With the world scrambling to find cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy, small modular reactor (SMR)-driven nuclear technology is gaining ground in many countries. As a result, a number of firms that have long been active in the nuclear power sector are shifting from the production of the massive and difficult-to-maintain reactors of the past to these more compact devices that are much easier and safer to use.
Westinghouse is one such company and it recently launched a smaller, modular edition of its flagship AP1000 reactor on Thursday, May 4th. Generating a third of the AP1000’s total output, the more compact AP300 is set to become available by 2027.
Presenting the AP300
Considering its size, the AP300 is expected to produce around 300 megawatts of power – enough to bring a steady supply of electricity to approximately 300,000 homes.
Much like the AP1000, the AP300 has a built-in safety feature. The reactor’s passive cooling system uses water to keep the fuel rods cool and prevent overheating. In doing so, the fuel stays cool sans human intervention and does not require additional sources of water and electricity as everything necessary is already built within the reactor.
According to Westinghouse president for energy systems David Durham, the AP300 will cost around $1 billion per unit – considerably less expensive than many similar technologies.
A Timely Move
This move on the part of Westinghouse is seen as a milestone in the global nuclear power sector’s move to revamp itself as a potential solution to both climate change and the energy crisis, as power generated via nuclear fission does not produce greenhouse gasses.
Likewise, SMRs are less expensive to produce, take up much less space than their conventional predecessors, and are much easier to install and maintain. Experts also say that SMRs are more versatile and can work for a wide range of utilities, particularly those looking for a much cleaner and safer heating or lighting source.
According to a nuclear lawyer and former commissioner of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Jeffrey S Merrifield, today’s more advanced nuclear generation technologies – a spectrum that includes high-temperature gas, molten-salt, and sodium-fast reactors – can be used for purposes other than power generation. In fact, their combined heat and power applications are a boon for a number of heavy industries, including cement production, chemical manufacturing, milling, mining, and even steelmaking.