(Jason, Apr 2, 2013, Nuclear Energy Insider, “How do Russia and the US measure up on SMRs?”, http://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/small-modular-reactors/how-do-russia-and-us-measure-smrs, Accessed 7/9/14, AA)
Russia represents a formidable competitor, with a range of innovative SMR designs in the making.The KLT-40S, for example, is a 35MWe barge-mounted pressurised water reactor (PWR) already under construction.
Using a modified naval propulsion reactor design, the concept could be used for applications ranging from powering coastal towns to desalinating water.
A similar but larger design, also based on naval propulsion systems and for use on barges, is the VBER-300 PWR, delivering 300MWe.
Other SMRs under development include the VK-300, a 250MWe boiling water reactor; the ABV-6M, an 8.6MWe pressurised light water reactor; and the SVBR-100, which is a 101MWe lead-bismuth variant.
And last October the World Nuclear Association (WNA) reported on a USD$805m experimental lead-cooled nuclear reactor being built at the enticingly named Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC), in Tomsk.
“The BREST design is seen as a successor to the BN series and the 300MWe unit at the SCC could be the forerunner to a 1,200MWe version for wide deployment as a commercial power generation unit.”
Of all these variants, the KLT-40S is by far the most advanced, with some sources stating that up to seven barges could be deployed by 2015, in locations around the Arctic. The BREST concept, meanwhile, is expected to be designed by 2014 and built before 2020.
BREST, which stands for Bystry Reaktor so Svintsovym Teplonositelem or 'Fast Reactor with Lead Coolant', is seen as the front-running design for a new generation of SMRs that can be scaled up to around 1GW and deployed across the country in the 2030s, according to analysts.
It is clearly apparent the Russians are well aware of the potential market for SMRs. As World Nuclear Association analyst Jeremy Gordon puts it: “Reactors of that size are the missing link. Any other fuel you name, you can scale up all the way, but we don’t start until about 900MW.”
How do Russian designs measure up?
But how do the Russian designs measure up to those being developed in the US? One advantage of the American models is that they are based on tried-and-tested PWR technology, which makes them a safe bet for markets with previous nuclear experience.
Russian lead-cooled reactors such as the BREST design, meanwhile, involve new technology and hence represent more of a risk. “It’s that bit more racy,” says one insider.
On the other hand, buyers of Soviet reactors know the technology is backed by Russia’s entire nuclear industry, and not just a single vendor within it, which will be a powerful draw for would-be customers comfortable with the political implications of trading with Russia.