What would SMRs mean for the different nuclear industry stakeholders?

In the EU project ELSMOR – Towards European Licencing of Small Modular Reactors – the project partners have been pouring a lot of effort into the different work packages and we should have plenty to inform regarding various results and findings. For Work Package 6, responsible for the communications and dissemination, the efforts have been focused on mapping out what kind of implications Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) might have on the Institutional-Strength-in-Depth framework (IAEA, 2017). Primarily this work has focused on looking at the background of what has already been done in the field and performing a case study in the Finnish context by conducting interviews with different stakeholders with an interest in the technology and its future implications.  The time for this case study seemed right as recently the discussion regarding SMRs have been active in Finland.

Exploring these different perspectives has been extremely interesting as SMRs are an up-and-coming technology with a lot of hopes laid on top of it. This will naturally mean that those hopes also differ from stakeholder to stakeholder and aligning the needs and interests of different actors in the field will be critical for supporting a smooth roll-out of these potential projects. Clearly, there is a common interest in these plants and a hope that they can be rolled out to support the climate goals laid out by cities, municipalities and the whole country.

Perhaps the clearest point of variance is exactly where one would expect it to be. There is a hope among utilities that these plants would be more affordable and the key to that is minimising changes from country to country to truly utilise the economies of serial production. At the same time, the regulatory side will want to keep tabs on what kind of nuclear is built in the country and what kind of designs are allowed. This will require further cooperation on both national and international level.

Finland is currently planning the retooling of the nuclear energy law and the breath of parties that need to be on the same page for this to work out is significant. These issues are not unique to Finland and having clear lines of dialogue between stakeholders would only support the work and allow for taking into account all sides of the issue, from the cost efficiency to the public support of these projects. Having open lines of dialogue would also create a firm basis for a good safety culture for SMRs.

The first report based on this research should be published during this fall and currently the plan is to expand that into an article later in the year. These are of course only findings from Finland at this point and further work is required to see what can be expanded to other countries and what needs to be researched further.

Konsta Värri


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