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Modular design would shorten construction times for nuclear plants

By Chemical Engineering |

Small-scale, factory-built nuclear power plants could dramatically reduce construction times and capital costs for nuclear-based power generation. A research team at Sandia National Laboratory (Albuquerque, N.M.; http://www.sandia.gov) is seeking an industry partner to commercialize a modular reactor design developed at the national laboratory. The reactors would be built in a modular fashion, with standardized components manufactured in a factory and shipped to the plant site. If modular designs were to be adopted on a commercial scale, the per-unit costs are estimated at as low as $250 million for a 100 MWe plant, Sandia researcher Paul Pickard explains. Modular-plant, initial-capital-cost requirements would therefore be proportionally lower than current, larger-scale plant designs. The research team estimates the small-scale nuclear plants could eventually achieve construction times of around one-half to one-third as long as the time needed to construct a large-scale reactor, although construction times vary greatly depending on locations and conditions. Other advantages to the small-scale design are efficiency, which eclipses other current nuclear designs, and times between refueling, which could be upwards of 10 years, compared…
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