Washington, March 13 : The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in the US is developing grid-appropriate reactors, which would help power developing nations and boost their economy.
Grid-appropriate reactors are typically between 250 megawatts and 500 megawatts, making them far more affordable and practical for developing nations than the typical 1,300-megawatt commercial light-water reactor. This is because these nations have smaller power grids and less well-developed technical infrastructures.
"These reactors hold the promise of economic development because they are projected to be able to be built in just a little more than half the time required to build a large power plant," said ORNL's Dan Ingersoll.
According to Ingersoll, "Affordable electricity translates into a stronger economy, a more skilled workforce and improved quality of life for people living in these countries."
With a staggered build strategy, two or more reactors can be built in a series, which minimizes cash outlay and provides for quicker return on investment.
"Many nations have entered the nuclear age using reactors of this size range and the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership sees this as a strength to build on as it works to facilitate the global expansion of nuclear energy," said Ingersoll.
"The ultimate goal is energy security for parts of the world that are facing rapidly rising needs for electricity," he added.
According to Ingersoll, "Next-generation appropriately sized reactors will be safer, simpler to operate, highly secure and will reduce proliferation risk," he added.
Global energy demand is expected to be 50 percent higher in 2030 than it is today. Seventy percent of this growth is expected to come from developing countries, according to the International Energy Agency.
Issues of grid capacity, capital project financing, project risk and other factors limit the majority of the targeted countries to consider only nuclear power plants with less than 700 megawatts capacity.
The problem is that for economic reasons, including economies of scale, only large plant designs are commercially available from traditional vendors. That will change if the grid-appropriate reactors campaign is successful.
"This campaign aims to remove the barriers by speeding the development, demonstration and deployment of appropriately sized reactors that can help developing parts of the world safely meet their growing energy needs," Ingersoll said.