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Dubai Expo spotlights ‘mighty’ potential of small modular reactors

"A mighty source of energy to power cities of the future…"
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This article was originally published by Power Engineering International

“A mighty source of energy to power cities of the future…”

This was how Dr Sergey Brilev, President of the Global Energy Association, described small modular nuclear reactors at SMR Day hosted by Russian nuclear company Rosatom at EXPO 2020 in Dubai.

The goal of SMR day was to explore the role of nuclear power in the future energy mix, with a specific focus on small modular nuclear reactors, the prospects for their development and how this technology can be applied around the world.

Alexey Likhachev, Director General of Rosatom, said: “For me personally, last year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow was a watershed moment. I literally felt the winds of change… that people were realising that a carbon-free future is impossible without the peaceful use of nuclear technology.”

Likhachev made reference to the latest proposal from the EU that labelled nuclear power as a clean fuel in its Taxonomy. He also pointed the audience to nuclear’s carbon footprint, the upper threshold of hydrocarbon emissions being 5.5 gram /KWh and the lower threshold of wind power being 6 grams.

Image: SMR Day, Dubai

Likhachev added: “We are convinced in the Russian Federation that the energy transition would not be possible without the expansion of nuclear capacity in our country.”

Kirill Komarov, First Deputy Director-General for Development and International Business of Rosatom, noted that nuclear provides good baseload power regardless of the weather and that SMRs in particular have very specific advantages.

  • Small power plants are fit for remote regions, where capacity demand is high, but available infrastructure is low;
  • SMRs can produce power for hybrid applications;
  • They can be used in combination with renewable technology especially in disributed systems;
  • SMRs require lower capital costs;
  • Can more readily move into brown field sites, for example where coal is being decommissioned, and
  • SMRs can be built independently or as part of larger modules with capacity added incrementally.

For these reasons, SMRs are viewed as an upcoming trend and an important addition to the energy, rather than some sort of ‘Holy Grail’ of energy, explained Komarov.

He added: “There are certain tasks that would be impossible to achieve without the use of SMRs,” providing examples such as bringing energy to remote locations like islands, archipelagos and rural areas not grid-connected.

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“SMRs can deliver long-term predictability for large scale industrial projects, as well as add sustainability and eco-friendliness to the production chain in projects where decarbonisation is key.”

Komarov provided an example of how SMRs are making a positive difference in the remote northern territory of Russia, where about 20 million people are living in a decentralised energy zone with minimal infrastructure.

A floating nuclear power plant was ideal to provide electricity, said Komarov, and a plant with two SMRs and a capacity of up to 77MW of electricity was commissioned in 2019.

Another example of where SMRs could prove useful is in the Baimskaya ore field in Russia which will be explored for the next 40 years.

“At first, using LNG seemed the logical power supply, however, the price of natural gas has increased over 10 times over the last six months, increasing cost and risk,” said Komarov.

In contrast to the volatile price of gas, speakers agreed that the nuclear price is predictable for decades, and stable enough to minimise the impact on the consumer.

Dr Sama Bilbao y Leon, Director General of the World Nuclear Association, said SMRs “have brought so much excitement and energy, within the nuclear community and externally”.

“It’s the crystallisation of much of the innovation within the industry, in terms of technology, fuels and coolants, as well as completely different strategies to deliver power.”

Technology specs

The new floating power units are based on the RITM-series SMR, which uses pressurized water technology.

It is safe and compact, said Komarov, and has formed the basis for the land-based NPP which can produce up to 110MW of power, providing an uninterrupted supply for 60 years and has a construction period of 3-4 years.

The first land-based plant will be commissioned in 2028 in the Russian region of Yakutia, which heavily relies on coal and diesel. The new SMR will decrease emissions by 20 000 tonnes per year and will help decarbonise the local economy and increase fuel independence, stated Komarov.

“Rosatom is moving towards closed fuel cycle systems and is therefore building the SVBR -100 reactor, a generation 4 reactor based on heavy metal coolant with a 100MW capacity.

“Also, microreactors, the Shelf-M with a 10MW capacity and a refuel cycle of eight years, is becoming a focus for us.

“Micros reactors are fully factory-built, installed on-site, are quickly shipped and removed and small enough to be transported by truck,” concluded Komarov.

The post Dubai Expo spotlights ‘mighty’ potential of small modular reactors appeared first on Power Engineering International.

Author: Pamela Largue

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