Experts have recognised the feasibility of building small nuclear reactors and microreactors in Puerto Rico

The US non-profit organisation Nuclear Alternative Project (NAP) has conducted a study of the energy situation in the North American state of Puerto Rico and concluded that this state is promising for the construction of small modular nuclear reactors and microreactors there.

Puerto Rico (full name - Commonwealth of Puerto Rico) is located in the north-eastern part of the Caribbean Sea and has the status of "unincorporated territory of the USA" (it is under the administration of the USA, but is not a part of the USA and has its own local government). Currently, 98% of Puerto Rico's electricity is generated from imported fossil fuels. At the same time, power plants, most of which were built in the 1960s, have outage rates 12 times higher than the U.S. average.

Over the coming decade, Puerto Rico's administration plans to transition from a centralised system dependent on fossil fuels to a distributed system based on clean generation. In 2018, the local legislature passed a bill calling for a study of the possibility of building nuclear power plants on the island, which suffered massive blackouts after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

In the latest version of its report titled "Advanced Small Nuclear Power in Puerto Rico - An Economic Study," NAP announced that the study's key findings "cover various aspects, including national energy demand, micro and small modular reactor (SMR) energy demand, energy supply, physical infrastructure, climate change, and financial and economic sufficiency."

The study notes that Puerto Rico's real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is about $32,000 per year, ranking it 19th out of 65 countries compared, "ahead of 17 countries with active nuclear power development or political support, such as Slovakia, Turkey, Romania, Russia, Bulgaria, and Argentina."

In terms of Puerto Rico's per capita energy consumption, the average annual increase has decreased by 1.8 per cent over the past 10 years. However, the report notes that the current level is higher than countries with strong support for nuclear power, such as Ukraine, Turkey, Argentina, Romania, Brazil and Mexico. The island also has an aging energy infrastructure, with an average lifespan of about 43 years. Four power plants with a total capacity of 3,600 MW were due to be decommissioned in 2023, but this has not happened.

The report notes that while small nuclear reactors and microreactors do not always appear to be the most cost-effective solution in the short term,

"the cost-based approach encourages us to consider their broader benefits. By emphasising the flexibility, reliability and environmental benefits they offer, we realise that their value goes far beyond the initial construction costs. Utilising a value-based approach allows us to view these reactors not as a costly burden, but as valuable assets in the transition to a more sustainable and resilient energy future."

NAP was founded in 2016 by Puerto Rican engineers working in the US nuclear industry to inform and advocate for the use of SMRs and microreactors in Puerto Rico. A pre-feasibility study published by NAP in May 2020 concluded that advanced nuclear reactors could meet Puerto Rico's unique energy needs by complementing renewable electricity sources with zero emissions. The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

In November 2021, the U.S. DOE awarded NAP $1.6 million to study the feasibility of locating small reactors in Puerto Rico. NAP identified two potential sites on the island based on the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's criteria.