Company Aims to Make Nuclear Reactors Pocket-Sized

Can smaller reactors be safer?
Utku Kucukduner

In a recently published video, small modular reactor manufacturer NuScale walks viewers through its research and simulation facilities. What you'll be seeing is a NuScale nuclear plant that will look and work in an electrical grid and handle heat infrastructure. 

Their simulation software makes a case for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, detailing how they're cutting down on staffing needs and safety power threshold. 

But how exactly does it work?

As with contemporary larger-scale nuclear plants, NuScale reactor cores are kept by circulating fresh water. The catch is that when you look at a big nuclear plant, most of what you see is dedicated to cooling the plant. This is where NuScale falls in a different sack.

These reactors use gravity and buoyancy to spontaneously circulate the cooling water. Another selling point is the size. WIRED reports that it's “about the size of two school buses stacked end to end, you could fit around 100 of them in the containment chamber of a large conventional reactor.”


In their integral system test, they heated water with electricity to mimic the real deal in a mock-up reactor for engineers to run their tests on different components and how they interact with circulating water. In this way, the company can also model and plan against accidents and emergencies.

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By studying the "human factors" involved, the company can assess the reality of working with these parts, thus the engineers can reach the industry standards as low as is reasonably possible (ALARP) against complications.

Should NuScale—or any other company with a similar idea — be able to deliver the kind of nuclear reactors they promised, we can expect the future to include safer and smaller versions of the nuclear plants we already seem to be enjoying fruits of.