Background Information on Fourth-Generation Small Modular Reactors
What are small modular reactors?
Small modular reactors (SMRs) generate in the order of 300 megawatts (MW) of electricity and yet are small – about the size of a gymnasium. Due to their modular configuration, they can operate as stand-alone units or be combined to generate even more power. They can be used in remote communities, provide energy for mining, or contribute to grids powering large cities, among other possibilities.
SMRs provide clean, steady energy. The advent of smaller reactors opens up the potential for a cost-effective supply of energy, and its portability and modular design allow for use around the world.
What are Gen-4 SMRs?
Generation-4 reactors are advanced reactors that have inherent safety characteristics and a high degree of passive safety. They typically use a coolant other than water (such as molten salt) and utilize an advanced type of fuel. Because of their safety characteristics, they are less complex and require fewer components. Reactors of this type that are less than 300MW and modular in nature fall into the advanced Generation 4 SMR class.
Why is New Brunswick an ideal location for Gen-4 development?
New Brunswick’s existing Point Lepreau nuclear generating site (660 MW) was originally intended to have four large power plants. The station has been operating since the early 1980s with an excellent, well-trained workforce in place. The University of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Community College also offer programs to support workforce requirements and training.
Why is there such an interest in this technology?
Small modular reactors are another safe, clean energy option as Canada and the world move to curb carbon emissions. Due to their modularity, their relatively small size, and reduced complexity, the development of SMR technology and deployment is promising for global electricity generation.
The ability to complement intermittent renewable energy is also a feature that assists utility’s capability to balance electricity supply and demand.
What are emissions today, targets for 2030 and 2050?
Current C02 emissions in New Brunswick (for 2017, the most recent figures available), are 14 megatonnes (MT). The federal commitments as part of the Paris Accord equate to 14.9 MT by 2020; 14.4 MT by 2030 and 4.1MT by 2050. New technology is required to meet the significant emissions reductions required by 2050.
What role is there for levels of government?
The Atlantic Clean Energy Alliance views the role of government as supportive and enabling as proponents continue research and development to finalize their designs. A clear signal of support from the federal government is key to attract the necessary private investment.
What private businesses are interested in investing in New Brunswick?
A number of companies have already partnered with existing vendors in New Brunswick. Discussions with a larger number of potential partners and investors continues.
What is the economic potential for New Brunswick employers?
There are significant economic opportunities associated with the SMR program. Due to the reduced complexity, the opportunity to manufacture components locally and export around the world is significant. There will be ongoing operational support for SMRs once deployed.
What role is there for the educational sector?
Research and development is key to the SMR program in New Brunswick. The University of New Brunswick is well-positioned to host this. In addition, training and development will be required for the future workforce needed to operate and support the SMR fleet. Both the University of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Community College have programs in place.