What are Small Modular Nuclear Reactors?

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) are nuclear power plants that are smaller in size than most commercial nuclear power plants today. The plants in the Duke Energy nuclear fleet are large baseload power plants, which mean they are designed to provide a steady amount, or base, of power around the clock.  All of Duke's reactors are more than 800 megawatts in size; SMRs are 300 megawatts or less. But it is that smaller size that makes them attractive options for the future.

One of the biggest potential advantages of SMRs is their cost. Because of the smaller, more compact design, SMRs require less of a footprint than today's baseload nuclear power plants. That means reduced siting costs.

The SMRs are designed to be factory built and transported by truck or rail to a nuclear power site. This production would result in economies of scale that can benefit all buyers - an advantage not possible with larger, customized nuclear plants.

SMRs could be used to provide power to locales, including remote sites, where smaller power capacity is all that's required to meet load requirements.

Many SMRs are designed with improved safety and security features. Their reactor buildings, fuel pools and control rooms are housed underground to withstand earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes and terrorist threats.

While they are not envisioned to replace existing nuclear plants in the future, they may help replace some of the power produced by today's fossil fuel plants, and their emergency planning zone is designed to be no more than about a 300 meter radius.

To help ensure the continued development of SMRs and other clean energy options for the future, the U.S. Department of Energy is helping accelerate the timelines for the commercialization and deployment of SMR technologies. Several manufacturers currently have SMR designs in the works, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission anticipates it may receive the first applications for review by late 2015.

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