By Diarmaid Williams
International Digital Editor, Power Engineering International
Nuclear fuel firm Urenco may be about to get involved in the power generation business if its latest innovation is successful.
The global company is currently performing exploratory work on its U-battery micro reactor and chief executive Helmut Englebrecht believes if the technology succeeds that nuclear power can compete successfully with renewables.
“I think the nuclear industry needs – in parallel [with big reactors] – to develop something smaller that can compete with the windmills and solar panels, with those small generation devices that do not need to have a big infrastructure or grid,” said Helmut Engelbrecht, chief executive of Urenco.
The company teamed up with the University of Manchester and the Reactor Institute Delft in the Netherlands to prove that such a reactor can operate inherently safely and, like a battery, be turned off and on when needed.
Urenco has set itself the target for the 5-10MW reactor to be “at least at the same cost level of wind generation”, Mr Engelbrecht told the FT.
“The idea was that if society is willing to pay for wind at that level – and which you can’t turn off – then nuclear, which you could turn off and on, would be acceptable at the same level,” he added.
The project’s future is very much dependent on attracting investment to build a prototype, as well as securing governmental and regulatory approval.