Portable reactor program given 'Golden Fleece' award

A national watchdog group on Wednesday bestowed its “Golden Fleece Award” for wasted taxpayer money to the government’s small modular reactor program, which includes Savan­nah River Site as a potential research venue.


“SMRs will likely never be a good investment, but in the current fiscal climate taxpayers must be especially concerned with any dollars the Department of Energy doles out,” Taxpayers for Common Sense said of the program, for which up to $500 million has been pledged.

The concept of portable nuclear reactors has been lauded as a way to bring power to remote areas – and high-paying jobs to sites where the technology is developed and tested.

SRS was named as a possible venue for an SMR “farm,” where groups could use the government’s land and nuclear expertise to develop new technology.

Last November, however, DOE announced its inaugural award of matching money to stimulate private SMR development to a different recipient, led by Babcock & Wilcox in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel International.

DOE said it would issue a follow-up solicitation for other projects, possibly reopening options for SRS.

In criticizing the plan, the taxpayer group said nuclear vendors are notorious for underestimating costs and could end up wasting hundreds of millions of dollars.

“For a range of reasons, subsidies for SMSs equal nothing more than another handout for the nuclear industry,” the Washington-based group said.

The Golden Fleece Award was created in 1975 by Sen. William Proxmire, a Wis­consin Democrat.

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