Small modular reactors were a hot topic at the American Nuclear Society (ANS) annual meeting. Attendance was good and people were interested. The designs are fun and use various technology. From LWRs to liquid sodium to liquid metal PbBi cooled reactors. LWRs have the advantage of known technology and known regulations which should lead to faster regulatory approval, but suffer from shorter refueling times. Liquid metal reactors operate at low pressure and do not need refueling for decades, but may require additional design and regulatory time.
Much has been said regarding small modular reactors. My goal is to list the players with highlights of each design and some estimated timelines.
What is the need?
Most of the world's electrical grids are small. One single source of power generation should not exceed 10-15% of the grid size or risk stability and power concerns when the one large plant goes offline. The "standard" reactor produces 1 to 1.6 GWe and cost and estimated $5B+ and 84 months to build.
There is a an application for small modular reactors that can be built quickly and delivered onsite with fuel intact and ready to go. The small size could be used for power or for desalination. Most designs are modular in that you can add more than one to increase output slowly as needed. Construction of the "standard" reactor includes large forgings and significant resources for movement and construction of the large components. Small reactors are mostly skid built at the factory and shipped in using existing US or small factory construction and forging capabilities.
Information from Rod Adams in his post from the Platts Modular Reactor Meeting.
"Three vendors - NuScale, B&W, and Westinghouse Electric Company - each with a variation of integral Pressurized Water Reactors (iPWR), provided some details about their design concepts and the maturity of their technology. There is a general agreement that these three designs - the 45 MWe NuScale, the 125 MWe mPowerTM, and the 300 MWe IRIS - are the ones that are closest to being ready to move through an NRC licensing process."
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