Nuclear power: Ukraine interested in Rolls-Royce mini-nuclear plants

Nuclear power plant operator Energoatom has agreed with Rolls-Royce that they want to use mini nuclear power plants when they are fully developed.

Rolls-Royce manager Sophie McFarlane-Smith and Energoatom boss Petro Kotin sign a memorandum of understanding.  (Image: Energoatom)

Energoatom, the operator of the Ukrainian nuclear power plants, can imagine also operating Small Modular Reactor (SMR). To this end, he has signed a letter of intent with the British company Rolls-Royce, which is working on the technology for the power plants, also known as mini-nuclear power plants.

According to an Energoatom statement, the agreement could enable Ukraine to rebuild the energy infrastructure destroyed by the war. In addition, SMR could help Ukraine become one of the first countries to use the technology.

Modular design

According to the definition by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), SMRs are small and medium-sized reactors. Small reactors have an electrical output of up to 300 MW and medium-sized ones are between 300 and 700 MW. The power plants should be modular in that all the essential components of a primary circuit are contained in a module that can be manufactured in a factory and later transported to a power plant construction site, as the German Society for Plant and Reactor Safety explains.

To date, no such reactor has been used commercially. Rolls-Royce’s plans for a mini nuclear power plant were first announced in November 2021. The British Space Agency supports the manufacturer’s plan to develop the technology for the moon as well.

The precarious situation in Ukraine

In Ukraine, the energy supply situation is precarious, especially after increased attacks by Russia on the infrastructure. On March 9, the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant was cut off from the regular power supply for eleven hours after a large-scale Russian missile attack. Emergency diesel engines took over. The nuclear power plant is currently supplied with electricity via a remaining external 330 kV line. The last remaining emergency power line in the nuclear power plant, which has been damaged since March 1, remains switched off and is currently being repaired.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi renewed his warnings of a more dangerous situation in the nuclear power plant. He also pointed out the pressure to which the nuclear power plant workforce was exposed. The reduced staffing levels combined with the psychological stress from the ongoing military conflict are impacting nuclear safety and the protection of the power plant.

With six blocks and an output of 6000 megawatts, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant has been under Russian control for a good year after the Russian invasion. All reactors have now been shut down and are only being cooled and monitored.


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