Small modular reactors (SMRs) are advanced nuclear reactors that are smaller than conventional nuclear reactors and have a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e) per unit, which is about one-third of the generating capacity of traditional nuclear power reactors. SMRs differ in terms of staffing, security and deployment time.
Modular reactors reduce on-site construction and increase containment efficiency and are claimed to increase safety. Generally, modern small reactors for power generation, and especially SMRs, are expected to have greater simplicity of design, the economy of series production largely in factories, short construction times, and reduced siting costs. Also many are designed to be emplaced below ground level, giving high resistance to terrorist threats. Small modular reactors have their advantages. Small reactors supply power reliably regardless of weather conditions, are resilient to security threats and have enhanced safety features. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, SMRs will use a tiny fraction of land compared to wind and solar. Small reactors can power retired fossil sites, match electricity output with demand, integrate with renewables, and be used for heat, desalination and other applications. Licensing is potentially a challenge for SMRs, as design certification, construction and operation licence costs are not necessarily less than for large reactors.
There are about 50 SMR designs and concepts globally. Most of them are in various developmental stages and some are claimed as being near-term deployable. There are currently four SMRs in advanced stages of construction in Argentina, China and Russia, and several existing and newcomer nuclear energy countries are conducting SMR research and development.
Written by Shivani Mahapatra