Sunday, November 15, 2009

Small Modular Nukes for the Future

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are the coming thing in nuclear power. Already proven for decades by the US military, they can be mass-produced in factories, using modern methods of quality control, to assure a safe and uniformly precise construction. Modular reactors can be scaled to match the demand from an isolated small village or seastead, to full scale mega-grid baseload supplier. They can be shipped anywhere in the world to a prepared site, and fueled either in the factory before shipping, or at the final destination after arrival and installation.

Some 40 SMRs are now at different stages of development or design. About a dozen are at advanced design stages and could be deployed within the next decade. These include integral PWR designs (IRIS, SMART, CAREM), floating NPPs (KLT-40S), high temperature gas reactors (PBMR, HTR-PM) and India’s advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR). _Source
The B&W [Babcock & Wilcox] mPower reactor is a 125 MWe integral PWR designed to be factory-made and railed to site. The reactor pressure vessel containing core and steam generator is thus only five metres diameter. It would be installed below ground, have an air-cooled condenser, and passive safety systems. It has a "conventional core and standard fuel" enriched to 5%, with burnable poisons, to give a five-year operating cycle between refuelling. (B&W draws upon over 50 years experience as the main manufacturer of nuclear propulsion systems for the US Navy, involving compact reactors with very long-life cores.) _WorldNuclearNews
Other small nuclear reactors well along in the running:

The International Reactor Innovative and Secure (IRIS) is a 335MWe pressurised light water cooled reactor. The reactor vessel houses not only the nuclear fuel, control rods and neutron reflector, but also all the major reactor coolant system components including pumps, steam generators and pressurizer. IRIS has been under development by an international consortium (led by Westinghouse) since 1999.


SMART is a 330MWt pressurised water reactor with integral steam generators and advanced passive safety features. Developed by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute it is designed for generating electricity up to 100MWe and for cogeneration applications.


Argentina is developing an indigenous SMR known as CAREM and plans to build a 27MWe prototype (CAREM-25) in 2011 to demonstrate the technology. The distinct design features of the CAREM are: integral primary cooling system with in-vessel steam generators, control rod drives, and pressurizer; self-pressurization; and passive safety systems.


Twin KLT-40S reactors will be used in Russia’s first floating NPP, Akademik Lomonosov, scheduled for completion in 2011. The factory-built PWRs, similar to those used in Russia’s nuclear powered icebreakers, can produce 300MWt/70MWe for electricity generation or cogeneration of electricity and heat. The KLT-40S was developed by Russia’s OKBM (experimental design bureau for machine building).

Toshiba 4S

In Japan, the 4S (super-safe, small and simple) reactor is under development by Toshiba, with outputs of 30MWt and 135MWt. It is a pool type sodium cooled fast reactor with a core lifetime of about 30 years. The 4S has reached detailed design stage and pre-licensing negotiations with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission were started in 2007.


China’s 200MW modular HTR-PM is a high temperature gas cooled reactor with pebble bed fuel and indirect supercritical steam energy conversion cycle. Full-scale demonstration is planned for 2013. Two-module plant configuration is foreseen for the commercial version. __NuclearEngineeringMag
Cross-posted at Al Fin

The main problem for small nukes will be government licensing and regulatory bureaucracy. Under the green rookie administration currently riding roughshod over US energy supply, doing anything productive will be hell.



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