Swedish companies seek funding for SMR development

18 February 2021

German utility Uniper Sweden, Swedish reactor company Blykalla and Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) said on 15 February that they have submitted an application to the Swedish Energy Agency for co-financing of a non-nuclear prototype to develop the reactor technology of the future. This is the second step of three in the development and commercialisation of a new type of reactor in Sweden during the 2030s.

Advanced, sustainable nuclear power with passive safety that can be mass-produced in the form of small modular reactors (SMR) offers all the benefits that today's nuclear power does but is considerably more versatile and flexible, Uniper said in a statement. “Sweden will continue to have a great need for stable energy production in the future, which together with renewable energy sources and a modernised electricity grid ensures that we not only have electricity delivered all hours of the year, but also that this electricity is fossil-free and competitive. In this way, we can also contribute with great climate benefits in the rest of Europe, as well as with new export technology to the whole world.”

Johan Svenningsson, CEO Uniper Sweden, noted: “We see a clear role for nuclear power in the energy system of the future, and we therefore invest in developing the nuclear power of the future in collaboration with the company Blykalla, which has patents on design and materials for a small modular reactor with lead cooling and passive safety.” The collaboration is designed as a joint venture and is open to a number of different players in industry and academia. An academic network based on KTH is connected to the project.

“The technology we have developed in Blykalla is now so mature that we, together with Uniper, can start building a non-nuclear prototype to enable a commercialisation of a new reactor at a later stage. It is a big and important step forward for Swedish reactor technology, said Professor Janne Wallenius, founder of Blykalla.

“By starting work in good time, we create freedom of action later - both for ourselves and for Sweden as a country. Given the short period of time that remains until we have achieved net zero emissions in Sweden, it is important that we do not close any doors,” said Svenningsson. “This includes politicians and authorities also supporting the development of new nuclear power. Such an initiative would also serve as a vitamin injection for academic research in the field of energy. Technical development of this kind is a matter of course in an advanced welfare state.” 

The application is further based on the project "Sunrise" which the Foundation for Strategic Research supported with SEK50 million ($6m) to develop design, material technology and safety analysis for an advanced lead-cooled research and demonstration reactor. Sunrise includes KTH, Luleå University and Uppsala University, among others.

Provided that the Swedish Energy Agency offers grants and that the financing is secured, the next step will be to build an electrically powered non-nuclear prototype for testing and verifying materials and technology in an environment of molten lead at high temperatures. The prototype, which will be operated for five years starting in 2024, is planned to be built on OKG's area at Simpevarp outside Oskarshamn.

“KTH looks forward to an expanded collaboration with Uniper and Blykalla. This is directly in line with the long-term strategy that we have identified within Sunrise and constitutes the second step of three for the development of new nuclear technology on Swedish soil.” said Professor Pär Olsson, Head of the Department of Physics at KTH and director of Sunrise.

Four ageing Swedish reactors have shut permanently in the past few years, increasing energy costs in the south during winter and triggering the restart of an old oil plant. This caused political debate about the need for more local generation as most new capacity is wind turbines sited in the north.

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