    1. Paris

      I was laughing out loud when I read that Obama, Macron and Bill Gates are “respectable thinkers”… really really comical.

    1. CA

      September 6, 2023

      Linglong-1 reactor attracts global attention
      By Liu Caiyu

      Changjiang — After a three-hour drive from Sanya, Global Times reporters, along with approximately 200 officials and scholars, arrived at the Changjiang Nuclear Power Plant in South China’s Hainan Province on Tuesday morning. This facility is the base for the Linglong-1 – the world’s first commercial onshore small modular reactor (SMR) to begin construction and pass the IAEA general safety review.

      Many foreign representatives from the nuclear power industry, particularly from countries keen to introduce nuclear energy, eagerly anticipate this tour. They hope to learn more about this significant example of nuclear energy innovation and evaluate if the Linglong-1 might be a suitable choice for them.

      Donning long-sleeve shirts, pants, smash-proof shoes, and safety helmets, visitors were ushered to the construction site in groups. Safety warning signs were prominently displayed throughout the site, underscoring the importance of safety during construction.

      The entire project is slated to commence the installation phase by the end of 2023. With safety and quality thoroughly monitored, the project is set to transition to the debugging stage in the second half of 2024, according to Qu Yong, the deputy-chief-engineer of Hainan Nuclear Power. Earlier in August, the core module was installed within the reactor building of the Linglong-1, also known as ACP100.

      “I’m astounded by the organization and efficiency of the project. The project duration is remarkably short!” exclaimed Khammar Mrabit, the Director-General of Morocco’s Agency for Nuclear and Radiation Safety and Security, after touring the site.

      Mrabit told the Global Times that China has made significant strides in large, medium, and small nuclear reactors. “The ACP100 is definitely an option for Morocco. We’re addressing legal and technical challenges to incorporate nuclear energy into our energy mix. Final decisions are still pending.”

      “Actually, the ACP100 is quite impressive. Kenya is contemplating establishing a power plant, and SMRs like the ACP100 are among our considerations due to their compact design,” shared Collins Owino, an engineer from Kenya’s Nuclear Power and Energy Agency, at the construction site…

      1. aikenhd

        The APC100 is a scaled down version of the Chinese APC1000 (Hualong One) a common PWR type.
        The Hainan plant is under construction.
        Perhaps more interesting are the operating, grid connected, SMRs of a quite different type – High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors – Pebble-bed Module (HTR-PM) in Shandong province.

        1. CA

          “Perhaps more interesting…”

          January 6, 2024

          How the world’s first fourth-generation nuclear power plant works
          By Zheng Yibing

          The world’s first fourth-generation nuclear power plant, Huaneng Shandong Shidao Bay Nuclear Power Plant in eastern China’s Shandong Province, went into commercial operation on December 6, 2023 and has been running well, according to officials at the plant.

          The power plant has drawn global attention as it adopts High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor-Pebble-bed Module (HTR-PM), which is claimed to be able to steer away from a meltdown or leak of radioactive materials even in extreme conditions.

          “In the past few weeks of its commercial use, our two reactors in the power unit have maintained the initial full power stable operation. They generate electricity every day with the power of 150 megawatts,” said Zhang Yijin, a chief operator at the power plant.

          “The state of the unit, including the operation of various parameters are very stable. Then the electricity we generate is supplied to the Shandong power grid and distributed for use,” he added…

    2. CA

      China is actually planning to both build and export small nuclear reactor technology and entire reactors. So far accounts of specialists find the plans have proven promising.

  8. Kouros

    I remember a documentary made/seen some decades ago about the birth of ISS. Prior to the fall of USSR, USUK et co have tried to build a space station and after years of trials and boatloads of money (~ 10 bil?) they came up with a small scal model.

    The ISS came to life only after the Russians were invited and joined the project.

    After the Bolshevik Revolution and the victory of Lenins group in who’s runing Russia, the west cut relations for more than a decade.

    If things go this way again, the west will be in a position to be further and further left behind technologically by the likes of Russia and China.

    The ideology of the proeminence of “private ownership” leading to plutocracy is far more psychopatic in manifestation than the communist ideology ever was…

  9. Michael.j

    Great discussion!

    It should also be noted that the design for the Siberian Akademik reactor has been exported to China which is replicating it.

    Given the number of nuclear engineers in both countries, good luck on catching up with US private designs.

    This is another reason not to go to war with other advanced technological countries. Especially in a world with diminishing natural resources.

  10. Matthew G. Saroff

    I spent a miserable 6 months working for a company involved with the nuclear fuel cycle.

    Good people at the company, and nice, but every day provided more evidence that nuclear (fission) power was not viable. The futility was soul crushing to me.

    I worked on the back end of the nuclear fuel process, dealing with spent medium and high waste, and it is clear that without the massive subsidies, nuclear power would cost at least 10 times that of the next most expensive alternative. (Full costing, including disposal)

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