CYIL vol. 12 (2021)

jakub handrlica – marianna novotná

CYIL 12 (2021)

1. Introduction The deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs) 1 has been intensively discussed during the last decade as a viable alternative to conventional nuclear power plants. 2 In this regard, it has been argued 3 that SMRs demonstrate several advantages, as compared with the nuclear reactors currently used in conventional nuclear power plants. Firstly, the deployment of SMRs requires considerably less preparation time. Parts of SMRs will be factory-made and shipped to site locations. This makes them quicker to build and less expensive than traditional designs – drastically reducing up-front costs for plant construction. Secondly, SMRs have a simple and compact design, which allows more options to utilize nuclear power. These include locations unable to support large reactors, along with powering smaller electrical markets and grids in isolated areas and sites with limited water. Thirdly, SMRs are very flexible. They can be scaled up or down to meet energy demands and help power areas where larger plants are not required. They can also be used to help replace or repower retiring power plants or to complement existing power plants with zero-emission fuel. And finally, SMRs may represent an important role in the transformative reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and, consequently, become a major tool in the struggle against climate change. 4 Among the SMRs, very small nuclear reactors (vSMRs) represent a special subcategory, which may represent a solution of energy needs for certain remote communities. 5 Reflecting these advantages, SMRs are currently considered to have the potential to address energy problems of the future. 6 Programs toward developing SMRs are pending in several countries 7 and many other jurisdictions are currently considering these reactors as a part of their national energy strategy. In this regard, a discussion has been initiated in the scientific literature to identify existing obstacles to the prospective deployment of SMRs and the measures to be taken to ameliorate them. This discussion has so far been concentrated upon the technical aspects. 8 1 The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) defines “small” as under 300 MWe, and up to about 700 MWe as “medium” – including many operational units from the 20th century. Together they have been referred to by the IAEA as small and medium reactors (SMRs). However, “SMR” is used more commonly as an acronym for “small modular reactor”, designed for serial construction and collectively to comprise a large nuclear power plant and this article follows this understanding. For further details, see IAEA (ed), Advances in Small Modular Reactors Technology Developments (IAEA 2020) 10. 2 See Darby, Liam, Hansson, Amanda, Tisdell, Clement, ‘Small-Scale Nuclear Energy: Environmental and Other Advantages and Disadvantages’ (2020) 4 Case Studies in the Environment 1112327. Also see Lloyd Clara A., Roulstone Tony, Lyons Robbie E., ‘Transport, constructability, and economic advantages of SMR modularization’ (2021) 134 Progress in Nuclear Energy 103672. 3 Ibid. 4 See Black, Geoffrey, Shropshire, David, Araújo, Kathleen, ‘Small modular reactors (SMR) adoption: Opportunities and challenges for emerging markets’ in Ingersoll, Daniel T., Carelli, Mario D. (ed.), Handbook of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (2 nd ed., Elsevier 2021) 566. 5 Ibid. 6 See Leslie, Mitch, ‘Are Small Reactors Nuclear Power’s Next Big Thing?’ (2020) 6 Engineering 210. 7 See Ingersoll, Daniel T., Carelli, Mario D. (ed.), Handbook of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (2 nd ed., Elsevier 2021) (here, the authors analyse most recent projects, being currently under development in Argentina, Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the USA; they also pay attention to prospects of SMRs for developing countries). 8 See Mignacca, Benito, Locatelli, Giorgio, Sainati, Tristano, ‘Deeds not words: Barriers and remedies for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors’ (2020) 206 Energy 118137, Ramana MV, ‘Small Modular and Advanced Nuclear Reactors: A Reality Check’ (2021) 9 IEEE Access 42090, Li Li, ‘The I&C challenges for small modular reactors’ (2020) 65 Nuclear Engineering International 22 etc.


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