Throughout my pre-Tec-Com career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, I worked with nuclear engineers, including my husband Daniel T. Ingersoll. Dan is known as an active proponent of small, fail-safe modular power reactors, believing that they hold the promise of being a vital energy source not only for the United States but for the world.
During the past few years, a number of reactor designers have developed a new generation of commercial nuclear power plants with much smaller capacities. Commonly designated as “small modular reactors” (SMRs), they are generally characterized by having an electrical output of less than 300 MWe, are substantially fabricated in a factory and transported to a site for installation into a fixed building structure, and operated in combination with one or more identical reactor modules. Currently, there are nearly 30 SMR designs being commercially developed world-wide motivated by three key drivers: enhanced safety, reduced cost, and increased flexibility.
Small modular reactors employ the same fundamental technologies as large reactors but differ in the physical scale of the components. Although some SMRs are down-sized replicas of large plant designs, most SMRs use different engineering principles to eliminate many components.