Further interest in Steady Energy SMR for district heating

04 December 2023

Steady Energy - Finnish developer of the LDR-50 small modular reactor (SMR) - has signed a letter of intent with municipal energy company Kuopion Energia that includes an option for the construction of up to five district heating reactors starting in 2030.

A schematic of the LDR-50 reactor design (Image: VTT)

The agreement follows a letter of intent signed in October between Steady Energy and Helsinki's energy company Helen for the construction of up to 10 SMRs for district heating. According to that agreement, Helen and Steady Energy would launch a planning process with the objective of concluding a pre-investment agreement concerning nuclear heat production within six months.

"We now have an option to build a total of 15 reactors, which would correspond to approximately EUR1 billion (USD1.1 billion) in turnover," said Steady Energy CEO Tommi Nyman. "The signed letters of intent reflect the strong desire within the energy industry to develop new affordable and low-emission energy technologies for producing district heat."

In Finland, more than half of the energy used for heating comes from district heating, which is mostly produced with fossil fuels, peat and biomass, Steady Energy noted. Utilities are seeking ways to swiftly transit away from combustion-based heat production to new and innovative low emission alternatives such as SMRs.

"The advantages of SMRs include consistent and reliable production, emission-free operation, reasonable cost and minimal use of natural resources," Nyman said. "Additionally, SMRs, as the name suggests, are much smaller in size than traditional nuclear power plants. For example, the newly completed Olkiluoto 3 reactor has a thermal power capacity almost 100 times greater than the 50 MWt unit developed by Steady Energy. SMRs are therefore faster to construct and the facilities can be safely placed underground within the bedrock."

Steady Energy - which was spun out earlier this year from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland - aims to build the world's first district heating plant featuring its LDR-50 SMR by 2030.

The LDR-50 district heating SMR - with a thermal output of 50 MW - has been in development at VTT since 2020. Designed to operate at around 150°C and below 10 bar (145 psi), Steady Energy says its "operating conditions are less demanding compared with those of traditional reactors, simplifying the technical solutions needed to meet the high safety standards of the nuclear industry".

The LDR-50 reactor module is made of two nested pressure vessels, with their intermediate space partially filled with water. When heat removal through the primary heat exchangers is compromised, water in the intermediate space begins to boil, forming an efficient passive heat transfer route into the reactor pool, the company said. The system does not rely on electricity or any mechanical moving parts, which could fail and prevent the cooling function.

"Our goal is to build the first plants in Finland to demonstrate the feasibility of the technology," Nyman said. "Then we will target the global marketplace. Combating climate change requires a rapid reduction of emissions, and we have one effective solution to offer."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News