Energy Well is a patented small modular reactor developed by the Research Center Řež. The project uses the latest knowledge in the field of salt smelting technologies that come from the Czech Republic thanks to grants from the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
Today, the nuclear industry has reached a situation where large light water reactors are reaching their maximum technological potential. This potential is defined by what light-water technology systems can do within the existing portfolio of fuels, materials, control systems and technologies, and with regard to safety requirements and the professional community. These reflect the complex and ambiguous public perception of the benefits and risks of nuclear power, with risk and benefit perceptions being inhomogeneous across regions and countries. The development of nuclear power, which is operationally characterised as low-emission with very low operational mortality.
The transition to sustainable and low-emission energy sources is leading to a gradual phase-out of high-emission sources of both electricity and thermal energy. Combined with the increase in demand for electricity due to the advent of electric cars, it is essential to ensure stable sources. These conditions are also leading to major investments in innovation in the nuclear industry. The result is small modular reactors (SMRs) that combine technological development with economic viability. In the Czech Republic, these efforts are then combined in the Energy Well project.
The Energy Well reactor belongs to the so-called fourth generation of nuclear reactors. It is characterised by a high level of passive safety, using the physical properties of advanced coolants and innovative nuclear fuel types. This means that, where conventional reactors rely on extensive safety systems, the Energy Well reactor relies on features that come from the very nature of the design and physical properties of the coolant. Another key difference is the size of the plant, which is a direct result of both the technology chosen and the installed capacity. The capacity of the reactor is 20 MW thermal (i.e. roughly 150 times less than today's conventional reactors). However, it is the chosen technology of the system that is crucial in the question of size. The absence of the need for a large number of active safety systems makes the Energy Well very compact. The use of supercritical CO2 in the tertiary circuit makes the turbine and generator itself transportable in a simple shipping container.
The operating site consists of a containment structure prepared for a specified number of units. After 7 years of operation, the primary container is left to cool for 3 years. Meanwhile, the primary container is replaced with a new one that contains fresh fuel. After 3 years of cooling, the original container is returned to the factory for refueling and maintenance.
The biggest advantage of the Energy Well reactor is the contribution of clean nuclear energy to an energy sector that has long been dominated by sources with high greenhouse gas production. Specifically, it is not only the possibility of supplying electricity to smaller regions, but especially heat. The heat sector is facing major changes due to the demands of low carbon strategies and the Energy Well reactor aims to be one of the possible solutions. The design of the Energy Well reactor is designed to adapt the type of energy output to the actual needs of the customer. It is therefore possible to use the Energy Well as a source of domestic heat in winter and as a source of electricity for the rest of the year. At the same time, the Energy Well can be used for hydrogen production as an energy storage option.