Since the war in Ukraine began, the government led by Volodimir Zelensky has repeatedly denounced the massive bombardments planned by Russia to destroy your power grid. A strategy commonly used during war conflicts to weaken the enemy requires damaging its essential infrastructure, and power plants are a fundamental resource for any developed country.
Ukraine currently maintains fifteen nuclear reactors in operation that are distributed in four power plants. One of them, that of Zaporizhia, has been administered by Russia since it took control of it at the beginning of March 2022. This is precisely the largest nuclear plant in Europe because it has six reactors that have a combined power of about 5,700 MW.
Neither opponent is interested in damaging a nuclear reactor due to the possibility of triggering a core meltdown and an accident occurs comparable to the one that took place in Chernobyl on April 26, 1986. However, according to the Kiev government, Russia has managed to seriously damage some of its power plants, which has introduced very important deficiencies in its infrastructure that must be corrected as soon as possible. soon as possible. Rebuilding it in a short time is not easy, but Ukraine has a plan.
SMR reactors are the solution that Ukraine is urgently looking for
Herman Haluschenko, the Minister of Energy appointed by Zelenski, defends that the SMR reactors represent the ideal solution to rebuild its electrical infrastructure: “This is the best option to replace thermal generation. We will bet on solving the transition towards a ‘green’ system using the best technology: SMR reactors”. However, Haluschenko’s statements reflect that his plan is more advanced than we might initially intuit.
The SMR reactors are being designed in accordance with the principles established for fourth generation nuclear fission equipment.
And it is that his right hand in this area, Petro Kotin, who is the president of Energoatom, the public company that is responsible for the administration of Ukrainian nuclear power plants, has declared that his technicians are evaluating two possible locations for their new nuclear plants of the SMR type: Odesa, in the south of the country, and Chyhyryn, in the east of Ukraine. This acronym comes from the English name Small Modular Reactor and identifies, as we can guess, a new type of nuclear fission reactors that is characterized by its modular and compact design.
They have been in development for just over two decades, and some of them are being designed in accordance with the principles and requirements established for fourth-generation nuclear fission equipment. These fourth-generation reactors are being designed so that they are not weighed down by the deficiencies introduced in previous generations, and to achieve this they must necessarily meet three requirements: they must be sustainable, require the lowest economic investment possible, and, furthermore, their safety and reliability must be high enough to minimize the probability of reactor core damage in the event of an accident.
To meet the first condition, it is essential to extract the maximum possible energy from the fuel, and, furthermore, radioactive waste must be minimized. As regards its cost, the start-up and maintenance of the nuclear power plant must be comparable to the costs required by other energy sources. And as far as safety is concerned, it is essential that in the event of an accident no need to take emergency measures beyond the facilities of the nuclear power plant itself.
This all sounds great, but we can’t get over the fact that commercial SMR reactors still have challenges ahead. In the United States, NuScale’s Voygr design has just been certified and is ready to be installed, but it has come a long and winding road before reaching the finish line. If we stick to Ukraine, there are two companies that have taken the initiative in the development of SMR reactors: the Estonian Fermi Energia and the Ukrainian Eco-Optima. And surely they still have a lot to do. In fact, the first one has been in business for just over three years. We will track them carefully.
Cover Image: Holtec International
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