The Westinghouse AP300 small nuclear power plant fits on a soccer pitch

The Westinghouse AP300 small nuclear power plant fits on a soccer pitch
An AP300 plant can fit comfortably on a soccer pitch
An AP300 plant can fit comfortably on a soccer pitch
View 2 Images
An AP300 plant can fit comfortably on a soccer pitch
An AP300 plant can fit comfortably on a soccer pitch
Artist's concept of an AP300 nuclear plant
Artist's concept of an AP300 nuclear plant

They say that 'small is beautiful,' and the Westinghouse Electric Company seems to have embraced this with the unveiling of its AP300 Small Nuclear Reactor (SMR), which combines Gen III+ reactor technology with a smaller, more economical size.

Small nuclear reactors have been gaining a lot of attention in recent years as an alternative to the giant conventional fission systems that are very slow and expensive to build, and they also attract a good deal of political opposition, which makes them hard to authorize and operate.

The idea behind an SMR is that instead of building one big reactor to serve an entire region, a number of small reactors can be constructed, which can either scale up a power plant by adding more to one site or by dispersing them to meet local needs.

Such reactors not only introduce an element of flexibility, but also make them cheaper by being able to mass produce them in a factory. Construction costs are lowered by reducing much of the civil engineering conventional reactors require, and the heavy concrete containment vessel can be eliminated by installing the reactor underground.

According to Westinghouse, the AP300 is a 300-MWe single-loop pressurized water reactor with an 80-year plus service life and is based on the company's AP1000 one GWe reactor, making it an 'Nth-of-a-kind' plant. This means that the expensive up-front development costs have already been spent on the previous reactor type.

Artist's concept of an AP300 nuclear plant
Artist's concept of an AP300 nuclear plant

Using 18 years of experience of operating the AP1000, the AP300 takes advantage of improved supply chain, construction, fueling, and operating procedures. The technology is also already approved in the United States, Britain, and China, and complies with European Utility Requirements (EUR) standards, which will speed up licensing in some areas.

Small enough to fit easily on a soccer pitch, the AP300 has a simplified design that is aimed at making it as safe as possible. There are fewer pipes, valves, motors and other points of potential failure, and in the event of an emergency, the shutdown and cooling systems are passive, relying on gravity, natural circulation, and gas pressure rather than diesel engines and pumps. In addition, there are non-safety systems to monitor the reactor and protect it from hazardous fluctuations and a system to flood the reactor containment with large amounts of water to keep the core from overheating in the event of an accident.

The AP300 is intended for both electricity generating and other applications, such as heating, and servicing oil and gas production and industrial sites. It is also aimed at producing hydrogen for the anticipated hydrogen economy.

"The AP300 is the only small modular reactor offering available that is based on deployed, operating and advanced reactor technology," said Patrick Fragman, President and CEO of Westinghouse. "The launch of the AP300 SMR rounds out the Westinghouse portfolio of reactor technology, allowing us to deliver on the full needs of our customers globally, with a clear line of sight on schedule of delivery, and economics."

Source: Westinghouse

Westinghouse is pulling a bait and switch. One of the main ways to reduce plant construction costs is to make the reactor small, build the module on an assembly line, and set it in place on site instead of doing a custom build every time, which is how nuclear powerplants are currently built. Assembly line construction is much cheaper over time than custom builds. But the AP300, though "smaller" than their gigawatt-scale powerplant, is still a custom build. It's not really a "small modular reactor" in the common usage of the term, but it will be cheaper. Westinghouse, with proven and licensed technology, is suddenly faced with competition from a lot of new companies that might encroach on their market and they're, well, competing. Good for them. And good for us—the consumers—hopefully.
Ye Standing Warning:
security, Security, SECURITY.

(And yea verily, there then WILL be a shower of ordure over far more than the local shire) .
"The AP300 is intended for both electricity generating and other applications, such as heating, and servicing oil and gas production..." Isn't that lovely,use a dedicated nuclear plant to wring out the last barrel of oil sands crude. I am waiting for SMRs that recycle conventional fuel from light water reactors,and have refueling cycles of 20+ years.
Boy, is this an improvement or what? Scale down the expensive nuclear power plant that requires 2 or more units to be 1980's efficient and dependable (3 units required for reliability when 1 has to go down for maintenance or refueling) and then call it space and money saving since it can be buried in a soccer pitch! Oh, right! Meanwhile fusion reactors are already much smaller and theoretically possible in the next 5 years (for the 20th year) with almost unlimited fueling capabilities. Whatcha want? Fission reactor with long 1/2 life byproduct or Fusion reactor that can actually be fueled with long 1/2 life radionucleotides? I know the answer - just pump more oil. Then we stay beholden to nations with guns who have oil reserves. (see Wonky's words).
This is the size they were before they found out they were not viable so made them larger. Now to make them better they are making them smaller!!
Fact is it is water cooled which like sodium, should never be a reactor coolant as too prone to failure.
Best at the moment is gas cooled pebble bed reactors that are inherently walk away safe, very simple and easy to make in a factory. The US military has 3 companies competing for a portable one to charge tanks, etc on the front lines.
And Westinghouse is a shell company for Mitsubishi now, that own everything, not a US company.
I think NuScales' SMR solution is better (pebble bed reactor) and while it won't make it to market sooner (2029), it will have longer lasting positive impact. Re-useable fuel and lower amount of waste. Westinghouse is a pig with lipstick, scaled down. Same old tech, same old risks/problems.
ljaques . Canada should be a safe energy partner.
And Oregon's own NuScale SMR was based on fuel from Russia, so it may not flourish. But as of yesterday, Putin OKed the sale of $1B of fuel to NuScale.
I hope that both get to put SMRs all over the world soon, as well as other companies producing them.
Local energy production may be key to our survival in a world where an EMP could wipe out the grid.
Westinghouse is still around? I thought they were bought by Siemens?