Radiation Protection Today Winter 2021 | Page 27

The future is small , and modular

Article by Editorial Team member Oliver Caunt ( JCS Nuclear Solutions )
With the climate crisis very much in the headlines following the efforts of world leaders at COP26 to agree on co-ordinated actions to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 ° C , the focus on the green energy agenda has never been greater . The UK Government published the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution back in 2020 , and in November it was announced that Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd had been backed by private investors and the UK Government to develop Small Modular Reactors ( SMRs ) for energy generation . This is part of the Net Zero – Build Back Greener initiative , aimed at reducing the country ’ s reliance on fossil fuels for energy production .
It seems SMRs are now certain to play a significant role in our energy mix , complementing renewables and other technologies . But what exactly are SMRs ? They are small power stations , designed to be modular , built off-site , faster and less expensive to deploy , operating to stringent safety standards , and easier to decommission than conventionally-built nuclear power plants , resulting in fewer legacy issues . They are projected to be about the size of two football pitches .
The UK currently has six operating nuclear power stations which together generate about 20 % of the nation ’ s electricity , but almost half of this generation capacity is due to be retired by 2025 . The power output of individual reactors ranges from 480-620 MWe ( Megawatts electric ) for the Advanced Gas- Cooled Reactors ( AGRs ) to 1,198 MWe for the Pressurised Water Reactor ( PWR ) at Sizewell B . The two UK European Pressurised Water Reactors ( UK-EPRs ) currently under construction at Hinkley Point C in Somerset will each have a maximum output of 1,630 MWe .
The Rolls-Royce led consortium aims to initially build 16 SMRs based on PWR technology , each with a generation capacity of 470 MWe , which is not much less than some AGRs . To put this in context , the output of a large off-shore windfarm consisting of 100 or so turbines is around 300 MWe . The target build time of Rolls-Royce ' s Nth of a kind modular UK-SMR is 500 days , and the consortium aims to complete its first unit in the early 2030s and build up to 10 by 2035 .
Rolls-Royce is not the only designer of SMRs . In 2020 the IAEA published an update of its book Advances in Small Modular Reactor Technology Developments , with contributions from developers covering over 70 designs . According to the World Nuclear Association ( WNA ), there are currently five SMRs already operating in Pakistan , India and Russia , with a further four units under construction in Argentina , China and Russia . However , with
Rolls-Royce small modular reactor
Radiation Protection Today Winter 2021 27