Small Modular Reactor: The Future of Nuclear Energy
Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are a new and promising
technology that could revolutionize the nuclear power industry. SMRs are
designed to be smaller, cheaper, and more flexible than traditional nuclear
reactors, making them an attractive option for countries looking to meet their
energy needs while reducing their carbon footprint.
The size of an SMR is typically less than 300 megawatts,
which is significantly smaller than traditional nuclear reactors that can
produce up to 1,000 megawatts or more. This size allows for greater flexibility
and easier deployment in a variety of settings, including remote or isolated
communities that may not have access to traditional power grids.
SMRs offer several advantages over traditional nuclear
reactors. One significant advantage is their enhanced safety features. SMRs are
designed to be inherently safe and have passive cooling systems that do not
require external power sources or human intervention to shut down the reactor
in the event of an emergency.
Another advantage of SMRs is their cost-effectiveness. The
smaller size of SMRs allows for reduced construction and operation costs,
making them an attractive option for countries with limited financial
resources. SMRs also have a shorter construction time than traditional nuclear
reactors, reducing the time and expense required to build them.
SMRs are also an excellent option for countries looking to
reduce their carbon footprint. Nuclear energy is a low-carbon energy source
that produces minimal greenhouse gas emissions, making it a crucial component
in the fight against climate change. SMRs offer a clean and sustainable energy
solution that can be deployed quickly and efficiently.
In conclusion, Small Modular Reactors are a promising
technology that has the potential to transform the nuclear power industry. With
their enhanced safety features, cost-effectiveness, and ability to provide
clean and sustainable energy, SMRs are an attractive option for countries
looking to meet their energy needs while reducing their carbon footprint. As
research and development of SMRs continue, it is likely that they will play a
significant role in shaping the future of nuclear energy.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on
various industries, including the small modular reactor (SMR) market. The
measures taken by governments and businesses to control the spread of the virus
have led to a significant reduction in electricity demand, which has adversely
affected the growth of power systems. As of July 26, 2021, the pandemic had
affected 222 countries, and many governments had imposed nationwide lockdowns,
causing large-scale shutdowns and disruptions in global trade. This slowdown in
demand acts as a major challenge for the SMR market. The breakdown of supply
chains is also expected to have a negative impact on SMR manufacturers.
Furthermore, the pandemic has curtailed investments in SMR
technology and is threatening to slow down the commercialization of SMRs. In
the short term, the impact is most pronounced on the supply side for uranium,
as various mines and nuclear fuel cycle facilities had suspended operations due
to health concerns. This has occurred in major uranium mining countries such as
Canada, Kazakhstan, and Namibia, which account for about two-thirds of the
world's uranium production. The reactor design and construction schedules have
also been affected due to the pandemic. Conventional nuclear plants are
experiencing extended outages due to the health of workers. The delays in SMR
design, licensing, and construction, combined with the drop in electricity
demand, could impede the development of SMRs during the forecast period.
Market Dynamics of Small Modular Reactor Market
Drivers in Small
Modular Reactor Market
The nuclear energy industry is evolving rapidly and is
expected to play a significant role in the transition towards a cleaner and
more sustainable global economy. Nuclear energy has the potential to work
synergistically with other clean energy sources, such as solar and wind power,
to create integrated systems that are more effective than individual parts.
Small modular reactors (SMRs) are a promising technology
that can provide CO2-free electricity to replace aging fossil fuel-powered
plants. The development of SMRs for immediate and near-term deployment is
progressing worldwide, with their ability to offer flexible power generation
for a wider range of users and applications, including baseload and flexible
operations in synergy with renewables. SMRs can help address the need for the
flexibility of generation rates when coupled with variable energy sources such
as wind, solar, wave, and tidal energy, which mitigates fluctuations that occur
daily or seasonally.
The integration of SMRs and renewable energy into a single
energy system, coupled through smart grids, can help ensure the security of
supply with carbon-free energy systems. At the International Conference on
Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power, member states expressed their
support for SMRs as the most effective source of CO2-free electricity to
replace aging fossil fuel-powered plants. As the share of intermittent
renewable energy in total energy production increases, SMRs are expected to
play a crucial role in providing both baseload and flexible operations in
synergy with renewables to address the fluctuations in energy production.
Restraints in Small
Modular Reactor Market
One of the main challenges faced in the deployment of Small
Modular Reactors (SMRs) is the adherence to regulatory standards concerning
their implementation. The primary concern relates to the reduction in the size
of the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ). The EPZ is a designated area surrounding
a nuclear plant where urgent protective measures are implemented in case of
radioactive particle emissions. The size and shape of the EPZ depend on factors
such as the plant's characteristics, geographical features, and population
density. Traditionally, the plume exposure pathway EPZ has a radius of around
10 miles, while the ingestion exposure pathway EPZ has a radius of
approximately 50 miles.
For reactors with thermal power levels between 100 and 1,000
MWth, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recommends an EPZ radius of
5-25 km to avoid radiation exposure to the public in the event of an accident.
However, SMR developers and potential operators argue that the improved safety
features of SMRs make them safer than conventional nuclear power plants and,
therefore, can operate with an EPZ radius below 5 km. Despite these assurances,
adhering to regulatory standards remains a challenge in the implementation of
As the EPZ (emergency planning zone) radius increases, the
number of potential sites for SMR deployment decreases. To cater to
applications such as desalinated water or industrial heat sources, SMRs must be
constructed closer to population centers. A smaller EPZ expands the market for
potential customers for SMRs. Electric utilities, who are potential operators
of SMRs, prefer smaller EPZs because the size of the zone affects the overall
complexity of the emergency plan. Utilities are responsible for funding the
emergency plan activities within the EPZ, which includes installing and
maintaining sirens, coordinating with local and state government offices during
drill exercises, and staffing emergency preparedness activities. Since SMRs
generate lower profits than traditional nuclear units, utilities aim to lower
the cost and complexity of managing the emergency plan by reducing the size of
However, the size of the EPZ has long been a contentious
issue between the nuclear industry and federal and local governments.
Regulatory environments that impose stringent EPZ requirements may impede the
growth of the small modular reactor market. As a result, the adoption and
deployment of SMRs may be restricted due to challenges in finding suitable
sites with smaller EPZs and navigating regulatory barriers.
Small Modular Reactor Market
The integration of renewable energy sources, such as solar
photovoltaics and wind, is an opportunity for the deployment of Small Modular
Reactors (SMRs) in the power sector. While renewable energy systems are vital
in reducing carbon emissions and meeting the growing energy demand, the
increasing share of these sources can affect the grid operation due to
fluctuating energy generation. SMRs, with their small capacity and
load-following characteristics, are a good alternative to baseload fossil fuel
systems and retiring large nuclear plants.
The combination of SMRs with renewable energy can mitigate
the negative impact of conventional energy sources and improve the overall
reliability and resilience of the energy system. Furthermore, integrated hybrid
energy systems that couple SMRs with non-electric applications such as hydrogen
generation, synthetic fuels, and desalination can support the deployment of
variable renewable energy sources. These integrated systems can offer an
economically attractive option for improving the overall energy system.
Challenges in Small
Modular Reactor Market
One of the challenges associated with small modular reactors
(SMRs) is licensing. The current licensing regimes for large nuclear power
plants may not be suitable for SMRs as they come with similar costs for design
certification, construction, and operation. These regimes may not allow for
cost-efficient deployment of SMRs. In addition, site-specific requirements may
present difficulties for the repeat build of identical units based on reference
The novel approach to the design and deployment of SMRs
poses a challenge to existing licensing frameworks. The designs and concepts of
SMRs are simpler than those of large nuclear reactors. The safety of SMRs is
based on passive safety systems and inherent safety characteristics, such as
low power and operating pressure, which make them less dependent on electrical
safety systems, operational measures, and human intervention. The typical
licensing approach, which relies on overlapping safety provisions to compensate
for potential mechanical and human failures, may not be appropriate for SMRs.
Regulatory bodies need to consider new ideas for the licensing of SMRs.
Creating a harmonized approach to licensing SMR technologies
is considered to be crucial for their successful deployment. The International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is working to establish a technology-neutral
framework for safety, aimed at harmonizing international approaches based on
existing IAEA safety standards. SMRs are diverse in terms of their technology,
and this framework would consist of societal and health objectives, risk
targets, and high-level safety principles and requirements that can be
elaborated in national frameworks. The regulatory environments in different
countries can differ widely, with two main approaches to licensing:
prescriptive and goal-setting/performance-based. The prescriptive approach sets
detailed regulatory requirements that a nuclear facility and operator must meet
to be licensed, whereas the goal-setting approach sets out a safety target that
the licensee must show that the design and operation achieve.
Licensing SMRs is likely to be a complex and time-consuming
process that involves detailed analysis and reviews. Current licensing
procedures in most countries would have to be adapted to fit SMRs. The unique
characteristics of SMRs are not documented from a regulatory perspective, which
could cause delays in the licensing process. Even in the case of SMR designs
that use light water as the coolant and moderator, regulatory provisions are
not available to deal with some of these novel features. For instance,
light-water SMRs use passive recirculation modes with low coolant flows under
operational and accident situations, and several of these design concepts would
have to be justified by designers and accepted by regulators before generic
licenses are issued. Therefore, licensing SMRs would require close
collaboration between designers and regulators to develop a streamlined and
effective licensing process that meets safety requirements.
The small modular reactor (SMR) market is expected to have
two major segments, categorized by connectivity and deployment. The first
segment, off-grid SMRs, are not connected to a larger electricity grid and are
instead located in remote areas such as islands, mining sites, and communities
where larger nuclear power plants are not feasible. These off-grid SMRs can be
used to generate power and support non-electric applications. As for the second
segment, the multi-module power plant, it allows for the addition of multiple
reactors close to the same infrastructure and can be equipped with additional
power units on the same site. This segment is expected to be the largest by
deployment, and its growth is driven by the ease of financing additional units.
Multi-module plant designs offer a wide range of simultaneous applications,
with some modules dedicated to electricity production and others providing heat
for industrial processes or hydrogen production. The flexibility of
multi-module plant designs makes them suitable for hybrid energy applications,
which involve integrating multiple energy sources with multiple energy
consumption processes to create an efficient and optimized system.
One of the most significant segments of the small modular
reactor market, based on application, is desalination, which is also the
second-fastest growing market. This is mainly due to the increasing demand for
potable water in areas that are arid or semi-arid. Small modular reactors can
be utilized for nuclear desalination, where potable water is produced from
seawater in a facility. Alternatively, desalination plants can be designed to
produce potable water or used as co-generation nuclear power plants to generate
In terms of global market domination, the Asia Pacific
region is projected to take the lead, followed by Europe. The market in the
Asia Pacific region is being driven by the rising demand for low-carbon,
reliable, and flexible baseload power generation to complement variable
renewable energy. The deployment of SMRs in coastal, island, and offshore areas
is fueling the market for SMRs and offshore floating nuclear reactors in China.
In Japan, the integration of renewable energy sources with SMRs is creating
lucrative growth opportunities.
The growth of the global small modular reactor market is
being driven by various factors, such as the increasing demand for electricity
and the flexibility of SMRs in terms of size and power output. The current
generation of nuclear power plants are large and require significant amounts of
capital and construction time, making it difficult to install them in remote
locations or areas far from large power grid systems. This has led to the
development of smaller nuclear reactors that can be more easily deployed in
such areas. In addition, the virtually emissions-free power produced by nuclear
reactors is gaining more attention as a potential solution to climate change.
However, there is also a growing focus on renewable sources
of energy such as wind and solar power, particularly in countries like India
and China where there has been a significant increase in the installation of
small and large-scale solar power plants. Safety concerns associated with
nuclear energy and negative sentiments related to nuclear power plants may also
hinder the growth of the SMR market. Countries such as Germany have reduced
their focus on nuclear power and are investing more in wind and solar
Despite these challenges, the comparatively low cost and
time required for building SMRs makes them an attractive option for many
countries. Furthermore, SMR-based power plants have a smaller footprint
compared to wind and solar farms, requiring less land.
Key Players in Small Modular Reactor Market
- WESTINGHOUSE ELECTRIC COMPANY LLC
- NUSCALE POWER, LLC.
- TERRESTRIAL ENERGY INC.
- MOLTEX ENERGY
- GE HITACHI NUCLEAR ENERGY
- X ENERGY, LLC.
- HOLTEC INTERNATIONAL
- GENERAL ATOMICS
- ARC CLEAN ENERGY, INC.
- LEADCOLD REACTORS
- ROLLS-ROYCE PLC
- ULTRA SAFE NUCLEAR
- TOKAMAK ENERGY LTD.
- SNC-LAVALIN GROUP
- AFRIKANTOV OKB MECHANICAL ENGINEERING
- CHINA NATIONAL NUCLEAR CORPORATION
- SEABORG TECHNOLOGIES
Recent Developments in Small Modular Reactor Market
The small modular reactor (SMR) market has seen recent
developments in various areas. In July 2021, General Electric Hitachi Nuclear
Energy and First Nations Power Authority (FNPA) collaborated to provide
training and employment opportunities to qualified Indigenous people in Canada
to service Boiling-water Reactor technology. This collaboration will prepare
employees for future SMR deployment in Ontario and across Canada.
Also in July 2021, Samsung C&T invested in NuScale Power
to support the deployment of its SMR technology. Fluor and Samsung C&T are
working on a business collaboration agreement to expand capabilities for future
NuScale projects. In June 2021, Moltex Energy, Pabineau First Nation, and
Belledune Port Authority (BPA) signed an agreement to work on initiatives
related to the domestic use and exports of SMRs at the Port of Belledune in Northern
New Brunswick, Canada.
In April 2021, Terrestrial Energy partnered with Aecon Group
to support the construction planning for an Integral Molten Salt Reactor power
plant. This agreement involved reviewing construction costs and schedules for
the reactor and conducting assessments for site development, heavy civil construction,
and supplier selection.
Lastly, in October 2020, Westinghouse Electric and Bruce
Power entered into an agreement to explore the applications of the eVinci
microreactor program in Canada, as part of the government's goal of reaching
Net Zero Canada by 2050. These recent developments demonstrate the growing
interest and investment in SMR technology in Canada.
In recent years, there have been several significant
developments in the small modular reactor (SMR) market. One of the most notable
developments has been the increasing interest and investment in SMR technology
from governments and private companies around the world.
For example, in the United States, the Department of Energy
has launched several initiatives to support the development and deployment of
SMRs. These initiatives include funding research and development projects, as
well as providing support for the licensing and regulatory processes.
Similarly, in Europe, the European Commission has
established the European Small Modular Reactor program to promote the
development and deployment of SMRs across the continent. The program aims to
create a regulatory framework for SMRs and support the construction of a new
generation of small reactors.
Meanwhile, in Asia, countries like China, Japan, and South
Korea have also shown a keen interest in SMR technology. In China, for instance,
the government has approved the construction of several offshore floating
nuclear reactors, which are based on SMR technology.
In addition to government support, there has also been a
growing interest in SMR technology from private companies. For example, in
Canada, several companies are currently working on the development of SMR
technology, with plans to deploy these reactors in remote areas or to provide
energy for industrial processes.
Overall, these developments suggest that the SMR market is
likely to continue to grow in the coming years, driven by a combination of
government support, private investment, and increasing demand for low-carbon,
reliable energy sources.