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Title: The effect of supply chain configuration on small modular reactor economics
Author: Lyons, Robbie Eric
ISNI:       0000 0004 8507 9183
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis examines the opportunity presented by small modular reactors (SMRs) to bring down the cost of nuclear power. The economies of scale that have traditionally driven nuclear vendors to design larger reactors can be overcome for small reactors by the combination of standardisation of design, modularisation of the build process, and progressive reduction in production cost through learning. By employing the most comprehensive nuclear plant construction cost data available, in conjunction with established cost estimating methods, a model was devised to estimate the capital costs and levelized electricity cost of a SMR, based on conventional light water reactor technology. Key elements of supply chain configuration were parameterised in the model, enabling the investigation of its effect on SMR economics. Credible SMR supply chain configurations were hypothesised, by applying procurement decision models to industry data and nuclear sector specific constraints. These configurations were evaluated using the model against a range of programme conditions. Beyond single programme supply chain design, the challenges posed by global production and deployment were considered, such as the segmentation of market demand, variations in labour costs, and the implications of regulatory barriers and localisation for SMR cost reduction methods. The costs of first developing a SMR programme were also estimated. It was established that in order for SMRs to become cost competitive with large nuclear plants, a sizeable programme of at least 10 GW of standard units is needed to achieve sufficient production volume and production rate. The preferred SMR size is in the region of 250 MWe, to achieve a balance between economies of scale and learning. Progress needs to be made in harmonising global technical standards and safety regulation to make the product-like reactor concept feasible. Moreover, a committed supply chain of collaborative enterprise partners, rather than competing transactional suppliers, is required to realise the necessary learning cost reduction.
Supervisor: Shwageraus, Eugene Sponsor: EPSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: nuclear ; small modular reactor ; supply chain ; economics