home Nuclear Technology, U Industry looks to small ‘plug and play’ power plants as the future of nuclear

Industry looks to small ‘plug and play’ power plants as the future of nuclear

THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY GETS SERIOUS ABOUT SMALL ‘PLUG AND PLAY’ POWER PLANTS: As the hulking nuclear power plants of the past are being forced to shut down under the weight of their own finances, the future of the industry looks to be smaller, less-costly “plug-and-play” power plants.

The industry is seeking to prove a number of new power plant concepts, some of them no bigger than a hot-water jacuzzi, and will be issuing a comprehensive cost assessment in the next few days to help make the case for the new power plants and the future of nuclear power.

The Nuclear Energy Institute will be laying out its cost arguments for the “microreactors” on Monday, making a case for their construction by the mid-2020s, Marcus Nichol, the trade group’s head of nuclear reactor deployment, said in an interview with John.

The report will also show how there are over a dozen companies champing at the bit to build the tiny power plants.

The first markets for these small power plants — some liken them to nuclear batteries — are remote communities, mining operations, and military installations, Nichol said.

One application would be powering small remote communities in Alaska that are dependent on costly diesel fuel and generators to get their electricity.

The Air Force base in Fairbanks is also a possible spot for deploying one of these reactors, he said. The military needs reliable power and “can’t tolerate a loss of power” in defending the nation, he added.

A first look at the cost report: These applications will be looked at in the forthcoming cost report, which NEI shared with John, first, ahead of its release and distribution on Monday.

One of the big takeaways from the report is the cost competitiveness of these reactors compared to diesel fuel, which remote communities in Alaska depend on.

The report estimates the cost to generate electricity from the first micro-reactor will be between 14 and 41 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the report’s executive summary. But as companies continue to produce microreactors, the laws of scalability kick in, with future costs estimated to fall to between 9 and 33 cents per kilowatt hour, making them competitive with diesel generators at between 15 and 60 cents per kilowatt hour.

The report also said the reactors have the benefit of producing no carbon dioxide emissions, blamed for heating the Earth and causing climate change.

Nichol explained that most of the cost of these reactors is installing them. But once they are running, the power is constant and reliable for 10 years without much maintenance.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., introduced a bill last month that would establish a pilot program to help get the microreactor market off the ground.

The report says implementation of the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act will significantly accelerate the deployment and reduce the costs of microreactors.

But the reactors would also need a stable supply of specialized fuel, called “high-assay low-enriched uranium.” The report calls for the Energy Department’s help in making more of the fuel available, which Nichol says is one of the biggest hurdles for the reactors.

Source: Daily on Energy