As part of its week-long programme “Breakthrough Technologies for a Sustainable Future” organised from January 17-24, 2022, at the ongoing EXPO 2020 in Dubai, the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom hosted a key event on January 20 titled Small Modular Reactors Day.
The event was attended by Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev, World Nuclear Association head Sama Bilbao y Leon, as well as high-ranking representatives from international organisations, foreign governments and partner companies. United Arab Emirates (UAE) Atomic Energy Corporation Director General Mohamed Al-Hammadi and Russian Ambassador to the UAE Timur Zabirov were also among the attendees at the event.
A Rosatom release said Small Modular Reactors Day was an international platform for discussing the benefits of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), the prospects for their development and how this technology can be applied around the world. The program opened with a multimedia show demonstrating the benefits of SMR-equipped nuclear power plants (NPPs) in a wide range of climates, while ensuring a stable supply of electricity and achieving decarbonisation goals.
“For me personally, last year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow was a watershed moment. I literally felt the winds of change. Not just at COP26, but at all energy and climate conferences in 2021 it was clear that people were realising that a carbon-free future is impossible without the peaceful use of nuclear technology. It is impossible to achieve a stable, low-carbon energy system based only on variable energy sources. The role that nuclear energy can play in helping the world move away from hydrocarbons and meet our collective climate goals is now firmly in the public consciousness”, the Rosatom chief Likhachev said at the event, adding that the world is currently seeing favourable changes in the way nuclear energy is perceived.
Answering questions during the panel discussion, Likhachev noted the advantages of SMR-based nuclear power plants. “Small modular reactors occupy a different niche. They supply power to remote regions, island states, countries with lower power needs or specific industrial projects, such as mining projects. There are other clear advantages of SMR technologies, including their modularity – the ability to quickly scale power up and down to meet demand – quicker construction periods and lower start-up costs”, he said.
“Small modular reactors can provide energy and heat to areas where large-capacity nuclear power plants are either economically inaccessible or inappropriate due to geographic features or territorial restrictions, meaning they provide equal energy opportunities for people around the world. It seems to me that giving everyone access to low-carbon energy, especially in a world where almost a billion people still do not have such access, is a goal we must strive to achieve,” Likhachev added.
Rosatom’s Director of Development and International Business, Kirill Komarov, noted that the company is not just offering conceptual technology, but is already successfully operating SMRs in Russia.
“The floating power unit Akademik Lomonosov has been supplying the port city of Pevek in Russia’s Chukotka region with both electricity and heat for more than two years. We have also started developing our first land-based SMR nuclear power plant in Yakutia, which will be equipped with RITM-200N reactors and will be connected to the grid in 2028”, Komarov said.
Nuclear Asia has earlier quoted Indian experts on how the much lesser cost of setting up SMRs, as compared to large NPPs, provides a major rationale for opting for small modular reactors.
Elaborating on the current driving forces for SMRs, Sunil Ganju, who is Member of the Nuclear Controls and Planning Wing in India’s Department of Atomic Energy, has said that these include their wider applicability in non-power applications like for district heating and industrial operations, besides their higher safety quotient as compared to large reactors, involving the formers’ passive and inherent safety features. “The lower core power density of SMRs and the large volume of water in the reactor power vessel delays all accident progression”, Ganju said.
At the SMR Day event in Dubai, representatives of governments, as well as of energy companies from Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and the Philippines spoke about how SMRs could solve a wide range of national development problems. The head of PJSC Seligdar stressed that only SMRs were able to provide reliable energy supply at a predictable price for the company’s projects in northern Russia.
According to Rosatom, several agreements were signed at the Small Modular Reactors Day event. These included a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation to construct SMR nuclear power plants signed by Rosatom and the Energy Ministry of the Kyrgyz Republic. Besides, subsidiary company Rusatom Overseas signed a cooperation agreement with the Armenian nuclear power plant, and a Memorandum of Intent with mining company PJSC Seligdar.
There was also the virtual signing of a Joint Action Plan to develop nuclear power plants using SMR technology through a pre-feasibility study, the statement added.