People world over have a traditional image towards ‘nuclear power’ even today. They are imagined as extremely large-sized power plants with their cooling towers. But with the micro-nuclear reactors, the face and approach towards nuclear power have taken a new form. There is a prevailing threat of global warming to the world. But the nuclear power can serve as a lifeline in the current scenario. These are compact and excellent replacements for fossil fuels. Nuclear reactors can slash gases produced from greenhouse emissions. For the production of electricity from nuclear power, the simpler and small units are playing crucial roles. The growth in the micro-nuclear reactors market is driven by a desire for reduced capital costs and the generation of power beyond large grid systems. Numerous and diverse technologies are involved in the reactors market.
A combination of new technologies, a market-friendly approach, advanced engineering, and nuclear reactor manufacturing has resulted in the development of a new system. The shrunken nuclear reactors are somewhere decisive in the growth in the micro-nuclear reactors market. They can produce less power compared to the traditional grid system, but they are small in size and economical. These reactors require compact containment structures and can operate with safety features and less shielding. To prevent overheating, even some models can remain immersed into the water. Such factors will open new avenues for the micro nuclear reactors market.
Demand for electricity has been increasing exponentially across the globe since the last few decades.. According to the International Energy Outlook 2016, the net electricity generation stood at 21.6 trillion kWh across the globe in 2012 and is projected to reach 25.8 trillion kWh in 2020. It is further projected to reach 36.5 trillion kWh in 2040 due to the changes in power systems (from small and isolated to integrated national and international systems). Coal continues to be a widely used fuel for power generation; however, the nuclear power generation and renewable sources are cleaner forms of electricity generation and hence have anticipated the growth of global electricity generation.
Increase in environmental concerns about the emission of greenhouse gases is driving the demand for renewable energy sources such as hydropower, wind, solar power, tides, and geothermal heat for electricity generation. Nuclear power generation is considered the cleaner source of electricity after renewable sources. According to the International Energy Outlook 2016, the world electricity generation from nuclear power stood at 2.3 trillion kWh in 2012 and is estimated to reach 4.5 trillion kWh in 2040. Nuclear reactors provide a reliable, cost-effective, and low emission source of electricity generation. Large nuclear reactors are capable of catering to the demand for electricity; however, their production entails high capital and infrastructure costs. Micro-nuclear reactors are small and simpler units of nuclear reactors for electricity generation. These nuclear reactors are economical alternatives to the large nuclear reactors. Furthermore, they are increasingly used at remote locations. Economies of scale are significantly achieved by the manufacturers for continuous production and short construction period for micro-nuclear reactors. These factors are primarily driving the market for micro-nuclear reactors across the world. Rise in private investments and increase in government funded research and development projects are also anticipated to boost the global micro-nuclear reactors market.
Design, construction, and operation regulations are same as that for the large nuclear reactors which involves additional costs for compliance and restrain the growth of the market, especially in North America and Europe. Several companies are investing significantly in research and development of micro-nuclear reactors that comply with the regional and international licensing regulations. Nuclear power generation plants are sometimes built in the close vicinity of public settlements. This makes the public apprehensive about the ill-effects of nuclear waste, thereby hampering the market growth.
In terms of geography, the micro-nuclear reactors market can be segmented into North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Middle East & Africa. Rise in industrialization and rapid growth in economies in Asia Pacific are projected to drive the demand for micro-nuclear reactors. Increase in need to lower greenhouse gas emissions, shortage of coal supply, and less electricity distribution in remote regions are estimated to augment the market in Asia Pacific. North America and Europe account for large share of the global micro-nuclear reactors market, led by the presence of key chemical companies in these regions and increase in private investments and government funded nuclear projects.
Prominent companies operating in the micro-nuclear reactors market are Westinghouse Electric Company LLC, Toshiba Corporation, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, Ltd., and NuScale Power, LLC.
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