Modular Nuclear Reactors, Much Smaller Than Current Ones, Are Coming
The US has given the green light to modular nuclear reactors, which will be much smaller than today's.
By giving the green light to the design of the first small modular nuclear reactor, the United States has taken a promising step towards a revolutionary new power source.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the design for NuScale, an Oregon-based reactor company, last week. This approval allows utilities to choose this type of reactor when applying for a license to build a new nuclear plant. The design will be about one-third the size of a normal reactor, and each module will be able to generate around 50 megawatts of power.
The NuScale model is a historic first design for small modular reactors, as well as the seventh overall nuclear reactor design ever to be greenlit by the US government. Nuclear power is a carbon-neutral source of electricity and could provide a valuable power contribution in times of renewable energy outages.
Small modular reactors, known as SMRs, consist of parts that can be manufactured in a factory and then shipped to the field, solving some of the manufacturing problems and making them much cheaper and less time-consuming to build, while taking up less space.
The introduction of small modular reactor design may not resolve some of the deep issues with nuclear technology and longstanding tensions about nuclear's future role within the environmental movement, but it certainly is seen as an intriguing sign of what may be on the horizon.