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VTT to develop small nuclear reactor for district heating

Published : 25 Feb 2020, 02:47

Updated : 25 Feb 2020, 10:21

  DF Report

File Photo VTT.

The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has launched a project to develop a small modular reactor (SMR) intended for district heat production.

The first phase of the project will involve the conceptual design of a nuclear power plant suited for the heating networks of Finnish cities, said a VTT press release.

The objective of the project is to create a new Finnish industrial sector around the technology that would be capable of manufacturing most of the components needed for the plant. Designing the district heating reactor will require expertise from a wide range of Finnish organisations.

VTT said nuclear energy is the single largest source of electricity in Finland, currently covering about one-third of the domestic production. The greenhouse gas emission levels from nuclear power production can be compared to that of energy sources such as wind power.

Even though the carbon footprint of power production is small in Finland, achieving carbon neutrality also requires major emission reductions in other fields of energy industry. SMRs are suited for expanding the application of low-emission nuclear energy to heat production.

In 2019, the emissions from district heat production alone were more than four million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Decarbonising the heat production system is one of the most significant climate challenges faced by many cities. Finland has decided to phase out of coal in energy production by 2029, the release added.

“The schedule is challenging, and the low-cost alternatives are few. To reach the target, new innovations and introduction of new technologies are required. Nuclear district heating could provide major emission reductions,” said VTT Research Team Leader Ville Tulkki.

Many of the plans for replacing fossil fuels used for district heat production are largely based on bio-energy. However, in the future, biomass may become a valuable raw material replacing oil in, for example, industry and production of transport fuels. Nuclear energy offers an alternative that liberates biomass from heat production for other uses.