Nuclear Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) 2023-2043

Small modular reactors (SMRs) promise to offer cheaper nuclear energy, supplying zero-carbon grid baseload and enabling new use-cases for nuclear reactors. IDTechEx’s new report explores this emerging alternative to conventional nuclear reactors, analyzing the current and future SMR market, competing technological approaches, and key players. It includes detailed information on SMR reactors that have already entered or are close to entering service, and provides regional market forecasts from 2023-2043. The report also includes data-driven benchmarking of 10 reactor technologies. With the potential for rapid growth fueled by lower capital requirements and zero-carbon provision of baseload and demand-following power that is cost-competitive with renewables + storage, SMRs are predicted to supply 2% of the world’s electricity in 2043.
SMRs aim to significantly reduce the capital expenses (CAPEX) associated with nuclear energy. Despite increasing operational expenses (OPEX), the overall levelized cost of energy is expected to be vastly lower.
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SMRs are small nuclear fission reactors which are partially factory-built and transported to site as modules. They aim to make nuclear projects cheaper, enhance their safety and open pathways to new business models. Economies of scale are transferred from the size of the individual installation (i.e. a conventional large nuclear project), to manufacturing higher volumes of individual SMRs. This transition should help in avoiding the budget and time overrun issues that plague the nuclear industry today. In 2023, renewed energy security concerns and the ongoing climate crisis are causing governments and businesses to re-evaluate these sources of carbon-free energy. Intermittent renewables promise to supply a substantial proportion of global energy, yet when paired with energy storage for baseload and demand-following applications, the costs skyrocket. SMRs promise to fill this important niche in future energy networks.
This report analyzes the SMR market in depth, covering market trends, technologies, and key players. It explores the various SMR technologies, with distinction made between “evolutionary” Generation III+ reactor technologies including pressurized water reactors (PWRs) and boiling water reactors (BWRs), and “revolutionary” Generation IV reactors including molten salt reactors (MSR), and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGR), among others. A key question answered is whether the potential operational and safety benefits of Generation IV designs outweigh the thousands of years of reactor time experience for Generation III reactors.
Drivers and constraints affecting the market, including licensing issues, supply chain immaturity and safety considerations, are carefully explored. The report also provides an overview of the competitive landscape, with profiles of leading companies in the SMR industry. In addition to forecasting the number, electrical and thermal capacity, and revenue of SMRs from 2023-2043, broken down by reactor type and region, IDTechEx carried out a comprehensive benchmarking study of the SMR industry. Data was gathered on all 83 SMR projects known to IDTechEx, with key performance indicators for factors including safety, efficiency and power density formulated and plotted. This allows comparison of the technical merits and overall level of advancement of different reactor designs via quantitative metrics gathered from industry, cutting through the fog when understanding these technologies.