Economics of Small Reactors: NERA Research Project

There is a lot of interest in small reactors from utilities, the nuclear industry, regulators, and others. Small reactors have the potential to remove some key industry hurdles, including large project capital cost and long lead time. Small reactors will allow phased modular investments and will diversify construction and operational risk across multiple units. Small reactor designs may also lower O&M cost through simplified designs, phased and less frequent refueling, and other features. Small reactor vendors plan to use mass production in factories to achieve lower capital cost, higher quality, and shorter construction time.

However, skeptics point to the loss of scale economies achieved by large conventional light-water reactor designs, a new set of safety and licensing issues that will challenge the NRC, the potential need for changes to existing NRC regulations, and the need for more research, development, and commercialization for some small reactor designs.

A key question is whether the benefits offered by small reactors will be enough to overcome these challenges. NERA believes that a well-structured economic analysis can help resolve this question. Such an analysis can also provide a useful tool to help small reactor vendors and potential buyers in their decision-making process.

NERA plans to undertake a comprehensive analysis of small reactor economics. Our small reactor economics research study will examine benefit/cost issues associated with size and other relevant reactor design attributes. We will include a range of small, advanced, and alternate reactor designs in the study, and the final study report will provide an overall economic assessment of each of these small reactor designs.

To learn more or to participate in this study, please contact NERA Vice President Edward Kee.