Small modular reactors (SMRs) are disrupting conventional notions surrounding nuclear power. Smaller, more compact, and producing minimal emissions, this innovative alternative to traditional nuclear power is receiving more public and private sector attention as governments across the world scramble to meet global energy needs reliably and responsibly. According to a report released last year by market research firm Valuates, the global market for SMRs is expected to surge a record 15.8% year-over-year to hit $18.8 billion by 2030. That is up from just $3.5 billion in 2020. While the SMR market is full of many innovative companies, here are five small modular reactor companies to look out for in 2023.
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This advanced nuclear reactor company–which went public in 2022– is leading a number of large-scale projects across Central and Eastern Europe. NuScale is particularly active in Poland, where it will build its flagship VOYGR SMR power plant with up to 924 MWe of electricity as early as 2029. A newcomer in the nuclear technology market, Poland chose Portland, Oregon–based NuScale to develop and construct the country’s first small modular reactor. The historic agreement comes on the heels of an ambitious multi-nation decarbonization plan signed in Glasgow last November by 28 new members of the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA). The eastern European nation generated about 70% of its electricity from coal in 2020, according to a 2021 report from Forum Energii.
Nuclear innovation company TerraPower was founded in 2008 by Bill Gates and other private sector leaders. The company is now recognized as an international leader in the SMR space, having secured a whopping $80 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in 2020 to support the development of its next-generation Natrium nuclear reactor. In 2021, TerraPower selected Kemmerer, Wyoming as the preferred site for its advanced nuclear reactor demonstration plant. The Natrium reactor is one of just two competitively-selected advanced reactor demonstration projects (ARDP) supported by the Department of Energy.
Westinghouse Electric Company
Leading SMR company Westinghouse Electric propelled to the forefront of the nuclear technology industry with its transportable eVinci™ micro reactor. More of a nuclear battery than a traditional nuclear reactor, the high-temperature heat pipe reactor can generate 5 MW of electricity and up to 13 MW of heat from its 15 MW solid thermal core.
The mobile nuclear power plant derives its power from its advanced heat pipe technology and unique core design. The self-regulating heat pipes enable passive heat transfer, allowing for autonomous operation and inherent load following. The reactor core is designed to operate for eight or more years in full power mode prior to refueling, according to Westinghouse.
The eVinci micro reactor can be fully factory built, fueled, and assembled. A plug-and-play interface allows for rapid onsite installation in less than 30 days. eVinci can operate on or off the grid in all weather conditions and temperatures. The deployable energy generator is ideal for industrial applications and district heating, the company claims.
BWXT Advanced Technologies
SMR developer BWXT Technologies will build the first advanced nuclear microreactor in the United States. The nuclear solutions firm was selected by the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Strategic Capabilities Office to manufacture a full-scale mobile microreactor prototype to be delivered for testing to the Idaho National Laboratory in 2024. The microreactor will be built under a $300 million-valued cost-type contract, according to a company press release issued this summer.
“We are on a mission to design, build and test new nuclear technology to protect the environment while providing power, and we are thrilled with this competitively bid award after years of hard work by our design and engineering team,” said BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC President Joe Miller in June following the announcement. “The entire nuclear industry recognizes that advanced reactors are an important step forward to support growing power needs and significant carbon reduction imperatives.”
SMR maker Kairos Power is betting on high-temperature molten salt reactors to provide competitive, reliable, and responsible nuclear energy. The company touts its fluoride salt-cooled high temperature reactors (KP-FHR) as an affordable and long-term alternative to conventional sources of energy like natural gas, the country’s primary fuel of choice–according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The KP-FHR is a novel SMR technology with a near-zero carbon footprint and minimal water consumption featuring an accident-resistant design and dispatchable reactor. As U.S. natural gas use declines in the next decade or so, Kairos is poised to meet U.S. electricity demand with its innovative high-purity fluoride salt-powered technology. The company is aiming to complete an initial demonstration of its advanced nuclear reactor design by no later than 2030, according to Kairos Power co-founder and CEO Mike Laufer.
SMRs offer governments across the world a chance to reduce emissions and provide reliable power to consumers. Thanks to innovators like those listed above, SMRs are quickly getting ready to be deployed at a global scale.
Nathalie Voit is a freelance content creator and a graduate of the University of Florida. She is an alumni of The Heritage Foundation’s Young Leaders Program.