Too expensive, dangerous and unstable nuclear energy

This article is available in Pilipino

Ferdinand Marcos Jr bragged that during his US visit, he attracted the interest of companies producing small nuclear plants to “invest” in the Philippine energy sector. The NuScale Power Corporation supposedly declared “interest” to conduct a study about the potential places for building small modular reactors or SMRs in the Philippines.

NuScale will supposedly invest $7.5 billion in the country to supply up to 430 megawatts in 2031. Marcos took advantage of the unstable power supply in various parts of the country to convince Filipinos to accept the extravagantly expensive, dangerous and untested nuclear technology.

News of plans to build small nuclear plants first emerged after the Philippine visit last year of US Vice Pres. Kamala Harris. The project is part of the Marcos-Harris 123 Agreement to allow the entry of American nuclear companies to Philippines. Among the targets of five SMRs is a town along the coast of Pangasinan facing the South China Sea.

Patriotic congressmen vehemently denounced these agreements. They said these reactors can also produce raw material or supply energy for nuclear armament. This violates agreements for nuclear non-proliferation entered into by the reactionary state.

Who and what is the NuScale Power Corp?

The NuScale Power Corporation is a company that develops and manufactures SMRs based on the research of scientists at the Oregon State University. The US government subsidizes NuScale’s research and production.

The company’s SMRs were described by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a US-based research group, as “too time-consuming (to build), too expensive, too risky and uncertain.” In 2021, the company disclosed that electricity generated by its SMR network will cost $58 per megawatt hour (Mwh). By 2023, estimates put production at $89/Mwh amid rising costs of construction.

The $89/Mwh price of NuScale’s nuclear energy is “eye-popping” compared to the price of energy produced from solar and wind ($40/Mwh and $30/Mwh in 2020). By 2030, it is estimated that solar and wind energy will cost $20/Mwh while the cost of production of SMRs may reach $200/Mwh.

The company has yet to construct, operate and test its SMRs for the commercial production of energy anywhere in the world since developing in the 2000s. The company announced only last May 2022 its first ever six SMRs capable of generating 10MWh in Romania. NuScale itself estimates that construction will last up to 54 months before becoming operational.

The claims by nuclear “experts” in the Philippines that the country can “economize” from SMRs are baseless. Currently, the construction of 8-12 SMRs capable of generating 462 megawatts of electricity will cost $9.3 billion.

Neither is NuScale or whomever is in a position to claim that its SMRs will be more efficient and productive for the simple reason that no such operations prevail yet.

Claims that SMRs are “cleaner” than bigger nuclear plants run contrary to the truth. A study by the Stanford University in 2022 show that SMRs produce “a bigger volume of nuclear waste.”

Too expensive, dangerous and unstable nuclear energy