Dave Elliott: Small Modular Reactors are being promoted as the next big things in energy- being allegedly cheaper than conventional large plants since they can be mass-produced. None yet exist, apart from the small units used for nuclear submarines, but the proponents envisage all manner of new variants emerging in the years ahead, with some prototypes already being planned in the US, and Canada, and China also pushing ahead in this area. Some are conventional Pressurised Water Reactors simply scaled down, others, less developed so far, are planning to test out other routes, including molten salt flouride reactors using thorium, possibly operating in fast breeder mode. In theory some could also be run in Combined Heat and Power mode, with the heat delivered to nearby urban areas- if anyone will allow SMRs to be built near or in cities. That would improve their economics. SMR enthusiasts have be trying to promote their new as yet untested technologies, but not that many seem to want to pay for them. Some look to the military link to rescue SMRs- they have the same technical and expertise base as is used for the nuclear propulsion units of the UK’s nuclear submarines. But so far that doesn’t seem to paid off. Certainly there have been complaints from SMR enthusiasts about the low level of government support in the UK: Meanwhile, in the USA, one key project has gone bust, having apparently overreached itself: failing-to-deliver-reactor-that-ran-on-spent-fuel. It doesn’t sound like a booming area of development.
New Renew Extra 1st Nov 2018 read more »