Small modular reactors are stirring up interest among municipalities in Finland, according to Tekniikka & Talous.
The innovation and technology-oriented weekly has revealed that the list of municipalities that are exploring the possibility of commissioning a small modular reactor includes Espoo, Helsinki, Kirkkonummi and Nurmijärvi.
Small modular reactors (SMRs) are a type of nuclear fission reactors with an electricity output ranging from 10 to 300 megawatts. Conventional larger nuclear reactors, by contrast, can generate up to 1,600 megawatts of electrical energy.
No small modular reactors are currently commercially available, but energy companies around the world are scurrying to develop viable technology concepts for the reactors. NuScale, a nuclear technology developer based in Oregon, the United States, is targeting commercial operation with its inaugural plant as soon as in 2026.
Juhani Hyvärinen, a professor of modelling in nuclear engineering at the Lappeenranta University of Technology, believes small modular reactors may become a viable option for municipalities striving for emissions-free co-generation of heat and electricity.
“Of course it’ll become possible in terms of the technology, but it remains to be seen if it’ll be cost-effective,” he commented to Tekniikka & Talous.
Small modular reactors have garnered interest also because the construction costs of a conventional nuclear power plant may rise as high as ten billion euros. The mass production of small modular reactors would likely reduce the costs considerably.
The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland (STUK) has monitored the development of small modular reactors with the help of its global partner network. STUK, however, would only conduct a safety assessment in the event that a municipality, for example, applied for a decision-in-principle from the government for commissioning a small modular reactor.
No decision-in-principle is required for reactors with a thermal output not exceeding 50 megawatts.
Finnish legislation stipulates that a nuclear reactor, regardless of its capacity, must be surrounded by a precautionary action zone with a radius of five kilometres. The precautionary action zone, in turn, must be surrounded by an emergency planning zone with a radius of 20 kilometres, when measured from the reactor site.
“You have to be able to demonstrate that the civilian protection measures can be carried out if necessary. That’s the current requirement level,” Nina Lahtinen of STUK said to Tekniikka & Talous.
She also reminded that because the safety requirements have been drafted for large nuclear power plants, some aspects of the requirements may change if small modular reactors are introduced to the market.
Source: Helsinki Times