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Article   |   Wenjie Qin, Kristina Gillin   |   17.06.2022

The SMR siting challenge: How to balance the risks?

Small modular reactors (SMRs) offer many advantages compared with large nuclear power plants, including smaller footprints, faster construction and enhanced safety. SMRs can also be sited closer to end users, which improves efficiency and offers much more flexibility in terms of the energy output.

SMRs can be used to generate not only electrical power but also heat, high-temperature steam or hydrogen for consumers. As such, SMRs have the potential to meet the energy needs of a wider range of end users, such as remote communities, mines and off-grid industrial complexes. Another use could be to replace fossil fuel fired boilers with SMRs in existing thermal power plants, as part of the transition to a carbon neutral future.

Large-scale reactors have typically been built far away from other industries, so that the risk of fire, explosion, toxic gas release and other external hazards from surrounding facilities could be screened out. By contrast, SMRs are likely to be built near industrial facilities. Consequently, a broader range of external hazards needs to be considered in the design and safety assessment of SMRs.

To identify, screen, assess and mitigate external hazards from surrounding facilities, SMR developers can benefit greatly by leveraging the risk analysis experiences and methodologies found in oil & gas, chemical and other conventional industries, where consideration of external hazards from neighbouring industries is commonplace.

Of particular importance for the rapidly developing SMR industry will be to ensure that site selection is based on a balanced risk profile that includes in-depth consideration of external hazards from the surroundings. To do so effectively, nuclear and conventional risk analysts need to work hand-in-hand.

At Vysus Group, we have experience in doing exactly that: we have leading risk analysis experts in both nuclear and conventional industries under one roof, working together to help our clients identify, screen and perform detailed analysis of external hazards when considering sites for SMRs.

To learn more about how we can help in resolving this SMR siting challenge, contact Anders Olsson.

Examples of the services we offer related to SMRs include:

  • Identification, screening and specification of external hazards and events for the design basis or for validation of the SMR design.
  • Compatibility assessments of SMRs with various surrounding industries, as input to the siting process.
  • Detailed analysis of external hazards and events, such as 2D or 3D simulation of explosion, fire and toxic gas release, to evaluate the impact on the SMR. This will verify the design capability and identify ways to reduce hazards or mitigate their consequences.
  • Nuclear deterministic and probabilistic analysis, taking into account the specificities of the SMR design and its environment.
  • Assessment of decommissioning-related challenges and risks associated with the siting of SMRs.
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