Microreactors – FAQs
Most of these small reactors are designed to be portable – many could be hauled by a semi tractor-trailer.
Microreactors are 100 to 1,000 times smaller than conventional nuclear reactors. Small modular reactors (SMRS) range from 50 to 300 megawatts.
It supplied 10 megawatts of electricity from 1968-1975, located on a barge in Gatun Lake. The military decommissioned most of its microreactors by the early 1970s because oil was cheap, weakening demand for remote power sources.
Several organizations and companies are developing new designs equipped with advanced technologies such as sensors, electronics, safety systems and materials that did not exist 40 years ago. These advancements are expected to make the next generation of microreactors easier and less expensive to operate. This, in turn, could open new markets for these small, powerful, portable systems.
The U.S. Department of Defense is pursuing the concept as its military operations become more energy intensive and require portable, dense power sources. Remote, rural communities in the U.S., many of which fly or truck in diesel to run generators, are considering microreactors since they could generate power on site.
In addition, these new systems are expected to operate years without refueling – much like the nuclear reactors used to power the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarines.
No. However, there are some microreactors operating outside the United States. For example, Russia has several microreactors, including a new system that is barge-mounted and producing heat and electricity for an arctic community across the Bering Strait from Alaska.