The first small modular nuclear reactor has been approved for use in the US

midian182

Posts: 8,495   +105
Staff member
What just happened? The United States' first small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) should be operational by the end of this decade. The country's nuclear power regulator has just certified the design for NuScale Power Corp's SMR, marking a significant step toward developing these next-generation power plants, which some say could be used to sustainably power data centers.

Following approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), NuScale plans to build an SMR plant at the Idaho National Laboratory. The company says its six-reactor, 462 megawatt Carbon Free Power Project should be operational by 2030.

SMRs typically generate 300–500 megawatts (MW) of electric power, though some produce less than 100MW. While any nuclear reactor will raise concerns among the general public, these plants are said to pose far less risk than traditional facilities due to their scale, simple design, and the inherent safety characteristics of the reactor. They also rely on natural circulation, convection, gravity, and self-pressurization, all of which has led experts to cite SMRs as a way of sustaining data center growth.

Image credit: NuScale

Nuclear waste is still a problem with SMRs—spent fuel material can take anything from three decades up to 24,000 years to reach safe radiation levels. However, unlike conventional nuclear power plants that require refueling every year or two, SMR vendors are aiming for every three to seven years. Some designs are estimated to operate for 40 years without refueling.

NRC approval means the SMR is now the seventh reactor design cleared for use in the United States. "SMRs are no longer an abstract concept," said Kathryn Huff, assistant secretary for nuclear energy at the Department of Energy. "They are real, and they are ready for deployment thanks to the hard work of NuScale, the university community, our national labs, industry partners, and the NRC."

NuScale has also applied to the NRC for approval of a larger SMR design that produces 77 megawatts per module, writes AP.

President Joe Biden's administration and Republican lawmakers have backed SMRs, saying they are important in helping to address climate change as the plants offer an alternative to greenhouse-gas-producing fossil fuels. The US Energy Department has provided more than $600 million to the project since 2014.

Russia has two SMRs capable of producing 35MW each sitting on a floating power plant (above) off the arctic coast. New SMRs are now under construction or in the licensing process in Argentina, Canada, China, France, South Korea, and the UK, where Rolls-Royce aims to get the first of its reactors online by 2029. NuScale also hopes to build SMRs in Romania, Kazakhstan, and Poland, though building in this region is a concern for nuclear safety experts given Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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yRaz

Posts: 4,984   +6,471
The US Military and many other countries around the world have been using SMRs in aircraft carries and submarines for decades without incident. And dealing with nuclear waste isn't a large issue. Finland is working on the Onkalo nuclear waste storage facility which is estimated to be able to store between 100 to 120 years of high level nuclear waste. The thing about this design is that it can be replicated anywhere with a stable geological granite deposit, of which there are many.

We are capable of storing many hundreds of years of nuclear waste safely and so long as someone doesn't build a reactor on a fault line by the ocean(looking at you Japan), then our current third generation nuclear reactors pose almost no risk of a melt down. This should give us plenty of time to find alternative sources of energy or however many cycles of "50 years till fusion" we have to go through.
 

emmzo

Posts: 817   +1,252
Romania will be the first in Europe to have SMRs. The project has been approved and it's underway.
"...though building in this region is a concern for nuclear safety experts given Russia's invasion of Ukraine." Just lol. Leave Est Europe countries with no tech, just in case. Luckily, the US doesn't think like that. And if Russia were to invade NATO countries, all hell is going to break loose anyway. Nukes will fly everywhere, it won't matter. The Zaporozhye nuclear plant, biggest in Europe is literally, in an active war zone, be concerned about that.
 

dangh

Posts: 857   +1,450
Can't wait for wide spread of smr - this is best option for cheap, available energy source. Really hope they will ramp up the production and deployment.
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,959   +7,014
This is so dumb. We wont build massive scaled up nuclear plants for the vast majority of americans who use electricity on a daily basis, but we will build small scale ones that produce more waste and are not tightly controlled by government entities because "muh green energy".

This is so backwards.
 

Ludak021

Posts: 775   +590
Romania will be the first in Europe to have SMRs. The project has been approved and it's underway.
"...though building in this region is a concern for nuclear safety experts given Russia's invasion of Ukraine." Just lol. Leave Est Europe countries with no tech, just in case. Luckily, the US doesn't think like that. And if Russia were to invade NATO countries, all hell is going to break loose anyway. Nukes will fly everywhere, it won't matter. The Zaporozhye nuclear plant, biggest in Europe is literally, in an active war zone, be concerned about that.

It would literally take MOAB to mess with the outside shell of any NPP, then another MOAB to destroy the internal containment that is keeping nuclear reaction contained. Or, an employee there to do something really stupid. Worry about that.
 

yRaz

Posts: 4,984   +6,471
It would literally take MOAB to mess with the outside shell of any NPP, then another MOAB to destroy the internal containment that is keeping nuclear reaction contained. Or, an employee there to do something really stupid. Worry about that.
You also have the many redundant failsafes, both active and passive. My favorite is that the fuel rods are held up in such a manner that if anything goes wrong(earth quake, power failure, ect) they simply use gravity to fall between the control rods and stop the reaction.
 

dangh

Posts: 857   +1,450
This is so dumb. We wont build massive scaled up nuclear plants for the vast majority of americans who use electricity on a daily basis, but we will build small scale ones that produce more waste and are not tightly controlled by government entities because "muh green energy".
SMR are safer, requires much less water and building them closer to smaller cities means much less transit losses and costs. And why would you need event higher control? Those aren't breeders anyway.
Distributed energy sources are ideal for remote, small cities or rural areas. And modularity of that system is great for any further grow.
And where did you got 'more waste'? Surely not in this article. And no, waste is not such a big problem if addressed properly. All radioactive substances are already in the wild, so after their use they are actually less radioactive. Put them back to already used uranium mines and those caves wont see a difference.
 

kira setsu

Posts: 449   +434
This is so dumb. We wont build massive scaled up nuclear plants for the vast majority of americans who use electricity on a daily basis, but we will build small scale ones that produce more waste and are not tightly controlled by government entities because "muh green energy".

This is so backwards.
look around, being backwards seems to be our thing these days.

the article is a bit infuriating though, they'll do all this for data centers meanwhile the power company in my state needs to raise prices again so they can fail as usual during the next slight drizzle that hits.
 

BadThad

Posts: 1,282   +1,562
All radioactive substances are already in the wild, so after their use they are actually less radioactive. Put them back to already used uranium mines and those caves wont see a difference.

No they are NOT! Nuclear fuel is a concentrated, highly refined product and cannot be equated to uranium ore, they are nothing alike other than they contain uranium. Spent material must be properly stored and cannot simply be shoved into a mine.
 

BadThad

Posts: 1,282   +1,562
This is so dumb. We wont build massive scaled up nuclear plants for the vast majority of americans who use electricity on a daily basis, but we will build small scale ones that produce more waste and are not tightly controlled by government entities because "muh green energy".

This is so backwards.

Would you rather we spend billions on failed wind and solar tech? I'd much rather see money put into nuclear since it actually produces a ton of usable energy when compared to other green tech.
 

dangh

Posts: 857   +1,450
No they are NOT! Nuclear fuel is a concentrated, highly refined product and cannot be equated to uranium ore, they are nothing alike other than they contain uranium. Spent material must be properly stored and cannot simply be shoved into a mine.
sure, same goes with iron - it is refined iron ore. But the amount of refined product is same, just in one place. So if you put used rods in safe containers hundreds meters down in unused uranium mine the overall radiaiton of that mine wont change;) Obviously, you shouldn't be anywhere close to it. But the waste from fossil fuel used in power plants are maybe less lethal, but takes much more space.

And actually the coal waste contains MORE radioactive materials than waste from nuclear plants. So, yeah.

Would you rather we spend billions on failed wind and solar tech? I'd much rather see money put into nuclear since it actually produces a ton of usable energy when compared to other green tech.
Citation needed. Many countries are doing fine with wind tech, and many other countries as well (in Ireland wind electricity is around 25% of usage and Sweden or Denmark doing evn better). Solar is doing very well for small areas and private houses, so.... yeah.

Thorium reactors would be an even better choice IMO.
I thought similarly on that idea, but seeing how all the investments in thorium reactors are pushed back or cancelled and how this is still on research phase I'd rather be fine with smr for now and let other technologies catch up.
 

yRaz

Posts: 4,984   +6,471
I thought similarly on that idea, but seeing how all the investments in thorium reactors are pushed back or cancelled and how this is still on research phase I'd rather be fine with smr for now and let other technologies catch up.
India actually has a functioning thorium reactor and are planning to build many, many more. The don't have lots of uranium but have over 20% of the worlds thorium reserves.
 

m3tavision

Posts: 1,116   +946
Citation needed. Many countries are doing fine with wind tech, and many other countries as well (in Ireland wind electricity is around 25% of usage and Sweden or Denmark doing evn better). Solar is doing very well for small areas and private houses, so.... yeah.


None of Ireland's windmills are on land... each Country has it's own use-case scenario...!




 

Endymio

Posts: 2,004   +2,088
Citation needed. Many countries are doing fine with wind tech...
Germany's push to adopt wind and solar took them from the lowest electricity costs in Europe to one of the highest. And it actually increased their CO2 emissions, as every wind and solar farm needs to be paired with a natural gas generator, to adjust for the variability of the source. Despite that, Germany still only generates about 35% of electricity from those sources-- and it only manages a figure that high by importing and exporting vast amounts of energy to its neighbors' grids, a strategy that works only when your neighbors have wind and solar than you do.
 

scavengerspc

Posts: 2,914   +3,225
TechSpot Elite
failed wind and solar tech?
Damn man, where the hell did you pull from? Failures don't double in usage in 6 years.

Germany's push to adopt wind and solar took them from the lowest electricity costs in Europe to one of the highest. And it actually increased their CO2 emissions, as every wind and solar farm needs to be paired with a natural gas generator, to adjust for the variability of the source. Despite that, Germany still only generates about 35% of electricity from those sources-- and it only manages a figure that high by importing and exporting vast amounts of energy to its neighbors' grids, a strategy that works only when your neighbors have wind and solar than you do.
OK then.
 

BadThad

Posts: 1,282   +1,562
Damn man, where the hell did you pull from? Failures don't double in usage in 6 years.

Let me ask you this - if every single windmill or solar panel was instead one of these nuke plants, which would generate more electricity? THINK and answer your own question.
 

scavengerspc

Posts: 2,914   +3,225
TechSpot Elite
Let me ask you this - if every single windmill or solar panel was instead one of these nuke plants, which would generate more electricity? THINK and answer your own question.
Wrong approach, my friend. Wind and solar are my second choice. Nuclear power is my first choice. But until we all wake up to the further potential of nuclear power, I am all for natural sources. Basically anything but a thick plume of smoke.

In fact, my one and only beef with your posts is the "failed" comment. They are not a failure. Just not as good as Mr. fission.
 

ChrisH1

Posts: 218   +113
Thing about these mini-reactors is, while inherently safe and better with waste, they are an obvious target for terrorists. Getting one to blow up as a nuclear explosion may be somewhere between impractical and impossible, but packing in a ton or ten of standard explosives and getting it to blow radioactive waste and fuel all over the immediate environment would be relatively easy I would think, unless it's behind such an impenetrable secure barrier that the cost would be prohibitive. Doing that with a windmill or solar plant would be less of a problem.