Why you should take care of small nuclear reactors

Nuclear energy can become a crucial feature in a world free of fossil fuels.

That’s why Rolls-Royce has secured financial support from a consortium of private investors and the UK government to build small modular nuclear reactors capable of generating cleaner energy in the region, according to press release from the company.

At the time of writing, approximately 16% of electricity in the UK comes from nuclear power, but this may start to decline soon. “Many existing reactors [in the U.K.] are nearing the end of their lives, “said Professor Michael Fitzpatrick, Vice-Chancellor of Engineering, Environment and Computing at the University of Coventry in the UK, who is also a nuclear expert, to Interesting Engineering.” We need to replace them. simply stand still in terms of keeping the nuclear part in their part of the electricity grid. “

And as more and more nations face the harsh facts of solar and wind power outages, new investments in nuclear energy such as Rolls-Royce’s small modular reactors could help the world balance the energy gaps left by renewables, and achieve net carbon targets on time.

Rolls-Royce’s new SMR nuclear reactors will help the UK meet its net carbon targets

After about $ 260 million (£ 195 million) cash injections from private companies, in addition to approximately $ 280 million (£ 210 million) from the UK government, the Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactor (SMR) has been officially announced. And it could create up to 40,000 jobs by 2050, according to a BBC report. Small modular reactors are essentially just like conventional ones; they use fuels such as uranium to heat water and then transfer that heat energy into electricity, releasing only harmless steam (water vapor) into the atmosphere. But SMRs are tailored to suit any economic scenario. “SMRs allow you to do a mix where the endpoint is the same,” Fitzpatrick told IE. “The same ability to meet energy needs, but at different levels of commitment”, both financially and in terms of scale. “It’s a lower initial cost, with a shorter build time.”

In a statement, Rolls-Royce SMR said that one of its power plants would take up space equivalent to approximately one tenth of the space of conventional nuclear power plants and generate enough energy to supply electricity to one million households. One SMR plant can generate 470 MW of power, which can be thrown into the mix of conventional renewable energy, with more than 150 onshore wind turbines. Each SMR should cost approximately $ 2.7 billion (£ 2 billion) to build, far less than the approximately $ 27 billion (£ 20 billion) needed to build conventional (full-scale) reactors. This lower cost makes SMR a more viable alternative to fossil fuels, with a similar financial status as large wind and solar installations.

Solar energy and wind do not have the means to store enough energy

Critics of Rolls-Royce SMR’s new investment in nuclear energy and business have argued that the focus of the energy industry should be on renewable energy instead of new nuclear energy. But according to Fitzpatrick, this is a false dilemma. “The issue of renewable energy and nuclear energy should not be seen as either / or,” he said. “Similarly, we need to invest in many energy storage options, including hydrogen.” However, this raises the question: is nuclear energy really clean? It still produces toxic waste, which is bad for the environment. But the type of waste we see from nuclear energy does not lead to a global climate catastrophe. “Waste is nasty and potentially harmful,” Fitzpatrick told IE. “But sorted by CO2, you don’t really compare like that to like.” IN jump in global temperatures is directly related to CO2 levels, which drastically change our atmosphere to the limits of human habitation, almost independently thanks to the fossil fuel industries.

“In other words, nuclear waste does not cause the same problem that fossil fuel pollution creates,” Fitzpatrick said. They also deal with a major problem with solar and wind energy, which cannot store enough energy when there is no wind or sunlight. “Currently, renewable energy sources are suffering from interruptions. When the wind speed drops, you need a gas turbine to cover the wind turbines. “In the United Kingdom, we restarted coal-fired installations to cover the gap. You need a way to store what is generated from renewable energy sources (and we are not close to the scale to do that). ”It is difficult to overestimate how serious is this flaw in the solar system and the wind can be on a practical level. “Will society accept on a calm winter night that we have to be ready without heating in hospitals or industry in general?” Fitzpatrick asked rhetorically. Nuclear waste is also a disadvantage, but its effects do not cram water into the devastation of excess CO2.

France is also investing in nuclear energy

“Some people say you just can’t store waste underground,” as if that’s an absolute ethical principle, Fitzpatrick added to IE. “But carbon storage is just that; storing waste underground. And CO2 is the same forever. It has no half-life.” The benefits of using nuclear energy often remain unspoken because it simply has not shared the same spotlight as renewable energy in the last decade or two. But “with nuclear power, you are adopting technology that we know works and investing it to expand rapidly on a scale.” And the United Kingdom is not the only one to realize this.

On Tuesday, President Macron announced that France would build new nuclear reactors specifically to meet global warming targets and keep energy prices under control, according to a Reuters report. This is in line with Fitzpatrick’s rationale for emphasizing nuclear energy in national networks around the world. “If you are serious about decarbonisation, you have to invest in nuclear energy. We need a low-carbon base load and I think more governments will come to that conclusion and I think it will lead to a global nuclear energy renaissance. “Solar and wind energy have now reached serious limit, and he was there all the time: when the sun goes down and the wind calms down, there is not enough stored energy to maintain the energy grid. “Right now, the way we cover the gap is through the use of fossil fuels,” Fitzpatrick said. But nuclear energy can fill those gaps, maintain energy levels, and it’s just beginning. “Nuclear energy should not only apply to the technologies we have today, but also to the technologies we want to build in 30, 40 or 50 years.”

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