Research, Technology

Small modular nuclear reactor - a revolution in nuclear power?

Despite the efficiency of nuclear power,at some point, Western countries began to abandon it for environmental reasons. As an alternative, "green energy" was considered. However, with the onset of the energy crisis, the peaceful atom has again become relevant. But classical nuclear power plants have a number of disadvantages. First of all, they are very expensive, and their construction is a very complex and lengthy process. In addition, one should not forget about other shortcomings, due to which they began to be abandoned in the world - this is the danger of a man-made disaster, the presence of nuclear waste, the release of thermal energy into water bodies, etc. Obviously, nuclear power needs new technologies that do not have these shortcomings. And such technologies already exist - these are small modular nuclear reactors. Next, let's take a closer look at what they are and what their advantages are.

Small modular reactors may be the future of nuclear power


  • 1 Small modular nuclear reactor - what are its features
  • 2 Principle of operation and safety of small modular reactors
  • 3 Economic benefit from the use of SMR
  • 4 Perspectives for small modular reactors

Small modular nuclear reactor - what are its features

The Small Modular Nuclear Reactor (SMR) is differentfrom large nuclear power plant reactors, primarily in size. It is several times smaller. For example, the American MMP NuScale Power is a steel cylinder 23 meters high and 5 meters in diameter. As you might guess, such reactors produce less energy - up to 300 MW, but, as a rule, even less. Large traditional reactors produce more than 700 MW of electricity. It would seem that this is a serious shortcoming, but do not rush to conclusions.

MMPs have a modular design.That is, individual elements of the reactor are created at the plant, and then it is quickly assembled at the facility. Due to this, the construction of an SMR is much cheaper than the construction of a large reactor. The process itself takes disproportionately less time.

A small modular reactor is several times smaller than a conventional large reactor

In addition, a mini-NPP with SMR takes muchsmaller area than conventional nuclear power plants. Moreover, they can be built on sites that are not suitable for the construction of large power units. In addition, they are less demanding on infrastructure and can even work autonomously.

It should also be noted that it takes many years to bring a conventional reactor into operation. Small reactors do not have this disadvantage either.

Principle of operation and safety of small modular reactors

The very word "reactor" implies that in the SMRa nuclear reaction occurs, that is, energy is generated as a result of nuclear fission. However, the energy obtained in this way can be converted into electricity in different ways, depending on the modification of the reactor. There are SMRs which are smaller copies of conventional nuclear power plant reactors. In other modifications, other technologies may be used.

MMP NuScale Power generates electricity using a steam turbine

For example, the NuScale Power reactor mentioned aboveconverts the energy released by a nuclear reaction into steam. The latter drives a turbine, which in turn generates electricity. The principle is quite simple - the water is first heated in the internal circuit of the reactor, after which the thermal energy is transferred to the external circuit, where steam is generated. In this case, the reactor automatically stops the nuclear reaction in the event of any emergency.

Due to its small size and modernbuilding technologies, these reactors have several important advantages. The main one is safety. That is, they have a much lower risk of damage due to a natural disaster, such as an earthquake. In addition, even if an emergency occurs, the risk of radioactive releases is also minimal. This is due to the low power of the reactor, low internal pressure and other design features. Thus, the MMR is devoid of the main drawback of classical nuclear power plants, because of which they are afraid.

Economic benefit from the use of SMR

So, as we found out that SMRs are built quickly andrelatively inexpensive, while they are safer than large power units. But the advantages of small reactors are not limited to this. Their important advantage, according to experts, is the low cost of maintenance due to the fact that they are not demanding on nuclear fuel.

SMRs are less demanding on nuclear fuel than large reactors, so they need to be replaced less often

In conventional reactors, fuel replacementcarried out every one to two years. Small reactors require fuel replacement every 3-7 years. And some of their types work without rebooting at all up to 30 years. At the same time, they almost do not produce nuclear waste, since almost all the fuel is produced. Another important plus is the fact that the MMP can be safely stopped at any time and then started again. Ordinary nuclear power plants, as we said earlier, are afraid of blackouts.

Prospects for small modular reactors

At present, small modular reactorsrepresent only a nascent branch in nuclear power. Nevertheless, the current samples already allow us to talk about its prospects. Such samples include the Russian nuclear power plant "Akademik Lomonosov". It is the world's first floating nuclear power plant. It has two MMRs with a capacity of 35 MW.

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There are currently 70commercial MMPs. In addition to Russia, their construction is carried out by such countries as the USA, China (which is developing the smallest reactor in the world), Canada, Argentina and South Korea. Obviously, the number of nuclear power plants with SMRs will increase rapidly, because they are an efficient way to produce inexpensive electricity, while not polluting the environment and without the drawbacks of renewable energy sources, which we talked about earlier.