Big potential for nuclear microreactors

01 April 2024

Source: U.S. Department of EnergySource: U.S. Department of Energy

Nuclear power is playing an ever-growing role in supplying electric power around the world even as some of its associated prime movers are shrinking in size. Microreactors currently under development in the U.S. are 100 to 1,000 times smaller than conventional nuclear reactors.

These units can operate independently from the electric grid or as part of a microgrid to generate up to 20 MW thermal energy that can be used to generate electricity and provide heat for industrial applications. By comparison, the capacity of systems classified as small modular reactors is in the 20 MW to 300 MW range.

The portability of microreactors opens avenues for generating power on a small scale in remote locations, at deployed military installations and in locations recovering from natural disasters. Components can be fully assembled in a factory and shipped out to location by truck or rail, offering the benefits of reduced capital costs and construction lead times.

Most designs will require fuel with a higher concentration of uranium-235 that’s not currently consumed in today’s reactors, although some may benefit from use of high temperature moderating materials that would reduce fuel enrichment requirements while maintaining the small system size. Microreactors are expected to operate for years without refueling.

The first such systems are expected in 2025.

To contact the author of this article, email GlobalSpecEditors@globalspec.com

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