Advanced Reactor Designs Selected for Demonstration Plants
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Advanced Reactor Designs Selected for Demonstration Plants

Advanced Reactor Designs Selected for Demonstration Plants

On October 13, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the awarding of $80 million each in initial funding to TerraPower LLC (Bellevue, WA) and X-energy (Rockville, MD) for building two advanced nuclear reactors that can be operational within seven years. Funding is provided under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. The awards are cost-shared partnerships with industry that will deliver two first-of-a-kind advanced reactors to be licensed for commercial operations. The Department will invest a total of $3.2 billion over seven years, subject to the availability of future appropriations, with our industry partners providing matching funds.

Announcing the awards yesterday, US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said: "These awards are a critical first step of a programme that will strengthen our nation's nuclear energy and technological competitiveness abroad, and position our domestic industry for growth, for increased job creation, and for even more investment opportunity. It's absolutely vital that we make progress on this technology now so as to ensure we don't lose market opportunities before access to infrastructure and supply chains in the United States is lost."


A team led by TerraPower, which includes Bechtel, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, PacifiCorp, Energy Northwest, and Duke Energy, will build a plant  based on the Natrium™ system, featuring an advanced, cost-competitive sodium fast reactor paired with an innovative molten salt energy storage system based on those used in solar thermal generation. The design is affordable and capable of adapting to changes in daily electricity demands driven by solar and wind energy fluctuations. It also separates nuclear and non-nuclear facilities and systems within the plant footprint, simplifying the licensing process, and lowering construction costs.

Image Attribute: Artist’s rendering of the Natrium™ reactor and energy system, a sodium fast reactor paired with a molten salt system for heat storage and re-use. Source: TerraPower

Image Attribute: Artist’s rendering of the Natrium™ reactor and energy system, a sodium fast reactor paired with a molten salt system for heat storage and re-use. Source: TerraPower

"This award is a transformational event in nuclear energy," said Chris Levesque, TerraPower president, and CEO. "Together with the U.S. Department of Energy and our partners, TerraPower will demonstrate a truly advanced nuclear technology at commercial scale. In addition to its superior economics, the Natrium technology solves an entirely new problem that utilities face today, the need for clean, firm generation and power storage to operate in tandem with wind and solar." 

“Natrium fulfills the industry vision of what a true advanced reactor should be—safer, simpler, easier and less costly to construct, less expensive to operate, and able to provide energy that is competitive with fossil fuels and complementary to solar and wind power,” said Barbara Rusinko, president of Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security & Environmental global business unit. “The Natrium system evens out the peaks and valleys in production when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing, and it does so affordably with proven technology. We’re honored to join the team.”

She further added, "This award is a pivotal moment for the future of resilient, reliable, low-carbon energy in the United States. It will shape the industry for decades to come and create the opportunity for a leap forward in innovative plant design, engineering, and construction – all aimed at making advanced nuclear competitive in cost and complementary to wind and solar. This is exactly the innovation we hope to bring to the Natrium team."


On the other hand, X-energy will deliver a commercial four-unit power plant based on its 80-MW pebble bed Xe-100 High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactor, which DOE said is "ideally suited" to provide flexible electricity output as well as process heat for a wide range of industrial heat applications, such as desalination and hydrogen production. The project will also deliver a commercial scale TRISO (tristructural isotropic) particle fuel fabrication facility.

Xe-100™ High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactor

Pebble Bed – A Different Kind of Nuclear Reactor

* Ultra-Safe – Passive cooling design prevents core melt while independent radionuclide barriers virtually eliminate the risk of radionuclide release

* Compact Footprint – Small enough to fit inside the fence at vital national security locations, existing “brown-field” power plants, and other locations

* Small EPZ – Ultra-safe design minimizes the emergency planning zone to within the plant boundary, allowing siting close to population centers

* Secure Site – Reactor units and control facilities are underground in a concrete silo built to withstand seismic events or manmade attacks

* Incremental Growth – Truly modular construction allows incremental growth in installments of 47MWe, lowering upfront capital cost

* Reliable – Xe-100 eliminates refueling shutdowns with automated fueling during active operation, allowing for an availability rate greater than 95%

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