Small modular reactors

nuclear power
model of a nuclear power station
  • There is economic benefit in deploying small modular reactors (SMRs) as combined heat and power plants linked to district heating networks.  A policy framework must reduce risks for SMR developers.
  • There is a range of locations with the right characteristics for early SMR deployment – including a number of options for a first of kind site. To date no sites in Scotland are under consideration

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are nuclear fissive power plants that are smaller in size than conventional nuclear generators. Long billed as the future for nuclear energy production, SMRs could be operating in the UK by 2030, according to a new report “Preparing for deployment of a UK small modular reactor by 2030” from the Energy Technologies Institute.

The detailed study has also re-assessed the technical viability and cost impact of deploying SMRs as Combined Heat and Power plants, rather than for just power generation. It highlights the economic benefits of extracting low carbon heat for supply to district heating networks. The compact designs are factory-fabricated reactors that can be transported by truck or rail. Due to their smaller size, SMRs offer flexibility and could deliver low carbon heat into cities via hot water pipelines. This opens up potential sites and could help to decarbonise energy use in buildings.

So … SMRs have potential benefits:– mass production and smaller capacity means they should be easier to finance, transport, install and maintain. A more diverse nuclear market could inspire better products, higher heat capacity, advanced fuel cycles, better process heat and more inherent safety features

Safety, security, and cost concerns about SMRs:- sceptics predict that nuclear power in a small package will retain many of the problems of nuclear power in a large package, that it’s a solution looking for a problem. “It’s taking things in the wrong direction,” said Edwin Lyman, a physicist and senior scientist at the Union for Concerned Scientists, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He also questions the financial and safety aspects of small nuclear plants, adding: “It’s a technology in search of a user.”

For sure the world needs carbon-free sources of non-intermittent power. The UK’s nuclear industry stands now at the mercy of various foreign vagaries and agendas. The issue of waste is a paramount concern, as is whether 50 years from now, the world will have any appetite for nuclear energy. Only the waste may remain.  Energy from nuclear fusion – pros and cons


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