Congress (NSDA 2024): A Bill to Invest in Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are advanced nuclear reactors that have a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e) per unit, which is about one-third of the generating capacity of traditional nuclear power reactors. As stated in the bill, SMRs are designed to be factory-assembled and transported as a unit to a location for installation. This modular approach offers several advantages over conventional large-scale nuclear plants, including lower capital costs, shorter construction times, and greater flexibility in siting and deployment.

The proposed bill aims to invest $20 billion annually in the creation and infrastructure development of SMRs, with the goal of reducing carbon emissions. This significant investment reflects the potential of SMRs to contribute to the transition towards a more sustainable and low-carbon energy future. However, like any technology, SMRs have both pros and cons that need to be carefully evaluated.

Pros of Small Modular Reactors

  1. Lower Capital Costs: SMRs have a lower upfront capital cost compared to traditional large-scale nuclear plants, making them more affordable and accessible for a wider range of stakeholders, including smaller utilities and developing countries. This is due to their modular design, which allows for factory assembly and streamlined construction processes (
  2. Scalability and Flexibility: SMRs can be deployed incrementally to match the growing energy demand, allowing for a more gradual and flexible investment in nuclear power. Their smaller size also makes them suitable for remote or off-grid locations, as well as for integration with other energy sources, such as renewables (
  3. Enhanced Safety Features: Many SMR designs incorporate passive safety features that rely on natural laws of physics, such as natural circulation and gravity, to shut down and cool the reactor during abnormal conditions. This reduces the reliance on active safety systems and human intervention, potentially improving overall safety (
  4. Reduced Environmental Impact: SMRs have a smaller physical footprint and require less cooling water compared to large nuclear plants, potentially minimizing their environmental impact. Additionally, as a carbon-free energy source, SMRs can contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change (
  5. Potential for Cogeneration: Some SMR designs can operate at higher temperatures, enabling them to provide both electricity and process heat for various industrial applications, such as desalination, hydrogen production, and district heating (

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