Countries looking to accelerate the start of SMR deployment with the help of the IAEA’s Platform on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and their Applications, launched a year ago to provide support on all aspects of SMR development, deployment, licensing and oversight, can take their first step through a new online portal to access all IAEA services as well as the latest information related to this technology emerging nuclear.
With more than 80 SMR designs under development in 19 countries and the first SMR units already operational in China and Russia, SMRs, including microreactors (MRs), are expected to play an increasingly important role in helping to ensuring security of energy supply as well as the global energy transition to net zero. The technology, its security and its economic competitiveness must be fully demonstrated before SMRs can be deployed more widely – and the SMR platform is already helping governments, potential operators and regulators in countries like Brazil and Jordan to address these and related challenges.
The portal covers technology development and deployment (including non-electrical applications), nuclear safety, security and safeguards as well as fuel, fuel cycle and waste management. The portal navigation bar has 10 selectable topics that allow users to filter news, events and posts by topic. In the near future, the SMR portal will be further expanded to incorporate additional features such as spaces for technical working groups, information on national and international SMR projects and programs, and a version for mobile phones and tablets.
“The portal is designed to serve as a centralized source of information for external and internal IAEA stakeholders, with different levels of information and access to data,” said Stefano Monti, Chair of the IAEA team. SMR Platform Implementation and IAEA Nuclear Energy Technology Officer. Development section.
SMRs will use pre-engineered systems and components to shorten construction schedules and offer greater flexibility and a better price than traditional nuclear power plants. They have the potential to meet the needs of a wide range of users and to be low-carbon replacements for aging fossil fuel power plants. They potentially offer enhanced safety features and are suitable for non-electrical applications, such as cooling, heating, hydrogen production and water desalination. SMRs also provide options for countries with smaller power grids as well as regions with less developed infrastructure and for energy systems that combine nuclear and alternative sources, including renewables.
The IAEA has several SMR-related activities in place that the platform helps to coordinate and for which the portal provides information. The Platform also interfaces with other important IAEA initiatives. For example, the new Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative (NHSI), which held its kick-off meeting in June 2022, helps facilitate the deployment of safe and secure SMRs through the harmonization and standardization of regulatory and industry approaches.
“The IAEA undertakes important activities on the safety and security of SMRs. For example, we recently completed the review of the applicability of safety standards to SMRs and other technologies,” said Paula Calle Vives, Principal Nuclear Safety Officer at the IAEA. “We have also drawn up a work program to gradually adjust the security standards so that they better take into account the specificities of these new technologies. The Platform portal will allow us to better disseminate this work to Member States.
The IAEA’s SMR Platform includes activities on SMRs and their applications, with a focus on technologies closest to near-term deployment, including industrial readiness support for SMRs and their applications ; promote, support and develop research and innovation in SMR; support the establishment of institutional, legal and regulatory frameworks for the deployment of safe and secure operation and decommissioning of SMRs; and support international cooperation on SMRs. Next month, the IAEA’s SMR platform will publish a new booklet, “SMRs: A New Energy Paradigm”, which examines the factors to consider when deciding whether or not to adopt SMRs and ways to enable their safe, secure, peaceful and sustainable deployment. The 2022 edition of the biennial brochure on “Advances in Small Modular Reactor Technology Developments” will also be published in September.
Countries already receive assistance through the IAEA’s SMR platform and several cross-cutting task forces have been established to meet their needs. One of them is helping to organize an expert mission to Jordan to analyze the economics of using SMRs for power generation and water desalination. The IAEA is also supporting Brazil in analyzing SMR technologies and market readiness, regulatory issues and requirements for SMR implementation, and last April participated in a three days on SMRs and MRs organized by the Brazilian Association for the Development of Nuclear Activities (ABDAN).
“In the midst of the energy and climate crises, more and more countries are considering SMRs as an option to improve energy security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Monti said. “The IAEA can help them on this journey, which can start with a visit to the new portal of the IAEA’s SMR platform and then, if desired, by submitting a formal request for assistance from the Agency.”