North America Poised for Growth: Small Modular Reactor Market Gains Momentum

Small Modular Reactor Market

According to a research report, the Small Modular Reactor Market is estimated to be USD 5.8 billion in 2023 to USD 6.8 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 2.3% during the forecast period. The factors that drive the market growth include versatile nature of nuclear power and modularization of SMRs. SMRs offer the potential for improved economics. Their smaller scale and standardized designs can lead to cost savings in manufacturing, construction, and maintenance. The modular nature of SMRs enables phased deployment, reducing upfront capital costs and allowing for incremental capacity expansion based on demand.

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According to the World Nuclear Association, “Small modular reactors (SMRs) are defined as nuclear reactors generally 300 MWe equivalent or less, designed with modular technology using module factory fabrication, pursuing economies of series production and short construction times”. SMRs vary in terms of size and thermal output. These reactors can be used for various applications, such as power generation, process heating, desalination, and industrial uses. Their designs may employ light water as a coolant or other coolants, such as gases, liquid metals, or molten salts.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are being deployed in the US to address key challenges faced by traditional nuclear power plants. SMRs offer advantages such as smaller physical footprints, reduced capital investment, and the ability to be sited in locations not possible for larger nuclear plants. Compared to traditional nuclear power plants, these reactors are designed to be easier to build, more cost-effective, and safer to operate. The US Department of Energy has supported the development of SMRs to accelerate their availability in domestic and international markets, aiming for deployment by the late 2020s to early 2030s. The recent approval of NuScale Power’s SMR design by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission marks a significant milestone in the US nuclear innovation system, highlighting the potential for SMRs to provide clean, reliable baseload power and enhance energy security and environmental sustainability.

The key stakeholders in the SMR market are component manufacturers, SMR manufacturers, SMR support services providers/integrators, and end-users. The component manufacturers of SMRs offer components such as reactor cores, steam generators, reactor pressure vessels, containment vessels, and fuel assemblies. Meanwhile, Westinghouse Electric Company LLC (US), NuScale Power, LLC. (US), Terrestrial Energy Inc. (Canada), Moltex Energy (Canada), and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (US) are the top players in the SMR market and have a strong presence in the US. All these and other players have been deploying several projects due to the advantages these reactors offer over traditional nuclear power plants. For instance: GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), Ontario Power Generation (OPG), SNC-Lavalin, and Aecon have signed a contract for the deployment of a BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) at OPG’s Darlington new nuclear project site. This was the first commercial contract for a grid-scale SMR in the North American region.

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Along with the deployment of projects, several companies have been implementing various technological advancements in SMR technologies that demonstrate a commitment to enhancing safety, efficiency, and sustainability in nuclear energy production through innovative design, manufacturing processes, and fuel development, such as:

  1. Implementation of remote monitoring technologies to improve performance of small modular reactors: Companies have adopted remote monitoring technologies and autonomous operations, which are expected to result in better field communication, reduction in maintenance costs and power consumption, real-time monitoring of electrical signals, and digitalization of nuclear power infrastructure.
  2. Advanced Reactor Designs: The United States is developing cutting-edge advanced reactor designs that are versatile, cost-effective, and can be paired with renewable energy sources. For example, NuScale Power’s SMR features a passive safety cooling system that enhances safety by making the reactor walk-away safe without operator intervention.
  3. Advanced manufacturing: There is a shift towards advanced manufacturing techniques in building SMR technologies. Projects like additive manufacturing (3D printing) are used to create complex designs for nuclear components, reducing time and costs for bringing new fuels and components to market.
  4. Advanced fuels: New fuels are being developed to operate more efficiently at higher temperatures. Efforts are underway to design and submit license applications for advanced fuel fabrication facilities like TRISO-X fuel fabrication facility by X-energy. These fuels are resistant to extreme temperatures, enhancing the performance of advanced reactors.
  5. Accident-tolerant fuels: Companies like General Electric’s Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF), Framatome, and Westinghouse are collaborating with the Department of Energy to introduce new accident-tolerant fuels within the next decade. These technologies aim to improve the safety and performance of nuclear fuels for existing reactors.