Small reactors would produce more waste than large ones


“A much-vaunted first wave of mini nuclear power stations may produce more radioactive waste than traditional large-scale ones when generating the same amount of power,” read the lead sentence in a May 30, 2022 article in New Scientist (register free with NS to read the full article).

Researchers at Stanford University compared SMR technology with a conventional 1.1 gigawatt nuclear reactor, to model the radioactive waste that would be produced.

Their results showed that SMRs would in fact increase the output of radioactive waste currently generated by large reactors, simply adding to the already unsolved burden of waste that has found no safe, longterm management solution. 

Said the New Scientist article: “They have found that SMRs could increase the volume of short-lived low and intermediate level waste – the two lowest of three categories – by up to 35 times compared to a large conventional reactor, when looking at waste produced per unit of electricity generated.  For the long-lived equivalent waste, SMRs would produce up to 30 times more and for spent nuclear fuel, up to 5 times more.”

Lead Stanford researcher, Lindsay Krall, said that “SMR performed worse on nearly all of our metrics compared to standard commercial reactors.”

The results cast serious doubts over the claims of SMR developers that the new reactors would be safer and cheaper, claims Krall described as “promotional.”

Read the full article.

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