Small Modular Reactors: An Academic Breakdown

The concept of small modular reactors isn’t new. Early proponents of nuclear power imagined a world where tiny nuclear reactors, dubbed nuclear batteries, powered cars, airplanes, trains, and even fridges.

Atom_and_ManAs nuclear power generation has become more established, the size of reactors has grown from the 60MWe levels of the 1950s to today’s 1,600MWe giants. Despite the operating economies of scale that followed this expansion, there are still high capital costs involved in setting up new plants. These costs, twinned with a demand for smaller-scale, more flexible power generation, now see industry considering small reactors that generate less than 300MWe.

These small modular reactors (SMR) could provide power to remote electrical grids in developing countries or be integrated with renewable technologies, such as wind and solar power, to offset variations in energy generation. They could also be constructed in multiples to be brought on line sequentially and used to better manage fluctuations in electricity demand. ‘Modular’ refers to the fact that the reactors are fabricated in an offsite factory and then delivered to site – in some designs already fuelled for final installation.

The latest designs have significantly reduced construction times, building on existing safety features and the emergency responses associated with large-scale nuclear power plants. Their smaller geometries and lower fuel inventories also enhance their ability to be cooled, reducing the likelihood of vessel failure during an adverse event.

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Source: Professor Richard Clegg and Professor Mamdouh El-Shanawany | Ingenia Online