Jordan and X-energy Agree to Accelerate Work to Deploy a 300 MWe Nuclear Power Plant
According to a statement released by X-Energy on November 15, 2019, Jordan and X-Energy have moved to the second stage of their relationships by signing off on a letter of intent (LOI) to build four 75 MWe high temperature gas cooled reactors that burn Triso fuel.
The objective of the LOI is to accelerate the process to build a nuclear power plant project in Jordan by 2030. The LOI contemplates the power plant will be four of X-energy’s 75 MWe Xe-100 reactor plant which are helium cooled reactors and supplied by X-energy’s patented TRISO fuel.
Dr. Khaled Toukan, Chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), and Dr. Kam Ghaffarian, Executive Chairman of X-energy, LLC, signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) on Monday, November 11, 2019
The agreement was witnessed by Dr. Kamal Araj, Vice Chairman, JAEC and Mr. Clay Sell, CEO, X-energy, in a ceremony hosted by Ambassador Dina Kawar at the Jordanian Embassy in Washington, DC. Attendees included representatives from both organizations as well as representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Commerce and other industry representatives.
JAEC is seeking to encourage the development of a civilian nuclear power program in Jordan to meet its energy security objectives. As part of that effort, the JAEC is in the process of evaluating the most attractive nuclear design technology vendor to select the best that would meet the country’s requirements.
X-energy has been engaged in discussions with JAEC since 2017 and had previously signed a Memorandum of Understanding, November 5, 2017, that provides for a technology feasibility and deployment readiness evaluation of the Xe-100 in Jordan.
Prior coverage on this blog – Jordan Downsizes its Nuclear Energy Ambitions to SMRs
In July 2018 Jordan decided as a matter of policy to replace a prior deal with Rosatom for two 1000 MW VVER commercial nuclear reactors with a plan for small modular reactors including consideration of designs from the U.S. U.K., and South Korea. Jordan cited the financial burden of funding $10 billion for the two 1000 MW Rosatom VVERs as he reason for the decision.
Rosatom offered Jordan 50% financing with Jordan having the requirement to raise the other 50% with a combination of government funding and outside investors. The financial plan never came together for Jordan and the deal became a non-starter as a result.
Other SMR Deals?
Jordan has been in talks since 2017 with at least three different vendors of LWR and advanced small modular reactors. The talks include UK Rolls Royce for a to be named LWR type SMR, US based X-Energy which has a new generation of South Africa’s PBMR “pebble bed” high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR), and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) which also has an HTGR design.
According to the World Nuclear Association, in March 2017 an agreement between JAEC and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) was signed for a feasibility study on construction of two SMRs in Jordan for the production of electricity and desalinated water. KA-CARE has an agreement with Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) to build its 330 MWt (100 MWe) SMART pressurized water reactor.
In November 2017 JAEC signed a memorandum of understanding with Rolls-Royce to conduct a feasibility study for the construction of an SMR, and another with X-energy to consider building that company’s 75 MWe Xe-100 high temperature gas-cooled reactor.
In April 2018 JAEC said it was in advanced negotiations with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to build a 220 MWe HTR-PM high temperature gas-cooled reactor for operation in 2025.
In November 2017, Rolls-Royce signed a memorandum of understanding with JAEC to carry out a technical feasibility study for the construction of a Rolls-Royce SMR in Jordan. A similar agreement was also signed in November 2017 with X-Energy for electricity, water desalination and other thermal applications.
The Jordan Times reported separately that work on selecting a site for an SMR was proceeding in the Qusayer region near Azraq about 60km east of Amman. The paper reports that studies were conducted on the site by Belgium’s Tractebel, Korea Electric Power Corporation and Worley Parsons, with findings showing the suitability of the location for the facilities.
Jordan has had a safeguards agreement in force with the IAEA since 1978, and an Additional Protocol in force since 1998.
About X-Energy’s Reactor Technology
Each Xe-100 reactor will generate 200MWt and approximately 75MWe. The standard X-energy Reactor “four-pack” plant generates approximately 300MWe and will fit on as few as 13 acres. All of the components for the Xe-100 are intended to be road-transportable, and will be installed, rather than constructed, at the project site to streamline construction.
The Generation IV X-energy reactor is helium cooled with a heat source based on pebble bed technology which has a proven meltdown proof core. Heat transfer is via a proven helical coil steam generator. Small size and modular construction result in relatively low cost. On-line fueling allows for continuous operations.
X-energy has not posted information on its website about the estimated cost of the units. However, using a hypothetical cost of $5,000/kw, the 300 MW of power would cost $1.5 billion which interestingly is same rough order of magnitude as the cost of the 300 MW PWR design that GE Hitachi recently announced in a deal with Estonia.
Note also that for a desert region like Jordan, a helium cooled reactor would not need the supplies of water required by a PWR, but would need the water for the steam cycle. This could be a source of competitive advantage for X-energy in he Middle East.
What is TRISO Fuel?
The X-Energy design is intended to run on TRISO fuel. TRistructural ISOtropic (TRISO) coated fuels start with a uranium kernel, which is coated with three layers of pyrolytic carbon and one layer of silicon carbide. These coatings encapsulate all product radionuclei under all operating conditions. TRISO particles can be formed into numerous fuel element geometries thus supporting multiple advanced reactor designs and concepts.
TRISO Development Center
X-energy is currently manufacturing uranium oxide/carbide (UCO) based kernels, tristructural isotropic (TRISO) particles, and fuel pebbles at a 5,000-sq. ft. pilot fuel facility located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as part of the DOE Advanced Reactor Concept 2015 Cooperative Agreement.
This DOE Project allows X-energy to move from Pilot toward a FOAK fuel facility that serves advanced reactors with HALEU requirements, TRISO-based fuel forms, and Accident Tolerant Fuel.
See prior coverage on this blog – DOE Takes Divergent Paths to Fabrication of High Assay Fuels
X-energy is working to design, finance, and license their TRISO-X Commercial Fuel Fabrication Facility, scheduled to begin commercial-scale fuel production in the 2023-2024 timeframe.
Global Nuclear Fuel and X-energy Announce TRISO Fuel Collaboration
Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) and X-energy announced November 6th a collaboration to produce low-cost, high-quality TRi-structural ISOtropic (TRISO) particle nuclear fuel.
The companies have signed a teaming agreement for the purpose of developing High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) TRISO fuel to potentially supply the U.S. Department of Defense for micro-reactors and NASA for its nuclear thermal propulsion requirements.
See prior coverage on this blog – TRISO Fuel Drives Global Development of Advanced Reactors
“TRISO is a robust fuel form well suited for military and space applications,” said Clay Sell, X-energy’s CEO.
“The extremely high and unnecessary cost of working with HALEU in a Category I NRC facility has, in the past, limited TRISO’s economic viability in the marketplace. Utilizing X-energy’s already operational state-of-the-art equipment in GNF’s licensed facility changes the dynamic for TRISO-fueled reactor deployment.”
By leveraging X-energy’s currently operating commercial-scale TRISO production equipment and GNF’s NRC-licensed fuel fabrication facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, the teaming arrangement is expected to produce TRISO fuel of significantly higher quality and at costs that are substantially lower than other potential manufacturers.
TRISO coated fuels start with a uranium kernel, which is coated with three layers of pyrolytic carbon and one layer of silicon carbide. These coatings encapsulate all product radionuclei under all operating conditions. The enrichment level of TRIO fuel varies according to the reactor design with levels ranging from 9% U235 to not more than 19% U235.
X-energy is an advanced nuclear reactor design and TRISO-based fuel fabrication company headquartered in Rockville, Maryland. X-energy’s reactor designs
- utilize high temperature gas-cooled pebble bed reactors which cannot melt down,
- are “walk-away” safe without operator intervention and;
- reduce costs by utilizing factory-produced components that significantly reduce construction time.
X-energy is also manufacturing uranium oxide/carbide (UCO) based kernels, TRISO particles, and fuel pebbles at a 5,000-sq. ft. fuel facility located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as a prototype for its commercial fuel manufacturing facility.
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