Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Small Modular Reactors

PostedMay 22, 2020

Lede: Since nuclear power plants don’t emit greenhouse gases, many think they are a solution to climate change. So a push is now on to boost worldwide nuclear energy production by deploying more – but much smaller – reactors.

Randy Atkins:  For many locations it’s too expensive to build a typical large nuclear power plant and it would produce more energy than the community needs. So several companies are now working on Small Modular Reactors.

Jose Reyes: You can add modules as modules are needed as opposed to building a large plant all at one time.

Randy Atkins: Jose Reyes is cofounder of NuScale Power, a leader in this technology. He says their modules are just seventy-two feet long and fifteen-feet wide.

Jose Reyes: We ship it from the factory to the site, without fuel, in roughly three pieces.

Randy Atkins: It’s installed underground in a pool of water.

Jose Reyes: By having the modules underwater during normal operation, it provides an incredible amount of what we call passive safety.

Randy Atkins: Reyes says being underground protects the reactors from things like earthquakes or tornados…and water removes excess heat without relying on electric cooling, so their reactors can’t melt down. Critics do have some worries including that no safety measures are infallible so additional backups may be needed, the small reactors’ electricity might be more expensive, and they still produce nuclear waste. NuScale is currently working on design certification and hopes for government approval in 2020.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.