Modular Reactors. Horizon 2030

During the present decade, in the world energy scenario will take place the deployment of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMR), driven by the global policies of transition to a low-CO2 economy with the ambitious objective of achieving emission neutrality by 2050 (Net Zero Strategy).

The electrical power of these reactors ranges from 2 to 300 MWe and can be classified as follows: Light Water Reactors, High Temperature Gas Reactors, Molten Salt Reactors and Liquid Metal Cooled Reactors. The smallest reactors of this type (micro-reactors) can be as small as 2 MWe, and have a very compact design, making them very suitable for remote locations.

The main characteristics of these reactors are that they are intrinsically safe, as their emergency systems are passive and do not require external sources to maintain safety. They are built in a modular way, with most of the workload in factories, reducing the task to be done On Site.

Against this background, countries such as the UK, France, USA and Canada are investing heavily to encourage the nuclear industry to develop and license various designs, the main objective of which is to have a safe, flexible and clean source of energy that integrates with renewable energies in meeting environmental objectives.

Akademic Lomonosov

In West, first reactors will be operational in the demonstration phase in 2026-2027 and in the commercial phase by the end of this decade. It is important to mention that Russia and China are leading the race with two designs in operation that are the forerunners of SMRs. Russia commissioned in 2020 the world’s first floating nuclear power plant (Akademic Lomonosov) consisting of a barge with two Russian-designed Rosatom modular reactors of 35 MWe each. The aim in the near future is to take these floating power plants to replace their old nuclear (Bilibino NPP) and thermal power plants, which are located in remote places.

Completing the technological development, demonstrating their economic competitiveness, optimising licensing time and achieving a broad and robust supply chain will be the main challenges for these reactors to see the light of day in the coming years.

New SMRs are breaking the myths and stigmas of nuclear energy, presenting themselves as a reliable, intrinsically safe and cost-competitive energy source.

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