Modularity has always been one of my favorite ideas. Making a big thing from a lot of little things has been the key to success in many fields. For example, the software industry has perfected this concept to a high degree and would not exist in its absence.Third, get help. The South Africans are developing a pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR). Why reinvent the wheel? At a minimum if INL is not already having these discussions, explore the possibility of a joint effort. The PBMR folks have already committed to building a demonstration 200 Mw reactor. INL's reactor is expected to be about 300 Mw. Unless the engineering approaches are radically different, it looks like an interesting opportunity.
If specified properly, a small modular reactor can be the answer to flexible nuclear power. A small reactor has many advantages that are maintained even when it is used in a large cluster.
The super computer built from many PC processors is a standard IT approach these days.
If the interfaces, controls, and outputs are well designed, everything works smoothly, whether it is for a single module or a many module configuration.
With modularity, you can have small, a little bigger, pretty big, and huge, all in one design package. You can power New York City or Smallville all with the same hardware.
The MIT reactor design is my current favorite because of its modularity.
INL should strongly encourage and promote modular design and development of the total range of reactors to avoid the duplication of design, development, custom construction and qualification not to mention unnecessary expense.
For example, turbines, generators, and various types of recuperators and heat exchangers can be qualified and available for off the shelf use.
The INL can maintain a trusted reactor module catalog or library for use by any small reactor developer.
This can be extended to pebble fuel handling systems, tritium removal systems, pebble inspection systems, reactor control systems, including cluster control systems, process heat modules, and a variety of hydrogen production modules.
Modules should be sized to be truck deliverable and factory mass production line buildable.
Each trusted module can be specified by materials use, operating environments and interface/control definitions.
A reactor module manufacturing supply chain will quickly form with one or more trusted manufactures of each trusted module in competition to support the small reactor business.
A molten salt reactor can use many of these common modules if an indirect cooling loop using helium in the secondary loop is adopted in its design.
If the molten salt reactor used 60MM graphite pebbles for moderation many PBMR modules can be used in its design with a large saving in development and certification cost.
This is the time to lay out a good plan to maximize the advantages of small modular reactors.