Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) play an important role in developing safe, clean, and cost-conscious nuclear power. Nuclear power is regarded as the most powerful source of continuous clean energy; however, many locations are not equipped to accommodate full nuclear plants.
SMRs have a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e) per unit, which is approximately a third of the conventional nuclear reactors’ power capacity, and occupy a much smaller footprint than traditional nuclear plants.
What Are Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)?
SMRs are nuclear fission reactors that occupy, at most, ¼ the space of a conventional nuclear reactor. These units produce electricity and process heat from nuclear power while reducing capital costs and providing an efficient energy alternative to large power grids. SMRs are manufactured off-site and then taken to a location for final assembly. This leads to reduced on-site construction, improved nuclear security, and an overall heightened containment efficiency.
Small Modular Reactors: Key Features
Small Modular Nuclear Reactors offer enormous energy-generating potential due to the following key factors:
- Adaptability. SMRs work well in conjunction with clean energy sources such as water and wind. Connecting them with renewable energy sources is one way to ensure a constant supply of emission-free energy.
- Enhanced safety. SMRs have increased safety features, given their small power, compact architecture, and the use of passive concepts that reduce the reliance on active safety systems. Relying on the natural laws of physics, SMRs can quickly shut down and cool the unit in cases of abnormal conditions.
- Flexibility. In addition to producing clean, carbon-free energy, SMRs also generate heat, an essential factor in manufacturing plastics and other products. Moreover, the flexible nature of SMRs makes them easily adaptable to remote locations with weaker grids.
- Modularity. Since SMRs can be manufactured off-site and transported to the desired location for assembly, this significantly reduces the time and cost of manufacture. Their modularity also allows for multiple units on site.
- Configurability. SMRs’ compact architecture enables modularity of fabrication, allowing for higher factory standards.
Advantages of Small Modular Reactors
Small Modular Nuclear reactors have many advantages over conventional reactors, including:
- Smaller footprint. Considering their smaller footprint, SMRs can be used in locations not favorable for larger nuclear power plants.
- Affordability. SMRs are cheaper to build than large power reactors because prefabricated units for the SMRs can be manufactured off-site, while large power reactors are custom-designed for a specific location.
- Less upfront investment. Switching to SMRs can significantly reduce the plant’s upfront investment when compared to conventional nuclear plants.
- Time-saving. Overall, SMRs require less prep time because the parts are built off-site and shipped to the desired location for assembly. This makes them quicker and cheaper to build than other traditional designs.
- Simpler designs. When compared to existing reactors, SMRs have simpler designs that implement inherent safety mechanisms, such as low operating with low power and pressures.
- Lower fuel consumption. SMRs consume less fuel compared to other nuclear reactors. SMR power plants refuel once every three to seven years, while conventional reactors require refueling every one to two years. Moreover, some specially-designed SMRs can go up to 30 years without refueling.
Clean, Efficient Power Generation with Small Modular Reactors
Nuclear energy is the road to a carbon-free world. Nuclear power amounts to 10% of global electricity production, but to reverse climate change, we need increased amounts of clean and reliable energy. Many countries want to go carbon-free and are betting on SMRs to get there.
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