Developing nations are in a constant struggle to generate and provide their citizens with reliable and safe electricity. Lack of infrastructure, funding and technology all have a heavy influence over the availability of consistent power, and in many cases the power that is available is in the form of highly polluting or environmentally damaging power generation. Coal- or wood-burning facilities are able to produce electricity, but at the cost of heavy and dangerous impacts to air quality.
Bad air now rivals malaria and unsafe water as a cause of premature death in developing countries around the world. According to a recent report, diseases caused by or made worse by air pollution kill nearly 600,000 children under the age of five every year.
When asked what can be done, the option of nuclear energy seems to take the spotlight.
More Electricity Is the Solution
Electricity is needed so that dung is not used for cooking and kerosene is not used to power indoor lighting. It provides refrigeration which will improve access to healthy food, and replace heavily polluting scooters and motorcycles which are key to transportation in third-world countries. Getting that electricity is not as farfetched as you might think, when you consider nuclear energy to be a serious option. Big countries like India and China have been counting on nuclear to address their power and pollution problems with many large-scale reactors in use and planned for future construction. But those large facilities are expensive and not always reasonable for smaller countries.
The Problem with Old Nuclear Technology
Older nuclear power plants built before they were expected to actively load follow, or produce electricity in response to demand, as can be expected, are unlikely to be as flexible as such countries would need. They are not flexible enough to reduce cost or output in response to growing communities. There is a growing need for more responsive electricity generation.
Further issues such as siting requirements, power output and cost sometimes result in a full-scale nuclear power plant being considered a bad fit for a growing market or community. In truth, these are issues of design, and as demand grows for new, more flexible designs and technologies, such nuclear reactors are being created to account for that demand.
Flexible, Modular Reactors
A new, more flexible alternative is small, modular reactors. These reactors offer the advantage of scalability, lower cost and overall flexibility. They provide a simple and efficient design, modular components and the ability to add further modules incrementally as energy demand increases. Flexibility is offered both in the short- and long-term with these low-cost reactors.
Where large plants are not needed or there is a lack the infrastructure to support a large unit, these small nuclear reactors are a perfect fit for smaller electrical markets, isolated areas and sites with limited water or acreage. They are also more conveniently paired with other energy sources, including renewables and traditional fossil fuel energy sources, to produce higher efficiency and increase grid stability and security. In short, they are a very viable option for developing countries and provide an exciting option for countries looking to reduce pollution while increasing their power production.
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