Going nuclear - in a small way

March 7, 2014 by Marie Daniels, University of Lincoln
Going nuclear - in a small way

A detailed assessment of a new, smaller type of nuclear reactor has been published to help policymakers decide on the best way to meet the growing demand for energy.

According to official estimates world energy consumption in 2035 will be more than double that of 1995. A substantial challenge for engineers and scientists over the coming decades is to develop and deploy with sufficient capacity and flexibility to meet this increasing need while simultaneously reducing emissions.

The new research paper, published in the academic journal Progress in Nuclear Energy, aims to show to what extent a new type of , termed the 'Small Modular Reactor' (SMR), might provide a solution to fulfil these energy needs.

Modern SMRs are a relatively 'new product' in the nuclear industry, being of a smaller size making it easier to implement new technical solutions and for construction purposes.

Lead author Dr Giorgio Locatelli, from the School of Engineering, University of Lincoln, UK, provides a state-of-the-art appraisal of SMRs, particularly focussing on the Light Water Reactor (LWR), detailing the economic and social limitations for their viable deployment.

Dr Locatelli said: "With fusion-based power plants not currently being considered viable for large-scale deployment for at least 40 years, other technologies must to be considered. Renewable and high efficiency combined gas-fired plants, along with , are regarded as the most suitable candidates, with Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) developing as a favoured choice.

"Given the extreme relevance and complexity of the field, this paper aimed to bring together the contributions of scholars and practitioners with state-of-the-art papers and reports."

One of the main issues surrounding is safety, particularly following the Fukushima accident.

The simplification, standardisation and compactness of SMRs allows for certain improvements on reactor safety and physical protection, although these are design specific. These improvements are primarily due to SMRs being "passive systems" that dramatically reduce the effects of human error and perform well and predictably in extreme circumstances.

Their small size makes them a good option for locations that cannot accommodate large-scale plants and they also require limited upfront capital investment.

Dr Locatelli concludes that SMRs are a suitable choice when the power to be installed is in the range of 1-3 Gigawatt Electrical (GWe). The gigawatt is equal to one billion (109) watts and is used for large power plants or power grids.

This range is mainly for newcomers to the nuclear market (such as Kenya) or private utilities (such as in the US). Large Reactors (LRs) are still preferable for markets requiring several GWe.

He said: "Considering non-financial factors, preliminary results indicate that SMRs perform better or at least as well as Large Reactors (LRs). However, the 'not in my back yard' syndrome limits the possibility of using SMRs on many sites. The social aspects of SMRs, such as the creation of new jobs, is also positive and a goal of policymakers.

Explore further: Small modular reactor design could be a 'SUPERSTAR'

More information: Giorgio Locatelli, Chris Bingham, Mauro Mancini, "Small modular reactors: A comprehensive overview of their economics and strategic aspects," Progress in Nuclear Energy, Volume 73, May 2014, Pages 75-85, ISSN 0149-1970, dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pnucene.2014.01.010.

Related Stories

Small modular reactor design could be a 'SUPERSTAR'

February 10, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Though most of today's nuclear reactors are cooled by water, we've long known that there are alternatives; in fact, the world's first nuclear-powered electricity in 1951 came from a reactor cooled by sodium. ...

The future of our energy

April 15, 2013

When it comes to sustainable energy supplies hydroelectric plants are usually the best solution, according to researchers who have reviewed the economic, social and environmental impact of fuel provision.

Japan nuclear-free as last reactor switched off

September 16, 2013

Japan went nuclear-free on Monday as it switched off its last operating reactor for an inspection, with no date scheduled for a restart amid strong public hostility to atomic power.

Jordan to build nuclear research reactor

August 20, 2013

Jordan's Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given the go-ahead for a first nuclear research reactor as the desert kingdom, which lacks any oil, seeks to meet its energy needs.

China makes nuclear power breakthrough

July 22, 2011

China said Friday it had hooked its first so-called "fourth generation" nuclear reactor to the grid, a breakthrough that could eventually reduce its reliance on uranium imports

Recommended for you

Cryptocurrency rivals snap at Bitcoin's heels

January 14, 2018

Bitcoin may be the most famous cryptocurrency but, despite a dizzying rise, it's not the most lucrative one and far from alone in a universe that counts 1,400 rivals, and counting.

Top takeaways from Consumers Electronics Show

January 13, 2018

The 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, which concluded Friday in Las Vegas, drew some 4,000 exhibitors from dozens of countries and more than 170,000 attendees, showcased some of the latest from the technology world.

Finnish firm detects new Intel security flaw

January 12, 2018

A new security flaw has been found in Intel hardware which could enable hackers to access corporate laptops remotely, Finnish cybersecurity specialist F-Secure said on Friday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.