Sunday, 1 April 2012

Small reactors game changers for the nuclear industry?

Small reactors game changers for the nuclear industry? B&W and Bechtel form small modular reactor alliance: "Two leading energy announced July 14 they plan to jointly build and sell 125MW small light water reactors as turn-key projects to U.S. utilities and for export. Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) and Bechtel Power have entered into a formal alliance to build small modular reactors (SMR). Customers can add modules to match growth in electricity demand.
Jack Futcher, president of Bechtel Power, which has a 20% stake in the alliance, said, ""Nuclear energy is a viable source of energy. SMRs are affordable and scalable. It has a potential to be a real game changer."
The alliance joins the design and fabrication capabilities of B&W with the engineering, procurement, and construction expertise of Bechtel Power. The development takes the potential for commercial deployment of a small reactor closer to reality. It puts the B&W Generation mPower SMR out in front of the competition from other firms like NuScale and Hyperion. The first unit built for a customer could enter revenue service as soon as 2020.
Bechtel and B&W are privately-held firms so there is no way to specifically tie the announcement to stock prices or investor interest. First Energy is publically traded, but is diversified across nuclear, coal, and natural gas fueled plants. TVA is a quasi-government agency."
And this is a more recent article on small reactors:
And this is a great summary of activities around the world on Small Nuclear Power Reactors from World Nuclear Association: "As nuclear power generation has become established since the 1950s, the size of reactor units has grown from 60 MWe to more than 1600 MWe, with corresponding economies of scale in operation. At the same time there have been many hundreds of smaller power reactors built both for naval use (up to 190 MW thermal) and as neutron sourcesa, yielding enormous expertise in the engineering of small units. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) defines 'small' as under 300 MWe, and up to 700 MWe as 'medium' – including many operational units from 20th century. Together they are now referred to by IAEA as small and medium reactors (SMRs). However, 'SMR' is used more commonly as acronym for Small Modular Reactors.
Today, due partly to the high capital cost of large power reactors generating electricity via the steam cycle and partly to the need to service small electricity grids under about 4 GWe,b there is a move to develop smaller units. These may be built independently or as modules in a larger complex, with capacity added incrementally as required (see section below on Modular construction using small reactor units). Economies of scale are provided by the numbers produced. There are also moves to develop small units for remote sites. Small units are seen as a much more manageable investment than big ones whose cost rivals the capitalization of the utilities concerned.
This paper focuses on advanced designs in the small category, i.e. those now being built for the first time or still on the drawing board, and some larger ones which are outside the mainstream categories dealt with in the Advanced Reactors paper. Note that many of the designs described here are not yet actually taking shape. Three main options are being pursued: light water reactors, fast neutron reactors and also graphite-moderated high temperature reactors. The first has the lowest technological risk, but the second (FNR) can be smaller, simpler and with longer operation before refueling.
Generally, modern small reactors for power generation are expected to have greater simplicity of design, economy of mass production, and reduced siting costs. Most are also designed for a high level of passive or inherent safety in the event of malfunctionc. A 2010 report by a special committee convened by the American Nuclear Society showed that many safety provisions necessary, or at least prudent, in large reactors are not necessary in the small designs forthcomingd."

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