Insight: Nuclear industry, vendors believe there’s a future for microreactors

Recent expressions of support by the US and UK governments have highlighted a new class of very small nuclear power reactors. Microreactors, sometimes defined as reactors of less than 15 MW, have been identified as potential recipients of development funds by the UK government as part of its search for an “advanced modular reactor” for near-term deployment, while the US Congress passed legislation in July asking the Department of Energy to develop a report on the potential deployment of such units at military or energy facilities. Small modular reactors have received attention in recent years as a potential solution for the problems of small grids and remote locations while benefiting from faster factory-like manufacturing. Advocates for microreactors say their diminutive size allows for an expanded range of siting options and functions. Critics wonder, however, whether the tiny reactors have much of a market outside a few remote Arctic communities, as well as highly specialized defense and resource extraction facilities. Growing interest Some established and newcomer reactor vendors have developed such designs, initially in secret, and report growing interest for the product category. Westinghouse is looking to build a demonstration unit of its eVinci reactor, while US start-up Oklo has engaged… continue reading

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