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Nukes, Part 7: Micro Reactors

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John Benson's picture
John Benson 72773
Senior Consultant Microgrid Labs

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Microgrid Labs, Inc. Advisor: 2014 to Present Developed product plans, conceptual and preliminary designs for projects, performed industry surveys and developed...

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  • May 3, 2022
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Nukes part 7 is about Micro Reactors. Per energy.gov, a single (micro reactor) unit typically generates 1 to 10 megawatts-electric.

Micro reactors are simply smaller, factory-built systems that can be easily transported by trucks, ships, airplanes or railcars.

Some micro reactors can be set up in days, not years, to provide reliable heat and power to a host of places, ranging from residential and remote areas to military bases.

I believe the real promise for micro reactors is in the far north, where they will displace diesel generation for remote villages, industrial sites and other remote facilities.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 3, 2022

Mobile and modular and dispatchable micro generation like this really brings distributed assets to a new level! Thanks for sharing

John Benson's picture
John Benson on May 4, 2022

Thanks for the comment, Matt.

It looks like the military (see section 4, Project Pele) and Canada will be driving the deployment of micro-reactors. They promise to be very useful in many niche markets.

-John

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on May 4, 2022

Thanks John - This is an application for nuclear that seems viable. When is one likely to be in operation? How do the costs for building and operating compare to alternatives, renewable and fossil fueled?

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on May 4, 2022

Micro reactors really worry me. Fueling and running thousands of these all over just seems like thousands of chances for an accident. Exposure along to the fuel is a huge issue. I will wait to read about the accidents in the news very soon. I much prefer renewable energy that is safe and clean and low cist. 

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John Benson on May 5, 2022

Mark & Jim:

Thanks for the comments/questions.

First Mark: First of all, I spend much time researching articles like this, and I vaguely recall that I saw some reactor Manufacturers (RMs) that were saying sometime around 2025, or thereabouts. I just went to the paper, and found a date for the first prototype of 2024, but this was from one of the "Rookie RMs" (as I call them), and I would absolutely not trust this date. Then I went the Westinghouse sites linked below and could not find a date but was happy to see that they had updated the main site, and added a link to a nice, new brochure on the eVinci Reactor. 

https://www.westinghousenuclear.com/new-plants/evinci-micro-reactor

Given all the above, I would say that late 2020s might be a reasonable date for first deployment. Furthermore, I believe the most likely RM/design for first deployment to a real customer is Westinghouse, eVinci although Project Pele may bootstrap another RM to commercial deployment.

Jim: I don't believe any of the designs reviewed plan to refuel a reactor in the field, although after a (planned) long-life without refueling (say 10-years) the core may be transported intact back to the RM for refueling and/or decommissioning and disposal).

Also, I voted for the Westinghouse eVinci as the most likely to succeed. One of the (unstated) reasons I did this was because I was impressed with their intrinsically safe design. See their section in this paper, the above link, and the new eVinci brochure linked from the above linked site.

 

-John

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on May 7, 2022

I appreciate your research efforts John.  It is certainly not a surprise that the military will be a major customer for these devices.  It will be interesting to see what develops.

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John Benson on May 9, 2022

Thanks for the response:

One more piece of information I came across relating to the above. The original Kilo-power / KRUSTY designs that eVinci is based on used highly enriched uranium (as are most space and military designs). Since RMs rarely state the design enrichment level of their fuel, I am left guessing, and I would guess that Westinghouse designed eVinci to use fuel with a lower enrichment. Otherwise, it would pose a proliferation risk, and I don't believe they need high enrichment for eVinci's core-size and thermal output level.

-John

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