Ensuring the reduction of climate emissions and security of energy supply for the future will require long-term work for decades to come. The EcoSMR (Finnish Ecosystem for Small Modular Reactors) project, which began in 2020 and was funded by Business Finland, brought together Finnish actors to develop business activities around the opportunities related to small modular reactors. This year, the project will continue in the EcoSMR Hub, which processes the development projects of different organisations.
The small modular reactors (SMRs) that are being developed have attracted interest as an alternative to energy production worldwide, especially in the last two years. In SMRs, the aim is to utilise new innovative safety solutions and serial production methods, and to expand the application possibilities of nuclear energy to new applications. In general, modern nuclear reactors with a heat output of less than 900 MW and a power output of less than 300 MW are considered small modular reactors. There are also larger modular reactors that can also be harnessed for cogeneration of electricity, steam or heat.
During the EcoSMR project, the research, knowledge and production needs of SMR developers and companies were examined, and the organisations of Finnish nuclear technology expertise were updated in relation to the degree of maturity of reactor concepts. In Finland, both VTT and the Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT) conduct research related to SMRs. VTT was responsible for coordinating the EcoSMR project.
The project had nine business partners, of which Fortum, Teollisuuden Voima Oyj and Refinec launched their own research projects with the aim of processing expertise into products and services for sale. The companies were given the opportunity to discuss topical issues with other Finnish and international SMR pioneers and to plan opportunities for the content of future co-operation. When it was launched, the EcoSMR project was the first national public research project on SMRs in Finland. Today, several studies on the possibilities of implementing SMRs in Finland are already under way in the private and public sector.
The EcoSMR project was completed at the end of 2022, but the work to promote the possibilities of using SMRs in Finland will continue. EcoSMR Hub, which develops business networks for SMRs, will be launched as a successor to the EcoSMR project in spring 2023. EcoSMR Hub welcomes all Finnish parties interested in SMRs as part of the network.
Development of small reactors also progressing globally
Governments, authorities, energy companies, research institutes and technology suppliers in several countries have signed letters of intent to promote the deployment of SMR power plants. The United States and Canada, as well as Great Britain and France, are at the forefront of development in the Western countries. There are already more than 80 concepts under development, many of which are still trying to reach the pilot level this decade.
The aim of the new SMR concepts is to replace the use of fossil fuels in the production of electricity, district heating and industrial process heat. The reactor concepts relying on light water reactor technology, which has gained the most user experience, are the most advanced, but the development pipeline also includes reactors for new cooling methods and higher operating temperatures.
EcoSMR business partners :
• Helen Oy
• Vantaan Energia Oy
• Clenercon Oy
• Environmental research and assessment EnviroCase Oy
• Fortum Power and Heat Oy
• Teollisuuden Voima Oyj
• Refinec Oy
• Kalliosuunnittelu Oy Rockplan Ltd
• AFRY Finland Oy
Images: Refinec Oy is a pressure equipment manufacturer that focused on developing its production methods for manufacturing SMRs in its corporate project. The production methods were made more efficient and quality was improved by utilising the latest welding automation technologies.