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Small Modular Reactors: A Technical and Economic Assessment

November 22, 2023 Category: Policy, Technology Work Area: Advanced Nuclear

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) represent the promise of a new nuclear technology to supply zero-emissions, safe, and dispatchable power, amid intensified efforts to reduce carbon emissions and ensure energy security.

With small size and capacity (up to 300 MW per unit) and simplified design, modular and factory-made, SMRs are expected to supply new kinds of industrial consumers of electricity and/or heat – e.g., steel mills, aluminum smelters, chemical plants, off-grid mining, refining facilities, electrolyzers, and replacement of closing coal power plants. SMRs will offer zero-emissions baseload (yet partly flexible) power to an energy system with an increasing share of variable renewables. They would be geographically more distributed, with smaller footprints, and much less dependent for cooling on water bodies than the large-scale nuclear power plants (NPPs). And, importantly, they would cost notably less per MWh than new units of the latter sort.

This report provides a detailed definition, typology, and characterization of SMRs, with a deep dive into the Romanian nuclear sector. The report also provides several recommendations to improve the licensing process for SMRs, improve governmental policy in the nuclear sector, and reduce the costs of new nuclear power plants.