they are Smaller
In the past, nuclear power in Puerto Rico had been deemed nonviable mainly due to its traditional large designs. In 1980, the National Academy of Sciences studied the alternative of nuclear power for Puerto Rico, among other energy sources. Within their conclusions, they stated that "...Unless economical small nuclear plants become available, it will be at least two decades before the Puerto Rico system becomes large enough to accommodate a nuclear unit". Fast forwarding to 2020, today's advanced nuclear reactors are much smaller in design and with much advanced technology. These developments urged us to rethink the feasibility of nuclear power for Puerto Rico once again. Smaller sized reactors allow for many benefits for Puerto Rico. These benefits include a smaller footprint, better energy distributions, less centralized electricity, less grid reserves, and smaller emergency planning zone.
They are Safer
SMRs and Microreactors contain safety features and systems that combine the lessons learned from more than 40 years of operation experience. For instance, conventional nuclear plants rely on external diesel generators to provide power for the emergency backup system. SMRs and Microreactors do not require an external power source, and the reactor core is cooled via "passive" cooling; which means there’s no need for pumps or moving parts. Also, some SMRs and Microreactors will operate at lower temperatures when compared to conventional reactors, and possess fuel designs that are melt proof.
These and many other safety enhancements also allow for SMRs and Microreactors to reduce their required Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) which is of critical importance for a highly populated territory like Puerto Rico. In contrast, whereas conventional nuclear plants require an EPZ of a 10 mile radius from the reactor, SMRs and Microreactors require an EPZ of less than a mile.
They Integrate with Renewables
Puerto Rico's energy future will include the decentralization of the current grid and the penetration of significant amounts of renewable energy sources. A large amount of renewables will impose challenges to the grid and ALL connected generation sources. These include, frequency and voltage controls, load following and fast ramping capabilities, among others. SMRs and Microreactors have built-in capabilities to precisely integrate with smaller grids and provide the flexibility needed under high levels of renewable generation.
They can Transform Puerto Rico's Economy
SMRs and Microreactors provide a combination of reduced electricity costs, zero-emission baseload of electricity and minimal dependency on fuel imports. This can lead to a strong degree of energy security and reliability; much needed for a robust commercial and manufacturing /industrial sector in Puerto Rico.
A strong local industry could potentially translate into cheaper energy costs, new education programs, job creation, additional exports, and global competition and innovation expansion among others.