by Will Davis
Friends and colleagues – Usually I write about “the old days” of nuclear in this space but something came up in current events that really sticks in my craw, and I have to shine the spotlight on it here. So please indulge me and read along. (We’ll get back to “the old days” soon enough, don’t you worry!)
Several articles earlier this month – this one being typical – referenced a definite move ahead in the effort to get a commercial SMR plant constructed. South Korea’s KAERI (Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute) has moved beyond a simple MOU with Saudi Arabia on a SMART SMR nuclear plant and is replacing that with an actual (pre-build) engineering contract. The other side of this contract is Saudi Arabia’s nuclear entity, KaCare (King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy.) This contract will set up a jointly operated agency, to be named SMART EPC, which will perform the actual plant design. According to Nuclear Engineering International’s reporting, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power has been brought into the fold in order to lend its engineering and construction expertise, thus ensuring the project gets built as planned.
As soon as I read about this development, I immediately thought “what a shame it is that this has had to move overseas.” You see, originally KAERI thought that Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power would go in for the SMART reactor and order at least one prototype power plant. Artwork was made showing what KAERI thought the plant might look like, which you can see below. (Courtesy KAERI.)
What actually happened though was quite different; you see, KHNP wasn’t interested in anything with this small of a power output (100 MWe). Korea was in the midst of what was (then) assumed to be a prolonged, massive buildout of gigawatt-scale