In 2019 the government of Finland made a decision to phase out of coal in energy production in a period of just ten years. The Finnish energy sector is currently looking for alternative technologies to replace coal-fired power plants, used especially in large cities for producing electricity and low-temperature heat for the local district heating network. The production of low-carbon electricity is expected to grow within the near future, along with the commissioning of the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant and increasing share of wind power. The lost district heating capacity, however, is more difficult to replace. To anticipate the transition, municipal energy companies have turned their attention to clean alternatives, including nuclear energy.
In an effort to meet the government climate goals, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has launched a project to design a small, simplified and passively safe PWR for district heating applications. The heating plant consists of one or multiple 50 MW reactor modules, operating on natural circulation at around 120°C temperature. The design combines conventional LWR technology with an innovative containment function, capable of decay heat removal without any mechanical moving parts. The reactors can be constructed partially or fully underground, or retro-fitted into an existing boiler plant. This paper presents an overview of the pre-conceptual reactor design, together with some general background on district heating reactor technology. More detailed design and safety analyses are provided in two separate papers at this ICONE-28 conference.