Small modular reactors

The power and potential of SMRs

Small modular reactors represent a considerable and exciting step forward in the hunt for reliable renewables. That’s why Ansaldo Nucleare continues to support the development of a range of different SMR concepts.

The advantages of SMRs

Small modular reactors have huge potential when it comes to the possibility of their integration into the future energy infrastructure — but they offer particular advantages to large nuclear power plants.

Two of the most obvious characteristics that distinguish SMRs are their reduced power and modular construction. Advantages like these can cater to the need for added flexibility in the mission to decarbonise, but they can also help to improve budget and schedule certainty. It’s hoped that the majority of these SMR concepts will be commercially available by the 2030s.

Ansaldo’s contribution to SMR concepts

Over the years, we’ve contributed to the development of several different small modular reactor concepts, and the qualification of innovative nuclear-dedicated heat exchangers and steam generators.

 Our support began when the early concepts were put forward in the 90s, and has continued right through to the recent development of key components and systems for advanced concepts.

These concepts include:

  • ISIS, an intrinsically safe, immersed 200 MWe system dating back to the 1990s, considered to be the first integral PWR concept.
  • IRIS, launched by Westinghouse in 2000 as an innovative and safe international reactor, which brought together several Italian organisations in an international effort that lasted more than 10 years.
  • NuScale, equipped with a helical coil steam generator concept that has been validated and improved using an Ansaldo Nucleare computational tool.
  • Other international projects.

As part of the projects being funded by Euratom, and in line with the EU Partnership for small modular reactors, Ansaldo Nucleare S.p.A. is also currently coordinating industry and research organisations, to help them assess the status and perspectives of the SMR supply chain in Europe.

We’re also exploring the introduction of new tools and methods that could help to maximise the potential of SMR standardisation, modularity and reliability. For example, we’re investigating the combination of pre-assembled modules, and the use of non-nuclear, high-quality components too.

The sustainable future of nuclear power

It’s hoped that eventually nuclear power will become a dispatchable source of energy, which is able to support the resilience of the network, and even compensate for the intermittent nature of other renewables. To assist with this effort, Ansaldo Nucleare is investigating simple thermal energy storage solutions, which can be safely integrated into SMRs.

We believe that small modular reactors are an attractive solution to the growing global demand for electricity. We hope that they’ll be able to offer greater flexibility and adaptability to local networks and location conditions, and that they’ll be more financially accessible too.