Nuclear energy: Flexible fission via Financial Times

The atomic industry is shifting its focus to smaller reactors to meet surging demand from emerging economies


Akademik Lomonosov’s small plant represents a radical new trend in the nuclear industry. After more than 50 years in which the pursuit of economies of scale and more power has made nuclear plants bigger and bigger, they are now shrinking. The atomic industry is thinking small.

Cost is driving the change. At a time when utility companies are struggling financially and delays on large reactors lengthen, small reactors offer hope. They typically generate up to 300 megawatts of electricity per reactor – about a fifth of the output of a normal full-size plant – and are about a third of the physical size of traditional ones. Their size means their capital cost should be much lower, making them attractive to lenders who would also see a quicker return on their investment. Centrica, the British utility, pulled out of a project this month to build big reactors in the UK, blaming spiralling costs and delays.

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