- X-Energy, DOW Select Texas Site for SMR Power Plant
- X-energy Seeks Financing from South Korea Export-Import Bank
- NuScale to Build South Korea’s First SMR to Produce Hydrogen
- NRC Issues License to Holtec for Spent Nuclear Fuel Interim Storage Facility in New Mexico
- Micronuclear Selects Premier Technology To Manufacture Its Molten Salt Nuclear Battery
- Nuclear Fusion / Helion Announces World’s First Purchase Agreement with Microsoft
X-Energy, DOW Select Texas Site for SMR Power Plant
Dow (NYSE: DOW), the world’s leading materials science company, and X-Energy Reactor Company, LLC, a developer of advanced nuclear reactors and fuel technology for clean energy generation, announced that Dow has selected its Seadrift Operations manufacturing site in Texas for its proposed advanced small modular reactor (SMR) nuclear project. The project is focused on providing the Seadrift site with safe, reliable, zero carbon emissions power and steam as existing fossil fuel energy and steam assets near their end-of-life.
The plant is located 150 miles southwest of Houston, TX, on the Gulf Coast of Texas at the southwest end of Matagorda Bay. The plant is the second largest DOW facility of its kind in Texas.
Dow said in a press statement that Seadrift site’s power and steam needs match capabilities of X-energy’s Xe-100 small modular reactor. The next step is that Dow and X-energy will prepare and submit construction permit applications to the NRC. According to the press statement, the project expected to be complete by the end of the decade. The project is expected to reduce the Seadrift site’s emissions by approximately 440,000 MT CO2e/year.
In March 2023 Dow and X-energy announced their entry into a joint development agreement (JDA) to install an advanced SMR nuclear plant at an industrial site in North America. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) named Dow a sub-awardee under X-energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) cost sharing cooperative agreement.
The JDA provides for up to $50 million in engineering work, up to half of which is eligible to be funded through ARDP, and the other half by Dow. Dow also said it intends to take a minority equity stake in X-energy.
X-energy was selected by the DOE in 2020 to develop, license, build, and demonstrate an operational advanced reactor and fuel fabrication facility by the end of the decade. Since that award, X-energy has completed the engineering and basic design of the nuclear reactor.
Dow and X-energy will now prepare and submit a Construction Permit application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is an important milestone for the project. Construction on the four-reactor project is expected to begin in 2026 and to be completed by the end of this decade. An operating license will be required from the NRC for the plant to enter revenue service.
The XE-100 SMR is an advanced reactor based on the GEN-IV high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR) design. Each unit is expected to produce 80 MWe of electrical power and 200 MWt thermal. TRISO fuel uses inert helium to transfer heat to the steam systems. The reactor is designed for a 60-year operational life. The Xe-100 would use HALEU enriched to 19.75 percent U-235. X-Energy is building its own fuel fabrication plant at an estimated cost of about $300 million near Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Dow’s Seadrift site covers 4,700 acres, employs over 1,200 people and manufactures more than four million pounds of materials per year used across a wide variety of applications including food packaging and preservation, footwear, wire and cable insulation, solar cell membranes, and packaging for medical and pharmaceutical products.
Jim Fitterling, Dow chairman and chief executive officer, said using X-energy’s Generation IV nuclear technology will enable Dow to take a major step in reducing its carbon emissions while delivering lower carbon footprint products to our customers and society.
“The collaboration with X-energy and the DOE will serve as a leading example of how the industrial sector can safely, effectively and affordably decarbonize.”
Other Recent Developments
Separately, in July 2022, X-energy and Ontario Power Generation signed an agreement to look for opportunities to deploy the Xe-100 reactor at industrial sites in Ontario and identify further potential end users and sites throughout Canada. In July 2020 X-Energy kicked off a combined Phase 1 & Phase 2 vendor design review with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).
Last December the X-Energy Reactor Company, LLC, 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. X-Energy’s entry into the public markets is expected to accelerate its growth strategy through additional investment opportunities.
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X-energy Seeks Financing for Xe-100 SMR from South Korea Export-Import Bank
X-Energy has signed an agreement with the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM) to obtain project financing for the deployment of its Xe-100 advanced small modular reactor (SMR). The bank will work with X-energy to provide financing for new or existing projects that utilize South Korean manufacturing and supply chain partners.
The engagement with the bank follows recently announced partnerships between X-energy and major Korean conglomerates Doosan and DL E&C. Both companies are expected to play significant roles in developing and manufacturing key components and systems for the Xe-100.
Doosan Enerbility started a collaboration with X-energy in 2021 by participating in the design of an SMR with high-temperature gas promoted by X-energy. In January, the company further strengthened cooperation with X-energy by signing an agreement to make an equity investment in X-energy and supply core equipment to X-energy.
X-energy CEO J Clay Sell said, “Our Korean partners bring deep nuclear expertise and track strong records to support the successful deployment of our advanced nuclear technology on a global scale.”
Kexim Chairman & President Hee-sung Yoon said through the business agreement with X-energy, “we expect business opportunities of Korean companies to expand in various areas of the next-generation SMR field beyond water-cooled reactors.”
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NuScale to Build South Korea’s First SMR to Produce Hydrogen
NuScale Power Corp. is expected to build its first small modular reactor (SMR) plant in South Korea in Uljin, which is already home to Korean nuclear power plants.
GS Energy Corp., an energy unit of GS Group that is NuScale’s Korean partner, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) supporting development of a national nuclear hydrogen industrial complex in Uljin (map). The main focus of the agreement is the construction of NuScale Power’s SMR plant inside the complex. It is a coastal town on the country’s eastern seaboard about 135 miles southeast of Seoul.
A Uljin County government official said GS Energy and Uljin County will together aim to lead carbon neutrality and promote sustainable economic growth in the face of the global climate crisis while enhancing energy security through their partnership.
“We have chosen NuScale Power’s SMR because it is considered the world’s safest SMR,” Uljin County Governor Sohn Byong-bok said in a telephone interview with The Korea Economic Daily.
“Our goal is to build an industrial complex centered around nuclear and hydrogen energy by recruiting more hydrogen companies that can benefit from an SMR plant, the primary role of which is to supply eco-friendly power to the industrial complex.”
Once NuScale Power’s SMR is built, it is expected to provide power mainly to run the nuclear hydrogen industrial complex, which has been under construction on a 1,580,000-square-meter (400 acres) site in Uljin since last year for an investment of 400 billion won ($300 million).
Uljin County plans to build an SMR plant with six 77 MWe SMR modules which can generate 462 MWe, enough to power 900,000 four-person households. Its construction is projected to be completed by 2030 when the industrial park is slated to open.
The construction of its SMR plant in Korea would kick off in 2028, considering that it is projected to take about five years to get approval for its construction from the Korean government. GS Energy will operate it once the SMR plant is completed.
Other Korean companies are also expected to join the NuScale Power SMR project in Korea. Doosan Enerbility Co., Korea’s major power plant engineering company, and Samsung C&T Corp., a construction and engineering company of Samsung Group, will likely build the SMRs, based on NuScale Power’s technology, along with related non-nuclear balance of plant and facilities.
Doosan Enerbility has become a major stakeholder of NuScale Power after investing $140 million, while Samsung C&T and GS Energy, respectively, invested $70 million and $40 million.
Uljin is already the site of nuclear power plants. The Shin Hanul unit 1, the country’s 27th nuclear reactor located in Uljin, entered revenue service in December 2022. The Shin Hanul unit 1 is based on APR-1400, an advanced pressurized water nuclear reactor considered Korea’s next-generation reactor model. The Shin Hanul unit 2, located next to the unit 1, is due to be completed in September this year, while two more reactors, also based on the APR-1400 design, the Shin Haunl 3 and 4, are under construction in Uljin.
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NRC Issues License to Holtec International for Nuclear Fuel Interim Storage Facility in New Mexico
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a license to Holtec International to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel near Hobbs, NM.
The license, issued May 9, authorizes the company to receive, possess, transfer and store 500 canisters holding approximately 8,680 metric tonnes of commercial spent nuclear fuel for 40 years. The company said it plans to eventually store up to 10,000 canisters in an additional 19 phases. Each expansion phase would require a license amendment with additional NRC safety and environmental reviews.
The spent fuel must be stored in canisters and cask systems certified by the NRC as meeting standards for protection against leakage, radiation dose rates, and criticality under normal and accident conditions. The canisters are required to be sealed prior to arrival at the facility. They will be inspected upon arrival and will remain sealed during onsite handling and storage activities.
The NRC’s review of the license application included a technical safety and security review, an environmental impact review and adjudication before an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. A safety evaluation report, documenting the technical review, is being issued along with the license. A final environmental impact statement was published last July and supplemented in October. The environmental study included extensive public input during its development and during the comment phase. The adjudication resolved contentions filed by several local and national petitioners.
The NRC has previously issued similar licenses for away-from-reactor storage installations. Private Fuel Storage received a license in 2006, but was never constructed. The NRC issued a license in September 2021 to Interim Storage Partners LLC for a proposed storage site in Andrews, Texas. ISP has not yet initiated construction.
Reuters reported that a New Mexico state law that goes into effect on June 15 could complicate Holtec’s plans. It bans storage of the waste, until the state agrees to handle it and until the federal government figures out permanent storage. Similar legislation in Texas was passed in an effort to stop work on the spent fuel site planned for Andrews, TX. Both states have sued in federal court in efforts to overturn the NRC licenses.
The Biden administration prefers a consent-based siting of nuclear waste facilities in which local communities are involved in the site selection process. DOE’s effort is ongoing with no specific sites under consideration.
“What a path forward and timeline looks like is still to be determined,” said Pat O’Brien, a Holtec spokesperson. O’Brien said “strong local support” from New Mexico counties solidifies its belief the project is viable.
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Micronuclear Selects Premier Technology To Manufacture Its Molten Salt Nuclear Battery
MicroNuclear, LLC, based in Brentwood, TN, has selected Premier Technology, Inc. of Blackfoot, ID to manufacture its Molten Salt Nuclear Battery. The Molten Salt Nuclear Battery (MsNB) is a microreactor designed to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear batteries are typically very small nuclear reactors with electrical output in the range of 1-10 MWe.
The MsNB was conceived by Tennessee-based MicroNuclear LLC’s Dr. Paul Marotta, CTO Dr. Richard Christensen, and Idaho National Laboratory Research Scientist Piyush Sabharwall.
The MsNB design is based upon the successful molten salt reactor experiment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s. It is referred to as a battery because it is manufactured in a factory, transported to the site, installed, and at the end of its 10-year life, is simply replaced with a new MsNB.
Richard Christensen, CTO of MicroNuclear, said, “Premier Technology, Inc. has partnered with MicroNuclear since the beginning of our effort to develop the molten salt nuclear battery. They have fabricated the electrically heated prototypes as per our specifications and have materially added to the design by bringing their expertise in manufacturing to bear.
Doug Sayer, Founder of Premier Technology, said, “Premier Technology has spent more than a decade preparing our team, facilities, and equipment to be ready to support the needs of reactor developers and researchers. We are honored to support MicroNuclear with their efforts to deploy the Molten Salt Nuclear Battery.”
About Premier Technology
Premier Technology, Inc. is a privately held small business, serving a wide range of global industries with innovative design, engineering, custom fabrication, system integration, and field installation support. Premier Technology is a full-service design to delivery provider, with a customer base in the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, commercial nuclear, food processing, and mining industries.
Last December, Premier was selected by Idaho National Laboratory as the metal fabricator for the Department of Energy’s Microreactor Applications Research Validation and Evaluation (MARVEL) sodium-potassium cooled test microreactor that will generate 100-kilowatts of thermal power.
About the Molten Salt Nuclear Battery
The MsNB is a molten mix of nuclear fuel and a chemical salt. It uses fluoride salt because of its desirable characteristics when mixed with either uranium or plutonium fuel. The MsNB uses natural circulation, moving the molten salt nuclear fuel through the reactor without the need for pumps, valves, or coolant loops, enhancing safety, reliability, and reducing cost.
The MsNB is compact, will be factory produced, and transportable. It can be installed in critical infrastructure such as municipal buildings, hospitals, military bases, and is ideal for industrial applications, desalination facilities, hydrogen production, and remote towns, providing reliable, sustained, and uninterrupted energy.
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Nuclear Fusion / Helion Announces World’s First Purchase Agreement with Microsoft
Plant could be providing technology giant with power by the end of the decade
(NucNet) US-based Helion Energy has announced an agreement to provide Microsoft electricity from its first nuclear fusion power plant. It is the first power purchase agreement for a fusion plant. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Helion, a privately held fusion research company founded in 2013 and based in Everett, Washington, said the plant is expected to be online by 2028 and will target power generation of 50 MWe or greater after a one-year ramp up period.
The planned operational date for this first-of-its-kind facility is significantly sooner than typical projections for deployment of commercial fusion power. Many of the leading fusion developers project commercial versions of their designs to be ready for customers in the mid-to-late 2030s. Also, the hot spot for commercial fusion work globally isn’t in the US. It is at the UKAEA site in Culham near Oxford University. In the US Commonwealth Fusion opened its Devon, MA, campus in February 2023 which will be the home of the first commercial scale plant for its design. Construction actually began in December 2022. So far the firm has reported public investment of more than $2 billion in four rounds.
Helion has so far raised more than $570M in private capital, but still needs design and construction approvals from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as well as local permits, before it can break ground at a site in Everett, WA.
Both Commonwealth and Helion will have a bit of a wait as the NRC is a long way from issuing regulations to license fusion power plants in the US. The agency is officially skeptical that it will see any viable designs coming in for review in the near term. In February 2023 NRC Chair Christopher Hanson said the “precise future” for fusion in the USA is uncertain. Paradoxically, Helion praised the statement at the time calling it a “clear and effective regulatory path” for fusion.
Helion also said that Baltimore, Maryland-based Constellation will serve as the power marketer and will provide power and transmission needs for “the nation’s first fusion power plant.”
Helion said the development of a commercial fusion power facility is a crucial step in the transition to a sustainable energy future. It will help Microsoft to achieve its goal of being carbon negative by 2030 and support the development of a new clean energy source.
“This collaboration represents a significant milestone for Helion and the fusion industry as a whole,” said Helion chief executive officer David Kirtley.
“We are grateful for the support of a visionary company like Microsoft. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are confident in our ability to deliver the world’s first fusion power facility.”
Brad Smith, Microsoft president and vice-chair, said the multinational technology company is optimistic that fusion energy can be an important technology to help the world transition to clean energy.
“Helion’s announcement supports our own long term clean energy goals and will advance the market to establish a new, efficient method for bringing more clean energy to the grid, faster,” Smith said.
Helion said it has been advancing its fusion technology for more than a decade. The company has built six working prototypes and was the first private fusion company to reach 100-million-degree plasma temperatures with its sixth fusion prototype.
The company is building its seventh prototype, known as Polaris, which is expected to demonstrate the ability to produce electricity in 2024.
A Different Approach To Fusion
The company says its approach to fusion does three major things differently from other fusion approaches. It uses a pulsed non-ignition fusion system, which helps overcome the hardest physics challenges, keeps the fusion device smaller than other approaches, and allows adjustments in power output based on need.
Like regenerative braking in an electric car, the system is built to directly recover electricity. Other fusion systems heat water to create steam to turn a turbine which loses a lot of energy in the process.
Helion uses deuterium and helium-3 as fuel. Helium-3 is a cleaner, higher-octane fuel, which helps keep the system small and efficient.
According to Helion, its fusion power will be one of the lowest cost sources of electricity with a production cost of $0.01 per kWh without assuming any economies of scale from mass production, carbon credits, or government incentives. According to Helion, its fusion power will be one of the lowest cost sources of electricity.
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