Al Gedicks: Smaller nuclear reactors will increase waste (April 7, 2023)
(Al Gedicks is the contact for the WNPJ member group: www.wrpc.net
Dairyland Power Cooperative has an agreement with NuScale to consider the construction of small modular reactors ("Weighing nuclear options, March 27, La Crosse Tribune).
Brent Ridge lists the smaller size as an advantage of these reactors. However, a May 2022 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has reached the opposite conclusion.
Energy in a nuclear reactor is produced when a neutron splits a uranium atom in the reactor core, generating additional neutrons that go on to split other uranium atoms, creating a chain reaction. But some neutrons escape from the core — a problem called neutron leakage — and strike surrounding materials, such as steel and concrete. These materials then become radioactive when "activated" by neutrons from the core.
Because of their smaller size, small modular reactors will experience more neutron leakage than conventional reactors. The study found that the small reactors will generate at least nine times more neutron-activated steel than conventional power plants. These radioactive materials have to be carefully managed prior to disposal.
Far from being cheaper and producing fewer radioactive byproducts than conventional large-scale reactors, small modular reactors will produce more radioactive waste that will add to the costs of managing nuclear wastes. Al Gedicks La Crosse