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The Global Energy Prize annually honors outstanding achievements in energy research and technology from around the world that are helping address the world’s various and pressing energy challenges.

Modular nuclear power sources are promising, but a different type of reactor is needed

Academician Ashot Sarkisov from the Institute for the Safe Development of Nuclear Energy of the Russian Academy of Sciences considers the idea of Thomas Blees, a member of the Global Energy Prize International Award Committee, about developing the technology of modular nuclear power sources to be promising, but considers it is important to use a different type of reactor. 

The article by Thomas Blees named “The Energy Transition to come” was devoted to the problem of creating modular nuclear energy sources of low power through building fleets of power vessels with molten salt reactors.

"The author's statement about the prospects of using floating nuclear power plants is absolutely right... As for the molten salt reactor, despite the presence of a number of obvious advantages, in my opinion, this proposal seems to be quite problematic, primarily due to the high radioactive and corrosive activity of uranium-salt solution distributed in the volume of the entire first circuit," Sarkisov said to the Global Energy Association.

In his opinion, this drawback of liquid-salt reactors conflicts with one of the most important requirements of increased standards of reliability and safety for plants of this type. “Reactors with lead-bismuth coolant or water-cooled reactors with the highest referentiality would be more preferable. However, the problem of choosing the type (or types) of the reactor requires additional comprehensive analysis and remains unsolved.”

The scientist also noticed that the modern level of science and nuclear technology allows to create reliable and safe nuclear energy sources that can function for a long time (10-20 years) with a minimum staff.

For his part, Vitaly Trutnev, the director of Rosenergoatom's branch "Directorate for the Construction and Operation of Floating Nuclear Power Plants", stated that Rosatom (its power division includes the company) always advocates broad international cooperation and enthusiastically meets reports of new players on the market, especially when it comes to such promising technologies as small nuclear power plants (SNPP).

"Dozens of variations of small reactors are currently under development around the world, and we are proud to be the first in recent history to put the floating nuclear power plant into commercial operation," he told to the Global Energy Association.The floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) based on the floating power unit "Academician Lomonosov" was put into commercial operation on May 22, 2020. It is the northernmost nuclear power plant in the world. Since its commissioning in December 2019, it has already generated over 47,3 million kWh of electricity. Currently, it covers 30% of the local energy needs. The capacity of the plant is sufficient to supply electricity to a community of about 100,000 people.

Rosatom is also working on the second generation of FNPP - an optimized floating power unit based on the latest reactors of the RITM-200 series. Compare to FNPP, the new type of floating power plant will be more powerful, compact and will have a longer fuel run. The development of the new project is currently at the stage of sketchy design, said Trutnev.

In addition, Rosatom is working on a project of a small-scale nuclear power plant. At present, the development of the conceptual design is completed. In order to implement the project, which will later become a reference for the international market, a site for the placement of production in Russia is being selected. "We’ve set a goal to implement this project by 2027," Trutnev added.

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