Science: Not all Nuclear Power Comes from the Same Plant Design

The Story:

The government of the United Kingdom says that it will spend £210 million (US$283 million) to develop small modular reactors (SMRs). Specifically, it is providing the money to Rolls-Royce SMR, which is matching it with £250 million (US$336 million) of private investment. Are SMRs important for the future of energy?


SMRs are easier and cheaper to build than traditional nuclear power plants. Part of the improvement is the “M” of the acronym, not the “S.”  “Modular” plants are those that are manufactured in parts, in factories, and that are shipped to a building site by truck. This is a great cost savings compared to the old-style nuclear plants.

Rolls-Royce SMR estimates that one SMR will be sufficient to provide power to 1 million homes, which is the equivalent of a city the size of Leeds, or Columbia, SC.

Strange New Worlds:

Nuclear power plants were seen in much of the western world as the energy of the future in the 1950s, offering the possibility of a world in which power was “too cheap to meter.” They came under heavy political pressure in the 1970s and the utility industries had seemed to move on.

Of late, though, there has been a renaissance of interest in nuclear power, now seen as a ‘green’ technology without carbon emissions. SMRs may prove to be the way forward for it.

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