US-based Holtec International has announced a technical breakthrough that it says would preserving most of the physical assets of coal plants by replacing their boilers with Holtec’s SMR-160 nuclear steam supply system. In a recent meeting with Indian Ambassador to the USA Amarjit S. Sandhu, Holtec CEO Dr Kris Singh said replacing coal with nuclear power produced by Holtec’s SMR-160 was a “game changer for India and the global environment” by enabling coal-fired plants to switch from fossil fuel to uranium while preserving existing coal plants’ assets.
Holtec’s SMR-160 advanced small modular reactor (SMR) is a pressurised light-water reactor, generating 160MWe (525MWt) using low-enriched uranium fuel, with flexibility to produce process heat for industrial applications and hydrogen production.
The latest breakthrough involves the use of multi-stage compressors capable of uprating the SMR-160’s relatively low enthalpy steam (700 psi at 595 degrees F) to the elevated pressure and superheat needed to run the turbogenerator of a fossil power plant. “The needed enthalpy boost can be modified to support continued operation of any plant’s turbogenerator, and in most cases would not require any external energy input,” Holtec says. A provisional patent application has been filed paving the way to repurpose any coal-fired plant by replacing its coal-fired boiler with clean steam from the SMR-160 plant.
The ability for SMR-160 to deliver steam at any desired pressure would also enable the use of high-pressure steam as feed stock for industrial applications or to provide low pressure steam for district heating to cities and municipalities, Holtec claims.
Holtec says it is also developing a highly efficient solar collector technology that can be co-located with the SMR-160 reactors to draw additional power from the sun using land no longer needed for coal and ash handling facilities at coal-fired plants.
Holtec expects the balance between the demand and supply of energy to be achieved using its high heat capacity Green Boiler - a heavily insulated thermal energy storage device with integral steam generators capable of producing superheated high-pressure steam for a diverse range of applications including hydrogen production. Holtec has been developing the Green Boiler since 2021.
Image: 20 unit green boiler array with over 2 GWh(t) capacity (courtesy of Holtec International)