Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Small Modular Reactors: Slugging it Out

Small modular nuclear fission reactors (SMRs) are being developed by a number of companies in the US and elsewhere. Several types of SMRs are being designed and developed, including light water reactors, high temperature gas-cooled reactors, LFTRs, and fast neutron reactors.
To help spur SMR development, DOE in January issued a draft funding opportunity for grants of $452 million over five years to provide licensing and engineering support for up to two SMR designs. Babcock & Wilcox, Nu-Scale and Westinghouse all have said they will apply for funding through the program. Westinghouse, which designed the AP1000 that will be used at Southern Co.'s Vogtle plant in Georgia, said it would apply with a consortium of utilities for funding for its small pressurized-water reactor that has a capacity of 200 MW. _Engineering News Record
They will be built in factories under strict quality-control conditions, and will come in sizes anywhere from 25 MW up to 250 MW, allowing versatile scaling of power plant facilities. Perhaps most importantly, they will allow "energy parks" to be developed in a scaled fashion, in accordance with demand and the economic situation.

Dan Yurman points out that all of this is just "pie in the sky" unless SMR manufacturers can prove that they can actually build the things. And building SMRs -- particularly the first ones -- is going to be very expensive.
This is where the Savannah River Site (SRS), a Department of Energy site, comes in. Tom Sanders, Associate Laboratory Director for SRS, told FCW he is developing the capability at SRS to host first-of-a-kind commercial development of SMRs of all types for power generation and process heat applications. He welcomes both LWR and fast reactor developers.

Sanders touts the advantages of SRS for SMRs and some of the firms working on them are listening. For instance, Sanders told FWW, SRS has access to many types of nuclear fuel include spent fuel. It has good infrastructure, potential customers for electric power and process heat, and most importantly, a supportive community. _Dan Yurman
The Savannah River DOE facility may well be of assistance in the development of SMRs. But things are likely to proceed much more slowly than most people would like.

In other SMR news, the involvement of construction & maintenance giant Fluor Corp. in the development of SMRs suggests the depth of concern within the US industrial sector over the future of reliable energy supplies for the nation's industry.

More, France and Russia are at the forefront of SMR development, and Argentina is also making an effort to develop a workable SMR design. It is also likely that China will turn to SMRs for both electrical generation and process heat, as the Middle Kingdom grows and improves its nuclear industry capability. The UK may also help in the early stages of SMR development, by assisting the development of early PRISM reactors.

Getting past the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's design licensing hurdle will cost hundreds of millions of dollars for each entry in the SMR race. That will require deep pockets, and a huge staff to interface with NRC bureaucrats. Clearly the US government -- for all its lip service to the future of the US economy -- is not in a tremendous hurry to help develop this revolutionary technology.

It is going to be a long uphill battle.



Blogger Whirlwind22 said...

Will these be powered by Thorium? Also I wonder if Obama will tone down is energy starvationist talk now that it is election time?

10:17 AM  
Blogger al fin said...

The earliest SMRs to be approved by a (presumably post-Obama) US NRC will not likely be thorium fueled. They will probably be light water reactors. Hopefully, more advanced gen IV SMRs will be coming along soon thereafter.

Obama has already toned down his green dieoff.orgy rhetoric, as witnessed in his most recent state of the union address. He practically took credit for the shale energy revolution.

And now he is trying to claim credit for the construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, which doesn't even need his permission. What a dolt.

3:27 PM  
Blogger warpmine said...

I have stronger words for the usurper but it's your site.

Hopefully soon, he'll be out and on the lecture circuit of his favorite starvationist giiving lectures to still more brain dead college students. Question is willl there be teleprompter available.LOL!

7:47 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts