Instead of an output of 1600MW SMR should only have 400 megawatts and modules are manufactured on an standard assembly line. That should cut costs with justification: We need more low-carbon power generation.
Hardly anyone will disagree with Rolls-Royce engineering. With the way the company, that also builds small nuclear power plants for submarines. Luxury carmaker wants to achieve its goal for many people. Rolls-Royce has now announced that it plans to build more than a dozen small nuclear power plants in its own country, small modular reactors (SMU). The first plant is scheduled to go into operation in 2029. The central components, such as the reactor itself and the steam generators, are to be manufactured in factories and only assembled on site at the construction site. They can be transported by train, ship or truck. Industrial production should reduce costs and massively reduce construction time. Rolls-Royce takes 500 days to manufacture the components.
Relatively highly enriched uranium
The reactor vessel is 11.3 meters high and 4.5 meters in diameter. The steam reaches a temperature of 327 degrees Celsius. The fuel rods have a length of 2.8 meters. Uranium, which is relatively highly enriched, is used as fuel and contains 4.95% of the fissile uranium isotope 235. After 18 to 24 months, the fuel elements must be replaced with fresh one. The systems are designed for a lifespan of 60 years.
The most modern power plant blocks of modern times, such as the European Pressurized Reactor (EPM) from the French manufacturer Areva, have an output of 1600 megawatts and more. The SMU should come to only 400 to 450 megawatts. They are pressurized water reactors like those used on submarines. They have three cooling circuits, so they are designed redundantly. Even if two fail, the reactor core can still be cooled sufficiently.
Modules are manufactured on assebly line
The nuclear part and the turbogenerators are located in a building that resembles an inflated hall. However, the shell is so stable that it can even withstand a plane crash. All other parts of the plant and the control room are at a certain distance from the reactor building. A high sloping wall prevents unauthorized persons from entering.
The modules are built on the assembly line. All are the same, so the approval procedure can be drastically simplified. If a single power plant at one location is not enough, simply place a second one next to it. Nuclear power plants that are built today like Hinkley Point in the UK quickly cost 10 billion euros. Less wealthy countries can usually not afford that. In contrast, SMRs are much cheaper however, Rolls-Royce does not say how much they cost.
US competitor NuScale relies on 50 megawatt modules
Above all, the company has to deal with a US competitor who wants to build 50 megawatt modules, with NuScale in Portland, Oregon. The company advertises that the reactor should cool itself in the event of a serious malfunction without external influences, so that there is no catastrophic meltdown. At the beginning of this decade, 12 of these plants should be in operation. However, construction has not yet started.
Different in Russia. There, two floating pressurized water reactors with an output of 40 megawatts each produce electricity for a remote region in Siberia.