In light of recent events, we comment on a failed SMR project by our competitor Nuscale. We explain why Dual Fluid is unlikely to suffer a similar fate.
What is the advantage of SMRs?
Although small modular reactors (SMRs) offer some advantages, for example in supplying less developed areas, one should be sceptical about the promised cost reductions. In principle, economies of scale apply to all power plants: the bigger, the cheaper. The larger the plant, the lower the cost per unit of electricity produced. In the case of nuclear power plants, however, regulation and the resulting bureaucracy are so enormous – for political reasons – that even the largest new construction projects (Generation III+) are only just worthwhile.
Last but not least, suppliers of SMRs hope to reduce the regulatory burden by means of a series licence. Serial production and installation of the same type of reactor at different sites is expected to reduce production and regulatory costs and even overcompensate for negative economies of scale. Critics argue that SMRs are therefore a technical response to a bureaucratic problem.
Why did Nuscale fail?
Some companies have received subsidies or government investment through large-scale SMR support programmes. Nuscale was well ahead with an SMR concept that had already been approved in the US state of Utah. However, the expectation of a series licence was not met, and high commodity costs meant that Nuscale was unable to deliver the promised electricity price of USD 58 per MWh. With calculated prices approaching USD 90 per MWh, customers jumped ship and Nuscale had to abandon the Utah project. Rising raw material prices have hit suppliers of small reactors particularly hard, as they have relatively higher material requirements than large reactors. Economies of scale are significant and tend to work against SMRs, especially if they do not involve real innovation.
Why over-regulation and economies of scale are less dangerous for Dual Fluid
Economies of scale affect Dual Fluid far less than the rest of the nuclear industry. Our design is not simply a downsizing of existing technology, as is the case with the vast majority of SMR suppliers. We offer a revolutionary new operating principle whose unique selling point is its high efficiency, i.e. high energy output with low material input (fuel and structural materials). Our patented technology can be applied to both large and small modular reactors. Our first and smallest reactor, the DF300, is designed in such a way that even in this small output class, with a sales price of USD 35 per MWh, it can still promise good profits for the operator and undercut the competition from fossil fuels.
Why Rwanda was a good strategic choice
The choice of Rwanda as the location and partner for the Critical Demonstration Experiment (CDE) could prove to be an advantage for Dual Fluid, particularly in the face of excessive regulation. Like us, the Rwandan Atomic Energy Authority is aware of the problem. We are working together to find a quick solution with as little bureaucracy as possible, so that Rwanda can quickly bring nuclear power to its citizens. The Rwanda Atomic Energy Authority has selected our reactor design for its level of innovation, efficiency and environmental friendliness, and recognises the great benefits it will bring to the country. Rwanda is ready to create flexible structures that will deliver fast results and encourage innovation without compromising safety.