Meeting with journalists at the Institute of Nuclear Research Řež (ÚJV) on the topic of small modular reactors, February 22, 2023, Řež. The picture shows the hall where the experimental reactor is located.
Řež (near Prague) – The Řež research center is preparing a project for a small modular reactor CR-100. The costs of obtaining the necessary documents for construction will reach around 2.5 billion crowns, which should be provided by the state, and the Ministry of Industry and Trade should comment on the possibilities and further progress in the near future. The preparation will take around ten years. The power of the reactor should be 100 thermal megawatts. The location could be selected by the end of this year. The reactor would serve primarily as a heat source. The director of the nuclear safety section at the Řež Research Center, David Harut, told journalists at today's meeting.
Small modular reactors or Small modular reactors (SMR) have a maximum output of up to 300 MWe. Compared to large nuclear units, in addition to their lower performance, they also have a significantly smaller built-up area and the risk of a severe accident with fuel damage is practically eliminated. Modules can be mass-produced in a factory, and their on-site installation is faster, easier and cheaper compared to other reactors.
The energy company ČEZ announced last week that the first domestic SMR will be built in Temelín in 2032 and the technology is negotiating with several potential foreign suppliers. Other locations are also being considered, most of them now have coal-fired power plants. A domestically developed SMR could be created in these places in the future. The ÚJV group is now working on three of its own SMR prototypes.
The CR-100 is a pressurized water reactor that represents the conversion of already known technology into a smaller and simplified format that meets Czech legal standards. A very high passive safety will enable the location of the reactor with a zero outer emergency planning zone. “We will be able to place this reactor closer to cities,” said Harut. It is also a suitable source for the production of so-called pink hydrogen, which is hydrogen produced by electrolysis using nuclear energy.
Since 2017, the first of the three types of prototypes created in the ÚJV Group has been the Energy Well project. It is a proposal for a small high-temperature reactor with an output of around 20 megawatts. It could supply energy at a regional level, for example to large enterprises, critical infrastructure and will also be able to provide heat supplies for households. The second reactor prototype, called HeFasto (Helium-Cooled Fast Reactor) with a thermal output of 200 megawatts, was presented by the group in 2021. It is a gas-cooled reactor with a thermal output of 200 megawatts. It is expected to be commercially deployed after 2040, when the demand for mass production of hydrogen is expected to grow, as well as the need to process accumulated fuel from light water reactors.
The Řež research center operates two experimental reactors. The first is LR-0, which serves three types of users: nuclear power plants, designers of new power plants, and institutions overseeing nuclear safety. According to the head of reactor operation Vlastimil Juříček, here they can examine the behavior of neutrons in the reactor, including measuring the neutron field, which can also be used in the case of SMR. “We can do a so-called integral experiment here, that is, we will build it the way it is really intended for the CR-100,” Juříček described. The second reactor in Řež is LVR-15, which is also used for research and also for the production of radiopharmaceuticals.
SMRs are not an alternative to large blocks, they are a supplement to the energy mix. “We will need the big ones in any case,” Silvana Jirotková from ČEZ's New Energy Division said today during a presentation at ÚJV Řež. Detmarovice and Dukovany. These are places where there are now coal or other power plants. According to the government's program statement, the production of electricity from coal should end in 2033. Coal-fired power plants can replace SMR.
The ÚJV group includes the parent company ÚJV Řež and three of its wholly owned subsidiary business corporations – Centrum výzkušť Řež, Výzkumný and testing institute Pilsen and Škoda Prague. The majority shareholder of ÚJV Řež is ČEZ. The state owns the majority of CEZ shares.