SMR Progress Update: Faster and Faster

Earlier this year, I wrote a post entitled SMRs Entering a New and Dynamic Phase in which I covered the latest developments in small modular reactors (SMR). It was clear that the pace of advancement was increasing but even so, I’ve been surprised by the speed at which this emerging area of the nuclear energy industry has continued to move. Here are just a few recent announcements that have caught my eye:

In March of this year, four Canadian provinces (Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta) released a joint strategic plan for SMR development and deployment. This includes a micro reactor in service by 2026, followed by the first two grid-scale SMRs in 2028 and 2029 respectively.  Canada as a jurisdiction has already invested large sums in SMR R&D and has set its sights on becoming a global hub for SMR expertise.

In April, one of the SMR front runners, US-based NuScale, announced a new partnership with South Korea’s Doosan Enerbility. Doosan wants to start producing forging materials for reactors later this year and anticipates full-scale equipment manufacturing by the second half of 2023. In my opinion, this is a bigger deal than the dates set for Canada’s first SMRs. Reason being, one of the great advantages of SMR tech is the potential for rapid, widescale deployment. For that to happen, we need the factories in place.

In May, UK-headquartered Newcleo, completed a USD $316M raise and announced an agreement with Orano for feasibility studies on establishing a mixed plutonium-uranium oxides production plant.

In June, French nuclear giant, EDF, announced that the European regulators had chosen its SMR design as the European case study. The EU is a bit further behind the UK and North America, and it’s not exactly known for speed but still, it’s anticipated that the certification for EDF’s design, and the supply chain to support it, will be in place by the end of the decade.

In the same month, the US State of Maryland awarded grants to evaluate repurposing coal fired power stations with SMRs.  This is a smaller scale announcement but I’ve included it because the idea of refitting coal-based plants with nuclear is something I find particularly exciting. As proponents of nuclear energy already know, the most obvious replacement for fossil fuel generated electricity is nuclear power because it (nuclear) is the only clean form of generation that provides baseload power, 24/7.

Below is the WNA’s list of SMRs in the operating/construction/planning/design phases.

Small reactors operating

Name Capacity Type Developer
CNP-300 300 MWe PWR SNERDI/CNNC, Pakistan & China
PHWR-220 220 MWe PHWR NPCIL, India
EGP-6 11 MWe LWGR at Bilibino, Siberia (cogen, soon to retire)
KLT-40S 35 MWe PWR OKBM, Russia
RITM-200 50 MWe Integral PWR, civil marine OKBM, Russia

Small reactor designs under construction

Name Capacity Type Developer
CAREM25 27 MWe Integral PWR CNEA & INVAP, Argentina
HTR-PM 210 MWe Twin HTR INET, CNEC & Huaneng, China
ACP100/Linglong One 125 MWe Integral PWR CNNC, China
BREST 300 MWe Lead FNR RDIPE, Russia

Small reactors for near-term deployment – development well advanced

Name Capacity Type Developer
VBER-300 300 MWe PWR OKBM, Russia
NuScale Power Module 77 MWe Integral PWR NuScale Power + Fluor, USA
SMR-160 160 MWe PWR Holtec, USA + SNC-Lavalin, Canada
SMART 100 MWe Integral PWR KAERI, South Korea
BWRX-300 300 MWe BWR GE Hitachi, USA
PRISM 311 MWe Sodium FNR GE Hitachi, USA
Natrium 345 MWe Sodium FNR TerraPower + GE Hitachi, USA
ARC-100 100 MWe Sodium FNR ARC with GE Hitachi, USA
Integral MSR 192 MWe MSR Terrestrial Energy, Canada
Seaborg CMSR 100 MWe MSR Seaborg, Denmark
Hermes prototype 35 MWt MSR-Triso Kairos, USA
RITM-200M 50 MWe Integral PWR OKBM, Russia
RITM-200N 55 MWe Integral PWR OKBM, Russia
BANDI-60S 60 MWe PWR Kepco, South Korea
Xe-100 80 MWe HTR X-energy, USA
ACPR50S 60 MWe PWR CGN, China
Moltex SSR-W 300 MWe MSR Moltex, UK

Small reactor designs at earlier stages (or shelved)

Name Capacity Type Developer
EM2 240 MWe HTR, FNR General Atomics (USA)
FMR 50 MWe HTR, FNR General Atomics + Framatome
VK-300 300 MWe BWR NIKIET, Russia
AHWR-300 LEU 300 MWe PHWR BARC, India
CAP200 LandStar-V 220 MWe PWR SNERDI/SPIC, China
SNP350 350 MWe PWR SNERDI, China
ACPR100 140 MWe Integral PWR CGN, China
IMR 350 MWe Integral PWR Mitsubishi Heavy Ind, Japan*
Westinghouse SMR 225 MWe Integral PWR Westinghouse, USA*
mPower 195 MWe Integral PWR BWXT, USA*
UK SMR 470 MWe PWR Rolls-Royce SMR, UK
PBMR 165 MWe HTR PBMR, South Africa*
HTMR-100 35 MWe HTR HTMR Ltd, South Africa
MCFR large? MSR/FNR Southern Co, TerraPower, USA
SVBR-100 100 MWe Lead-Bi FNR AKME-Engineering, Russia*
Westinghouse LFR 300 MWe Lead FNR Westinghouse, USA
PB-FHR 100 MWe MSR UC Berkeley, USA
Moltex SSR-U 150 MWe MSR/FNR Moltex, UK
Thorcon TMSR 250 MWe MSR Martingale, USA
Leadir-PS100 36 MWe Lead-cooled Northern Nuclear, Canada

Very small reactor designs being developed (up to 25 MWe)

Name Capacity Type Developer
U-battery 4 MWe HTR Urenco-led consortium, UK
Starcore 10-20 MWe HTR Starcore, Quebec
MMR-5/-10 5 or 10 MWe HTR UltraSafe Nuclear, USA
Holos Quad 3-13 MWe HTR HolosGen, USA
Gen4 module 25 MWe Lead-bismuth FNR Gen4 (Hyperion), USA
Xe-Mobile 1-5 MWe HTR X-energy, USA
Sealer 3-10 MWe Lead FNR LeadCold, Sweden
eVinci 0.2-5 MWe Heatpipe FNR Westinghouse, USA
Aurora 1.5 MWe Heatpipe FNR Oklo, USA
NuScale micro 1-10 MWe Heatpipe NuScale, USA

I’m going to leave you with this thought: in the company’s April announcement, NuScale’s CEO, John Hopkins, said that its agreement with Doosan “showcases NuScale's commercial readiness and signals to the world that NuScale is truly the frontrunner in the race to bring SMRs to market.”

Hopkins is correct in describing SMR development as a race to market. There are numerous SMR hopefuls, each backed by governments that are hungry for the employment and revenue benefits that will come with commercial success.  And the demand is already there. You just have to take a look at announcements coming out of countries like the UK, which wants to build one reactor per year, to see the potential customer base.

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Ross McElroy, President and CEO of Fission Uranium