SMRs – A game-changer, an alternative or a distant dream?
Recently there has been a renewal of global interest in Small Modular Reactor (SMR), both from countries developing of SMRs and potential newcomer countries.
The US Department of Energy will spend $452 million—with a match from industry—over the next five years to guide two small modular reactor designs through the nuclear regulatory process by 2022. The NSSC granted approval on July 4, 2012, for a standard design for the SMART reactor in the Republic of Korea while Argentina is starting the site excavation for the CAREM reactor in the country.
While many emerging nuclear countries have expressed keen interest in SMRs, but have yet to reconcile the fact that SMRs is not a ‘proven’ technology.
Should newcomer countries consider SMRs?
It seems SMR designs that use light water cooling have a major advantage in licensing and development and those new designs based on existing larger reactor designs also have an added advantage. However the economic feasibility of SMRs is a challenge with skeptics doubting if SMRs can compete in a market increasingly dominated by cheap natural gas.
Next February in Hong Kong and intriguing panel discussion on SMRs will take place during Asia Nuclear Business Platform. The following issues will be discussed, dissected and debated:
- How developed and far-along is the technology?
- Competitive advantages to traditional NPPs – will they compete with larger reactors?
- Financing models and project structures for SMRs
- Recognizing the difference between Gen III+ LWRs SMRs vs. Gen IV “advanced” SMR reactors (high temp reactors, fast reactors, non-LWRs)