The future of nuclear power, i.e. microreactors and SMRs

Because of their size, small modular reactors (SMRs) can solve some of the problems of traditional nuclear power and make plants faster and cheaper to build and safer to operate. The reactor design by NuScale, a company from the state of Oregon, has just been approved by the US federal government. NuScale intends to build reactor modules with less than 100 megawatts of power. When they are combined into power plants, they will give a total of several hundred megawatts of power to supply electricity to several hundred thousand homes — similar to a medium-sized coal-fired power plant in the US. China was the first to connect SMRs to the electricity grid in 2021.

Meanwhile, nuclear microreactors can power a college campus, hospital or military complex. The University of Illinois wants to apply for a construction permit for a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor developed by the Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation and begin operation in 2028. The Pennsylvania State University has signed a memorandum of understanding with Westinghouse Electric Company to collaborate on microreactor technology, and Purdue University in Indiana is working with Duke Energy. The universities are interested in microreactor technology because they want to power their buildings and explore options for replacing fossil fuels. The U.S. Department of Defense is also working on a microreactor — Project Pele is a prototype mobile nuclear reactor under development at the Idaho National Laboratory.

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