“Huge demand for SMRs” – so what are the main challenges? : New Nuclear

September 21, 2022

Interest in small modular reactors (SMR) means that building the industrial capacity to produce the quantities required is just one of the challenges for companies as they turn their visions into reality, World Nuclear Symposium understood.

Rick Springman, left, Jon Ball, centre, with host Fran Scott (Image: World Nuclear Association)

Jon Ball, executive vice president of market development for GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, and Rick Springman, senior vice president of international projects for Holtec International, both outlined their goals for SMRs to be operational within the next ten years during of a round table on Turning vision into reality at the nuclear industry gathering in London earlier this month.

Ball said that “very large numbers of reactors are going to be needed to solve both the climate change crisis but also the energy security crisis…massive numbers are needed, and we can debate what will be the right number, but we know it’s going to be a lot”. He said that when GE Hitachi talks to potential customers about its SMR BWRX-300 “they’re not talking about one or two reactors, it’s ‘we need 10 or 20 of these reactors'”.

The scale of demand means there will be pinch points in order to meet the required numbers, Ball said, such as forgings and reactor pressure vessels: “Capacity is limited today, but Is it insurmountable? It’s not. We know how to do it, it’s just a matter of building that capacity and there has to be a clear demand signal – ultimately those suppliers, those manufacturers, want to see real orders so they feel comfortable investing in their factories to increase capacity.”

Ball added that because the BWRX-300 is essentially a 10th BWR evolution with the same components, the same fuel and the same way of performing breakdowns, they are hiring and training workers for SMRs – which the company hopes to return. operational from 2028 – working on their existing reactors. They also have virtual reality capability so people can “walk through” the factory in 3D.

The other area that will have a huge influence on the rollout of SMR is “optimal harmonization” of regulation, with the example of US and Canadian regulators being held up as an example to be applauded, while, Ball said, it was encouraging to see countries new to nuclear “really looking for advice”.

Rick Springman of Holtec said the company has a “long-term view with a short-term focus to prepare for what we perceive to be a huge future market.” He said the company had invested its own money and was fully committed to developing a new generation of “absolutely safe small module reactors – that’s basically what we’ve been working on for 10 years.” It added that its reactors are running passively with “all the emergency cooling water it needs to shut down indefinitely” without the need for offsite power.

He said the company currently expects the first commercial operation of an SMR-160 at the Oyster Creek site in the United States by 2030, although that timeline could be accelerated. He pointed out that a key development goal had been to ensure it was “user-friendly – ​​it’s an 80-year-old machine, it has to be user-friendly” for people to want to use it.

Springman also pointed to the challenges of funding new nuclear projects, especially internationally with a one-of-a-kind product. Other industries, he noted, could cover the gap with technology risk insurance.

He said Holtec expects to need at least four industrial SMR manufacturing sites around the world – each producing about four SMRs per year – to meet demand, as the company is “in discussions with numerous departments public in the United States and abroad.

Another key issue, Springman said, was that nuclear power needed to have a “proper assessment” reflecting that it “provides something unique that no other technology can provide – clean energy 24/7. /7”. He said energy market regulators should ensure that the reliability and clean energy on offer is properly reflected in the market.

This issue was also raised by Keith Everhart of the International Energy Agency, who said their calculations suggested that robust carbon pricing, combined with scarcity pricing, would mean that in energy markets energy, at least four technologies – solar, wind and hydro as well as nuclear – would be able to meet their current costs and the costs of new investments.

Research and writing by World Nuclear News

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