What are advanced Small Modular Reactors?
The term advanced Small Modular Reactors (aSMR) is used to describe next generation nuclear reactors that can be used to generate clean energy for several different uses.
- Small refers to the size, energy output and the amount of space the reactor needs at the site on which it is being built. Advanced SMRs are versatile and cost-effective, so they are being developed to produce energy to meet a wide range of needs. Some aSMRs can be as small as 1 MW, others as large as 300 MW (roughly half of the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station’s production). They would fit into a building the size of a typical Costco.
- Modular refers to aSMR components, which can be manufactured in factories and transported to sites to help lower construction costs and the time it takes to build.
- Reactors identifies that it is used to generate heat to make steam, electricity, or for storage. In addition, they have the potential to create medical isotopes for healthcare treatment.
There are currently two aSMRs being developed in New Brunswick: ARC Clean Technology’s ARC-100 and Moltex Energy’s Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W). Both companies are working in partnership with the provincial utility, NB Power.
Both of the aSMR technologies being developed here use passive safety systems to improve safety. They will shut down on their own, instead of relying on active components or human intervention, to prevent accidents.
Why are aSMRs being developed in New Brunswick?
New Brunswick is one of two provinces currently generating nuclear power. The province has the knowledge, experience, skilled staff and location needed to grow new nuclear technologies.
Like all other provinces, New Brunswick must meet important greenhouse gas emission reduction goals like reaching net zero by 2050. Advanced SMRs produce clean, consistent and dependable energy. They are also flexible to complement renewable energy sources like wind and solar, which are variable. Afterall, we still need electricity when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. This combination can help New Brunswick replace electricity currently generated by burning fossil fuels to reduce emissions.
Nuclear energy and materials in Canada are heavily monitored and regulated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, through consultative and transparent processes. Canada’s nuclear program is arguably the safest and most reliable in the world. Businesses looking to invest billions of dollars in nuclear technology need this certainty.
Like any new technology, there is a higher cost to developing the first aSMRs. Future units will have lower costs though by benefiting from fleet production. One of the main advantages in going first is that New Brunswick will benefit from manufacturing and other supply chain work when the ARC and Moltex reactors are built here and exported elsewhere, since the province will already have the expertise and experience.
More information about aSMRs can be found online at smrnb.ca.
Full disclosure: The Atlantica Centre for Energy represents many of the largest energy producers and consumers in Atlantic Canada, including renewable energy. However, the Centre’s members also represent governments, research groups and academia. The Centre examines all types of energy to help decarbonize while growing economies across the region.