A reactor on a truck
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Japanese Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plans to commercialise in the 2030s the nuclear reactors that can be trucked to the regions isolated from the general power grid. A micro-reactor of 3x4 m (HxW) size will weigh 40 tons and have the capacity of 0.5 megawatts (MW).

The photo is sourced from gasandmoney.ru

The unit will look like a capsule that can be stored underground. The fuel for the microreactor will be highly enriched uranium not requiring replacement during the entire 25-year operation period. The coolant will be a solid graphite material transferring the thermal energy from the reactor core to the electric generator. Using graphite instead of water will provide a high level of safety: in case of an accident, excess heat will be dissipated through natural cooling by the environment.

The micro-reactor will cost the purchasing companies several tens of millions of dollars, which is several times less than the construction cost of large nuclear power plants with the capacity of 1.2 gigawatts (GW), amounting to around $6 billion. According to the project timeline, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plans to conduct mock-up tests of the coolant during 2023-2025, and to create a prototype of the micro-reactor to test it performance during 2026-2030.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ development is one of manifestations of the growing demand for “small forms” in the nuclear power industry: in 2020, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted a NuScale Power permission to build the first 50-MW modular reactor in the country to be transported to the site after the factory assembly. Britain’s Rolls Royce, which last year announced its intention to invest £195 million jointly with the BNF Resources of France and the US-based Exelon Generation in development of small modular reactors is going to implement a similar project.

Interest in the nuclear power industry is directly associated with transition to carbon neutrality. Being comparable, in terms of emissions, with the generators powered by renewable sources, nuclear power plants (NPPs) surpass them in terms of power supply stability: in the US, in 2021, the average utilisation of NPPs (92.7%) was a multiple of that of wind farms (34.6%) and solar panels (24.6%, as says the Energy Information Administration).


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