Scientists are working on micronuclear reactors that are small enough to fit in the back of a truck or a standard 12-meter shipping container. This is stated in the message of the Argonne National Laboratory.
Deliberately small, micro-reactors generate up to 20 MW and can provide zero-carbon electricity to remote locations or operate with damaged power supplies. Another idea is to place them on remote highways to recharge long-distance electric vehicles. Passive cooling with heat pipes makes them safe and compact. Improved “slowing” of neutrons allows the use of low-enriched uranium fuel, which is difficult to turn into a weapon if it falls into someone’s hands.
Today, the smallest operating nuclear power plant operates in the United States: it has a capacity of 581 MW.
Experts at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory are developing strategies to commercialize the microreactor concept, working with the private sector and federal regulators. A microreactor can have a capacity of several kilowatts to 20 megawatts.
In addition to being compact, microreactors must be designed to operate safely for many years – perhaps several decades. They can also be self-controlled, operating without the need for a constant human presence. While it is possible to build such a reactor using today’s technology, it may not have the mobility or efficiency required to operate, for example, at a military base or in the Arctic region, where alternative renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar power, cannot yet be used.