Research Presentation: Dr. Ruaridh Macdonald
The Value of Nuclear Microreactors in Providing Heat and Electricity to Alaskan Communities
Dr. Ruaridh Macdonald is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT. His research focuses on understanding how nuclear power systems must change in order to succeed in modern energy systems and markets, and developing new designs in response. Ruaridh completed his undergraduate degree and Ph.D in Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT.
The long term success of fission microreactors will likely rely on mass-production and low-cost operation, for example through remote operation. Pilot sites are required in order to justify the upfront expense of large production facilities and to test key assumptions about operations, reliability, and security.
Alaskan communities are being considered for the first microreactors. They have high energy costs, generally 2 - 10x that in the Lower-48 states, and face unique reliability and supply-chain challenges. Fission microreactors are well suited to resolving these technical challenges, but it is an open question whether they will be economically viable.
In this talk, we present the results of our recent study where we assessed the maximum capital and operating costs an economically viable microreactor can have in Alaska. We used the GenX energy dispatch and capacity expansion modelling tool to evaluate the cost of providing electricity and heat to serve two types of Alaskan communities, and calculated the cost efficiency of including a fission microreactor. We find that three factors dominate the calculation: (i) access to natural gas, (ii) the size of the heat load and the accessibility of a district heating network, and (iii) the importance of emission reductions