As the times change, the nuclear power plants that are currently in service are gradually depleting, and with the increasing emphases on nuclear safety around the world, the placement of additional efforts on green energy, or turning into the development of smaller and safer advanced nuclear reactors, has become the mainstream trend. The US Department of Energy has recently announced its support on the development of 5 advanced nuclear reactors, and will be subsidizing a total fund of US$600 million for the next 7 years.
Most of the nuclear reactors that are currently commercially operating in the world are 2nd generation nuclear reactors, and only a dozen is the newer 3rd generation, where the latter is significantly superior in terms of the advanced nuclear fuel management technology, thermal efficiency, and passive nuclear safety system. The 4th generation reactor contains a higher efficiency design, lower operating cost, and is essentially safer, which is prominently different to the current mainstream light water reactor, though the 4th generation reactor is still at the R&D phase.
Now the US Department of Energy has appropriated funds to support the 5 advanced nuclear reactor technology of the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), and aims to obtain deployment approval within the next 10-14 years.
The first is Kairos Power’s Hermes Reduced-Scale test reactor that is categorized as a fluoride salt-cooled high temperature reactor, and uses a tri-structural ISOtropic fuel formed with uranium, carbon, and oxygen, which is encapsulated within 3 layers of carbon and one layer of ceramic materials (to prevent leakage of radioactive wastes), before molten salt effectively extracts heat energy from the core through low-pressure and high-temperature cooling.
The second is BWXT’s advanced nuclear reactor (BANR), which also uses TSIRO fuel, though the difference is that this micro reactor can be transported.
The third is Westinghouse Electric Company’s eVinci, which is a micro reactor used for discrete applications. Compared to large and centralized nuclear power plants, this particular small module can be rapidly deployed at the site within 30 days from the transportation of standardized military vehicles, and has a lifespan of 40 years that requires one inspection roughly every 3 years without the need of frequent fuel replenishment.
The fourth is the Holtec SMR-160 that is built on top of a light water reactor, and uses nuclear fuels that are available in the existing market, which does not require a development of an additional industry chain. The reactor adopts the air-cooled condenser technology that allows the site selection to consider areas that are lack in water, such as deserts.
The fifth is the molten chloride reactor experiment co-developed by the Southern Company and TerraPower, which uses liquid salt as the fuel and coolant for the reactor core, where the higher temperature and efficiency will be able to produce 1,200MW of power under a commercial scale.
In addition to the aforementioned 5 advanced conceptual reactors, the US Department of Energy had also announced in October this year the subsidization on the reactor development from two other teams of TerraPower and X-energy at US$80 million each, in order to actuate the development of the 4th generation nuclear power.
(Cover photo source: pixabay)