4 Key Benefits of Advanced Small Modular Reactors

4 Key Benefits of Advanced Small Modular Reactors


Department of Energy | Office of Nuclear Energy | MAY 28, 2020

Welcome to the future of nuclear energy.

Within the next 10 years, advanced small modular reactors (SMRs) could change the way we think about reliable, clean and affordable nuclear power.

Instead of going big, scientists and engineers went small developing mini reactors that are roughly a third of the size of a typical nuclear power plant.

That means America’s largest clean energy source could be coming to a market near you—making nuclear more scalable and flexible than ever before.

Advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are a key part of the Department’s goal to develop safe, clean, and affordable nuclear power options. The advanced SMRs currently under development in the United States represent a variety of sizes, technology options, capabilities, and deployment scenarios. These advanced reactors, envisioned to vary in size from tens of megawatts up to hundreds of megawatts, can be used for power generation, process heat, desalination, or other industrial uses. SMR designs may employ light water as a coolant or other non-light water coolants such as a gas, liquid metal, or molten salt.

Advanced SMRs offer many advantages, such as relatively small physical footprints, reduced capital investment, ability to be sited in locations not possible for larger nuclear plants, and provisions for incremental power additions. SMRs also offer distinct safeguards, security and nonproliferation advantages.

The Department has long recognized the transformational value that advanced SMRs can provide to the nation’s economic, energy security, and environmental outlook. Accordingly, the Department has provided substantial support to the development of light water-cooled SMRs, which are under licensing review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and will likely be deployed in the late 2020s to early 2030s. The Department is also interested in the development of SMRs that use nontraditional coolants such as liquid metals, salts, and gases for the potential safety, operational, and economic benefits they offer.

Here’s how they work.

Graphic of a small modular reactor that explains how it works.

This infographic explains how small modular reactors work.


Take a look at these four key benefits to advanced small modular reactors:

SMRs Require Less Prep Time

SMR parts will be factory-made and shipped to site locations. This makes them quicker to build and less expensive than traditional designs—drastically reducing up-front costs for plant construction.

SMRs Provide More Options

Because SMRs have a simple and compact design, consumers will have more options to utilize nuclear power. This includes locations unable to support large reactors, in addition to powering smaller electrical markets and grids, isolated areas, and sites with limited water.

SMRs Are Flexible

SMRs are extremely flexible. They can be scaled up or down to meet energy demands and help power areas where larger plants are not needed. SMRs can also be used to help replace or repower retiring power plants or to complement existing power plants with zero-emission fuel.

SMRs Attract New Business Opportunities

SMRs can help strengthen American dominance in nuclear energy worldwide. According to a study, estimated deployment of a 100 megawatt SMR could create 7,000 jobs and generate more than $1 billion in sales.

Learn more about the Office of Nuclear Energy’s work on advanced small modular reactor technologies.

Watch and learn about the benefits of small modular reactors | Video courtesy of the Department of Energy

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