Techno-Economic Assessment: Emerging Technology SMRs
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) commissioned a detailed Techno-Economic Assessment (TEA) into Small Modular Reactor (SMR) designs, aiming to deliver the necessary evidence base to underpin a policy decision on the development and deployment of SMRs in the UK. As part of this study, the National Nuclear Laboratory, Dalton Nuclear Institute and Integrated Decision Mangement Ltd examined the potential suitability of Emerging SMR Technologies. These were defined as ‘those SMR systems not considered to be available for deployment in the UK by 2030.’
The examination methodology employed was based upon the Generic Feasibility Assessment (GFA) technique developed for DECC by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), the Dalton Nuclear Institute of the University of Manchester and Integrated Decision Management Limited (IDM). The GFA methodology provides the Benefits and Challenges offered by the Emerging Technologies against 12 Attributes which have an audit trail back to internationally recognised evaluations of advanced nuclear reactor systems. The GFA technique is particularly suited to the examination of Emerging Technologies since it is based upon public domain information and referenced sources. This allows an open and transparent evaluation of technologies which do not have the technical maturity to be examined at the level required for them to be licensed in the short to medium term.
Over 40 SMR concepts were reviewed from available literature and web-based searches and 6 SMR technology groups were derived, namely:
- Small Modular Pressurised Water Reactors (SM-PWR)
- Small Modular Sodium-cooled Fast Reactors (SM-SFR)
- Small Modular Lead-cooled Fast Reactors (SM-LFR)
- Small Modular Molten Salt Fast Reactors (SM-MSFR)
- Small Modular Thermal Neutron Molten Salt Reactors (SM-MSThR)
- Small Modular High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactors (SM-HTGR)
It is believed that these concepts and groups cover the totality of the SMR technologies which have commercial interest in their continued development and deployment. The Emerging Technologies were examined against timescales of (a) deployment by around 2030 and/or (b) the ability to contribute materially to the UK’s 2050 decarbonisation commitment of an 80% reduction relative to 1990 levels.
In order to provide a baseline, the SM-PWR was compared with a Gigawatt-sized Pressurised Water Reactor. The Emerging Technologies could then be assessed against this agreed Generic SM-PWR as the Reference case to obtain a review of their relative Benefits and Challenges in relation to the 12 Attributes.
The Benefits and Challenges were then evaluated against:
- The operational requirements for SMRs in a UK energy mix – notably the requirement to operate flexibly, especially in ‘electricity futures’ with a high penetration of intermittent renewable generation and/or a low penetration of gas generation with carbon capture and storage.
- The ability to provide fuel and radioactive waste management for the various Emerging Technologies.
- The importance of each Attribute to the economics of electricity generation by considering the components of the Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) in international studies of nuclear energy.
- The potential for non-electricity generation roles for SMRs, for example the provision of high temperature process heat for helping to decarbonise industrial processes and transport operations.
The Generic Feasibility Assessments of these reactor technology groups, all of which are marked ‘Work in Progress’, is given in the ‘GFA of SMR Systems’ document which can be downloaded below. These assessments were subsequently reported in the SMR Techno-Economic Assessment Project 3 Reports which can also be downloaded below.