Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Resilient Grid of Small Modular Reactors

In reality a world free of nuclear power would be less secure. For the foreseeable future, neither fossil fuels nor renewable sources will be able to replace the 14 per cent of global electricity generated by nuclear reactors, without risking severe instability and shortages in energy markets. Put simply, energy security requires a diversity of sources, including nuclear. _FT_via_Arevablog
The world not only needs nuclear power, but it needs smarter forms of nuclear power. Small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) offer far more versatility, safety, reliability, and affordability than the traditional 1 GW ++ nuclear reactor plant. They can be ganged together to provide whatever level of power production you want, or they can be networked into a decentralised, resilient grid.
A resilient grid of SMRs built in a distributed network would be much less susceptible to damage from natural disasters or man-made disruptions. If one SMR goes out of service, it doesn't create a regional blackout for everyone else in the utility's service area.

...The ARC-100 reactor design concepts contain intriguing safety measures which might benefit highly industrialized countries seeking a more resilient power grid. Similar benefits might come from other SMR designs including those that use conventional LWR designs. It depends in part on the pace of advancement in fuel cladding materials science.

The key idea is to find ways to avoid future consequences of having too much electrical generation capacity invested in a single site. This is especially important in areas where there is a potential for earthquakes, tsunami, and other natural disasters or man-made disruption. SMRs buried underground add the natural containment of that design paradigm to their protective envelope. _Dan Yurman Energy Collective
Many legislators in the US are calling modular reactors the wave of the future.

Small modular reactors have many applications besides electrical power generation:
The main applications of SMRs apart from electricity generation are desalination, process heating and district heating. SMRs are gaining importance in the global nuclear power industry; according to recent new reports, in the US's 2012 budget proposal, funds are said to be allocated to the development and deployment of SMRs. Despite the constraints, the SMRs enlist more key drivers for its deployment. SMR design is also considered as an alternative to replacing ageing fossil power plants of similar capacities across the world. _BusinessWire
SMRs are also likely to be key to the economical and clean unlocking of energy from oil sands, heavy oil deposits, and kerogen oil shales.

Interest in SMRs is growing, as more people begin to understand how vulnerable national and regional power supplies are -- to EMP attack, solar flares, computer hackers, etc. And unfortunately, the "smart grid" only makes it that much easier to shut the whole thing down remotely. A recent conference on SMRs in Columbia, South Carolina, drew 250 participants, and more individuals of influence are beginning to speak out about the US NRC's inability to facilitate a more rapid movement toward safer, more reliable, more economical, and more robust nuclear power infrastructures.



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