Belgium’s Investment in SMRs: The Future of Nuclear Energy

2023-11-12 13:35:00

While the debate on whether or not to maintain nuclear power plants has raged for years. Last year, Belgium invested 100 million euros in the nuclear energy of tomorrow. This week, the country entered a consortium which aims to develop what we call SMRs, these are small modular reactors, considered safer and which produce less waste.

SMR stands for small modular reactor. In French, a “small modular reactor“In itself, this is not new, they are already used in aircraft carriers or in nuclear-powered submarines and they could well one day replace current power plants.

Today, a reactor is a building 60 meters high and 40 meters in diameter. An SMR is three times lower and much thinner, 20 meters high and 5 meters in diameter, and therefore more practical to produce and install.

Paul-Dominique Dumont is professor of nuclear physics at the University of Liège. He explains that these reactors will be “produced in series, so it will cost significantly less than the ‘individual reactors’, which we have manufactured until now“.

A classic reactor produces 1000 megawatts, an SMR between 10 and 300 megawatts depending on needs. They can be put in series and used on demand. It is therefore much more flexible than current nuclear power. The second generation of SMRs will even be much more economical and therefore cleaner. “These are reactors that will be able to produce approximately 10 to 100 times fewer unpleasant radioactive elements after nuclear fission.” adds Professor Dumont.

For us, the project will be inspired by a type of reactor designed by an American company. This is still a long-term project. The Mole research center must develop them with several international partners. Marc Schyns is going to direct this project, which they are going to head into “towards fast neutron reactors which have three relatively clear advantages“. These advantages are: “Minimization of nuclear waste production, better use of uranium resources and better security, therefore passive“.

These first reactors should be operational between 2035 and 2040, if everything goes as planned. Seventy prototypes are currently being built around the world, but none has yet reached the commercial production stage.

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