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Mini Nuclear Reactors Have an Outsized Waste Problem

US scientists say waste streams as much as 30-times higher than conventional plants will make SMRs more costly

Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

A new generation of smaller atomic reactors, designed to tout nuclear power’s role as a clean-energy alternative, may also come with an outsized waste problem that could send costs surging. 

Small-modular reactors, known as SMRs, could produce as much as two to 30-times more waste than conventional atomic power plants in operation today, according to scientists including Allison Macfarlane, the former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in research published Monday by the U.S. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.