US HTGR Developer X-Energy to Go Public

  • X-Energy to Go Public
  • BWXT Starts Production of TRISO Fuel for Project Pele
  • Kairos Power, Los Alamos Collaborate to Make TRISO fuel
  • DOE Selects Two Partners To Engage Communities On Nuclear Energy

X-Energy to Go Public

The X-Energy Reactor Company, LLC, a developer of small modular nuclear reactors and TRISO fuel technology for clean energy generation, and Ares Acquisition Corporation (NYSE:AAC), a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company, announced that they have entered into a definitive business combination agreement.

The combination will establish X-Energy as a publicly-traded, developer of an advanced small modular reactor (SMR) and proprietary TRISO fuel that supports clean energy and broader industrial applications. X-Energy’s entry into the public markets is expected to accelerate its growth strategy through additional investment opportunities and financial flexibility as well as differentiated sponsorship by Ares Management Corporation.

Upon the closing of the transaction, the combined company will be named X-Energy, Inc., and its common equity securities and warrants will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
>> X-Energy Presentation (49 slides – PDF file)

Note: A special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) is a company without commercial operations and is formed strictly to raise capital through an initial public offering (IPO) for the purpose of acquiring or merging with an existing company.

About X-Energy

X-Energy is advancing nuclear energy generation through its latest-generation high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR), the Xe-100, and its proprietary tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) encapsulated particle fuel, TRISO-X.

The Xe-100 can also uniquely address a broader range of uses and applications compared with conventional nuclear reactors. This specifically includes applications that currently rely on fossil fuels to produce steam and heat for processes like manufacturing, petroleum refining and hydrogen production.

xe-100

The company’s reactor development efforts are supported by $1.2 billion of funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program  (ARDP – Infographic) and a growing pipeline of potential global customers. The federal funding is intended to provide significant financial support for the delivery of a first-of-a-kind commercial advanced nuclear plant and TRISO-X fuel fabrication facility.

The firm said in a press statement it estimates pre-money equity value of approximately $2 billion for X-Energy with existing company equity holders rolling 100% of their interests into the combined company. Institutional and strategic investors have invested or committed $120 million in financing, which includes $75 million from Ares Management and $45 million from Ontario Power Generation and Segra Capital Management. They join existing strategic investors Dow and Curtiss-Wright Corporation.

X-Energy’s prospective customer pipeline includes approximately 30 potential unique customers across a variety of use cases and geographies covering the North America and Europe. Some customer profiles remain confidential at this time. Key examples of publicly disclosed investments include:

Doosan – On 12/12/22 the Korea Times reported Doosan, DL consortium to invest $130 million in X-Energy for it HTGR reactor.  Doosan and DL E&C, as strategic investors, have participated in a fund created by Whale Investment Co., a Korean private equity firm. With the equity purchase, Doosan and DL E&C will also likely take on machine manufacturing as well as engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) projects of X-Energy’s small modular reactor (SMR) business.

OPG – Ontario Power Generation Inc. (OPG) is one of one of North America’s nuclear energy power producers. A framework agreement signed in July 2022 commits the two firms to pursue opportunities to deploy Xe-100 advanced reactors in Ontario at industrial sites and identify further potential end users and sites throughout Canada.

Dow – A letter of intent was signed in August 2022 to build the Xe-100 and provide cost-competitive, carbon-free process heat and power to a Dow facility on the Gulf Coast. This is the first time a US-based industrial manufacturer has announced its intention to deploy SMRs in its operations.

ARDP Site – Grant County Public Utility District (WA) and Energy Northwest signed a memorandum of understanding with X-Energy in April 2021 to support the development and commercial demonstration of the first advanced nuclear reactor in the U.S. The project is funded under the cost shared ARDP program by DOE.

triso fuelTRISO Fuel Facility – On 10/13/22 TRISO-X LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of X-Energy, broke ground and began construction activities on North America’s first commercial-scale advanced nuclear fuel facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The project will represent an investment of approximately $300 million. TF3 is set to be commissioned and operational by 2025.

Legislation – In 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act a provide tax credits of up to 50% of initial capital costs for advanced nuclear reactors. The new U.S. government support will meaningfully accelerate the deployment of advanced nuclear reactors

& & &

BWXT Starts Production of TRISO Fuel for Project Pele

BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE:BWXT) announced it has begun production of TRISO nuclear fuel that will power the first microreactor built and operated in the United States.

Under a $37 million award from the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), BWXT will manufacture a core for Project Pele, TRISO fuel for additional reactors and coated particle fuel for NASA.

INL administers the contract and provides the technical support and oversight. Fuel for the reactor will be downblended from U.S. government stockpiles of high-enriched uranium (HEU) to high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) and fabricated into TRISO fuel at the BWXT facility in Lynchburg, Virginia. BWXT facilities are the only private U.S. facilities licensed to possess and process HEU.

The Department of Energy (DOE) calls TRISO “the most robust nuclear fuel on earth.” The small, energy-dense coated uranium particles can withstand high temperatures, enabling smaller and more advanced reactor designs.

triso cutaway“TRISO particle fuel is ideal for the next generation of reactors poised to help us meet our country’s clean energy goals,” said U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dr. Kathryn Huff.

“It is extremely exciting to see decades of DOE’s investments in TRISO fuel’s robust safety performance paying off to power many of the most innovative advanced reactor designs to be deployed within this decade.”

The Project Pele microreactor is designed to be capable of being safely transported in standard-sized shipping containers. Microreactors are designed to reduce the need for vulnerable fossil fuel deliveries relied on by the U.S. military, and also to provide power for disaster response and recovery, power generation in remote areas and deep decarbonization efforts.

“TRISO fuel is capable of providing years of zero-carbon 24/7 energy in a safe and rugged form, with strategic implications for the DoD toward both its energy resilience and climate-change goals,” SCO Director Jay Dryer said.

BWXT has expanded its specialty coated fuels production manufacturing capacity through previously announced awards funded by the DOD Operational Energy Capabilities Improvement Fund Office and NASA and program management provided by SCO.

In addition to TRISO, BWXT also produces specialty coated fuels for NASA in support of its space nuclear propulsion project within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

“The high efficiency and high thrust provided by nuclear propulsion makes it an enabling capability for human missions to Mars,” said Associate Administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate James L. Reuter. “Advancing nuclear fuels and systems are key to achieving our exploration goals at Mars.”

About TRISO Fuel

TRISO stands for TRIstructural ISOtropic. TRIstructural refers to the three layers of carbon and ceramic materials that surround kernels or balls of HALEU fuel. ISOtropic means the coatings have uniform characteristics in all directions.

Fuel particles, each the size of a poppy seed, are enriched to a level four times higher than fuel used in most of today’s commercial nuclear reactors. The coatings retain fission products, making each particle its own containment system. They also protect the fuel from the factors that most degrade performance in conventional reactors – neutron irradiation, corrosion, oxidation and high temperatures.

About Project Pele

BWXT Advanced Technologies announced in June that it was selected by the Department of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office (DoD SCO) to manufacture and deliver the Project Pele prototype microreactor to INL. The fuel will be delivered to the lab separately.

project pele

BWXR will construct an inherently safe by design nuclear microreactor capable of being transported by the DOD and able to deliver 1-5 MWe of electrical power for a minimum of three years and for as long as five years of full power operation. This reactor will be assembled and initially operated at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), and will be the first electricity-generating Generation IV nuclear reactor built in the United States.

The Pele reactor is to be a single prototype, which will be demonstrated only within the United States, under the safety oversight of the Department of Energy. A decision by the DOD on whether or not to transition the technology and to use it operationally will be made at a future date.

& & &

Kairos Power, Los Alamos Collaborate to Make TRISO fuel

(WNN) TRISO fuel pebbles for the Kairos Power Hermes demonstration reactor will be produced at the New Mexico lab’s Low Enriched Fuel Fabrication Facility (LEFFF). This is the first nuclear iteration in Kairos Power’s “rapid iterative approach” to nuclear fuel development as well as the first nuclear fuel development campaign for LEFFF.

California-based Kairos Power is working to commercialize its fluoride salt-cooled, high-temperature reactor (KP-FHR) technology using a rapid iterative development approach. An application for a construction permit for the Hermes demonstration reactor – to be built in Oak Ridge, Tennessee – is currently undergoing formal review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

KAIROS Reactor

Kairos said the “synergistic partnership” combines its fuel manufacturing expertise with Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL) facilities and capabilities. It is facilitated by the lab’s proximity to Kairos’s testing and manufacturing facility in Albuquerque,NM, where the company is working to develop manufacturing processes that will be implemented in the LEFFF.

Ed Blandford, Kairos Power’s chief technology officer, said Kairos and LANL employees will work side-by-side at LEFFF to produce fuel pebbles for the reactor.

“The partnership with Los Alamos National Laboratory will be the catalyst for Kairos Power to build a credible path to manufacture fuel at industrial scale for KP-FHR technology starting with our Hermes demonstration reactor.”

Micah Hackett, the company’s senior director of fuels and materials said, “Iterative prototyping and innovation from the company’s Pebble Development Lab and its soon-to-be-commissioned TRISO Development Lab will be integral to the collaborative work.”

“With these early iterations, we are optimizing our processes and learning valuable lessons that will carry forward into our nuclear fuel program.”

Manufacturing fuel for Hermes in partnership with Los Alamos National Laboratory will allow Kairos Power to better control product quality, schedule, and cost, and yield experience that will inform future iterations in its nuclear fuel development program and future investments in a robust and reliable supply chain.

LEFFF is a multi-disciplinary customer user facility designed to support multiple nuclear fuel development campaigns, and Kairos is its first partner.

“The facility is a critical tool for the nation to mature fuel technology for the advancement of clean energy,” LEFFF Team Leader Timothy Coons said.

“LEFFF’s mission is to provide the necessary utilities and authorization basis for a multi-disciplinary set of customers to mature and accelerate their fuel needs. This first partnership between LEFFF and Kairos Power demonstrates the commitment of both organizations to accelerate advanced clean energy solutions.”

TRISO – standing for TRIstructural-ISOtropic – fuel comprises spherical kernels of enriched uranium oxycarbide (or uranium dioxide) surrounded by layers of carbon and silicon carbide, giving a containment for fission products which is stable up to very high temperatures. Hermes will use “pebbles” of fuel made from TRISO particles.

& & &

DOE Selects Two Partners To Engage Communities On Nuclear Energy

* $800,000 Awarded to Expand Coordination and Engagement with Energy Communities, Educational Entities, and Underserved Constituencies

eco logoThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded the Energy Communities Alliance, Inc. (ECA) and American Nuclear Society (ANS) a combined $800,000 to connect with communities across the United States and establish education and outreach opportunities in nuclear energy.

ECA and ANS will emphasize energy justice and prioritize their work in localities impacted by or interested in deploying advanced reactors. Nuclear power currently provides 50 percent of the nation’s carbon-free electricity.

“This program is an essential step in expanding engagement with communities interested in nuclear power and its role in helping achieve our country’s clean energy goals,” said Dr. Kathryn Huff, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy.

“It is equally imperative that we incorporate environmental and energy justice in these efforts as we aim to ensure that the benefits of clean energy projects are equitably delivered to all.”

DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy will collaborate with ECA and ANS to work with energy communities, educational entities, and other constituents to further its shared mission to advance nuclear energy’s role in addressing energy, environmental, and economic needs. These energy partnerships will help provide unique perspectives and innovative ideas on topics related to the management of spent nuclear fuel, clean energy equity, and STEM education.

ECA will receive $600,000 to engage with local governments and communities on outreach activities to advance the development of nuclear energy technologies and policies. ECA will also identify resources and key stakeholders for communities and help facilitate meaningful conversations between NE and local governments on topics ranging from advanced reactor deployment to spent nuclear fuel management.

ans logoANS will receive approximately $200,000 to broaden the diversity and reach of professional development opportunities for educators, particularly those teaching underserved students. It will also help build a diverse workforce, engage communities in locations impacted by nuclear projects, and increase awareness and knowledge of policymakers about nuclear energy and its benefits.

The Administration is using approximately $480,000 in fiscal year 2022 funds for this program. Each award extends over a two-year performance period. Funding for all awards and future budget periods is contingent upon Congressional appropriations and the availability of future-year budget authority.

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