A new report from the US Idaho National Laboratory (INL) sees high market potential for microreactors in US states with energy-intensive industries, favorable nuclear power laws and a wide social acceptance. The 164-page “Microjet Applications in US Markets” discusses the state-level legal, regulatory, economic, and technological implications for microjet applications in US markets.
This report is part of the Emerging Energy Markets Analysis (EMA) initiative led by INL and includes the University of Alaska, Boise State University, the University of Michigan, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Wyoming. Summarizes a US Department of Energy (DOE) Microreactor Program analysis of market opportunities for microreactors.
The EMA team examined the regulatory climate in all 50 US states and found that most have either removed barriers to microreactor (MR) deployment or set carbon reduction targets that make advanced nuclear technologies affordable. attractive. Challenges include public perceptions based on uncertainties related to cost, waste, and fuel management.
A key focus is on Alaska and Wyoming, where there are location-specific energy needs for electricity and heat. A state-by-state assessment of current carbon-related and carbon and nuclear policies assesses the broader applicability of the market in states undergoing energy transitions. MRs are suitable for remote industrial applications, such as shellfish processing in Alaska and trona mining in Wyoming, the report says.
The report suggests that the nuclear industry and national laboratories should increase communication about the technology and create a clear differentiation between MR, small modular reactors, and large reactors. It outlines areas that need further research, including developing a deeper understanding of public acceptance or resistance to microreactors. It says there is also a need to: Assess other potential markets for microreactors, including conventional mining, oil and gas extraction operations, carbon refining, ammonia production, synthetic fuels, and other industries.
“Microreactors are a new technology for many potential deployment sites, so it is important to promote a common understanding of barriers to market entry for both technology developers and end users,” said John Jackson, national technical director of the Microreactor Program of the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy. “DOE’s programs support a broad availability of energy solutions to meet individual needs, and characterizing these needs is invaluable.”
INL is currently developing the Microreactor Applications Research Validation & Evaluation (Marvel) project, which involves the design, development, construction, and commissioning of an INL test microreactor, funded by the DOE through the Microreactor Program. The goal is to establish an operational nuclear application testbed that can generate combined heat and power to enable integration and R&D with end-user technologies. It will also allow microreactor technologists to test next-generation control systems.
Marvel is one of 12 microreactor designs outlined in International Atomic Energy’s comprehensive publication on Advances in Small Modular Reactor Technology Developments published in 2022. Of the 12, five are being developed in the US. In addition to Marvel, these they include Oklo’s Aurora, HolosGen’s Holos-Quad, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation’s MMR, and Westinghouse’s eVinci.
Image: INL test microreactor, Marvel (courtesy Idaho National Laboratory)