Wednesday, October 14, 2020

DOE picks two companies for advanced reactor demonstration funding

The Natrium system from TerraPower and GE-Hitachi features a 345-MWe reactor and can be optimized for specific markets. For instance, its thermal storage has the potential to boost the system’s output to 500-MWe of power for more than five and a half hours when needed.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced Tuesday it has selected two U.S.-based teams to receive $160 million in initial funding under the new Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). ARDP, announced in May, is designed to help domestic private industry demonstrate advanced nuclear reactors in the United States.
DOE is awarding TerraPower LLC of Bellevue, Wash., and X-energy of Rockville, Md., $80 million each in initial funding to build two advanced nuclear reactors that can be operational within seven years. 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 industry partners providing matching funds.
“The awards are the first step of a new program that will strengthen American leadership in the next generation of nuclear technologies,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “These partnerships will help maximize DOE’s investment in advanced reactors, which play a vital role in our clean energy strategy.”

As DOE's lead laboratory for nuclear research and home of the National Reactor Innovation Center, Idaho National Laboratory will play a role in the projects' development.

"I congratulate TerraPower’s Natrium reactor and X-energy’s xe100 reactor for receiving the DOE's advanced reactor demonstration pathway awards," said INL Director Mark Peters. "Today marks a tremendous step forward in bringing advanced fission systems from concept to reality."
“Congratulations to all the innovators selected for their Advanced Reactor Demonstration Proposals,” said Ashley Finan, director of the National Reactor Innovation Center. “NRIC looks forward to working with each of you to deliver successful outcomes. These projects contribute to a diversity of designs, which will help achieve our commitment to demonstrating advanced reactors.”

GE Hitachi, TerraPower Team on Nuclear-Storage Hybrid SMR (, Sept. 3, 2020)

Specifically, TerraPower will demonstrate the Natrium reactor, a sodium‐cooled fast reactor that leverages decades of development and design undertaken by TerraPower and its partner, GE‐Hitachi. The high-operating temperature of the Natrium reactor, coupled with thermal energy storage, will allow the plant to provide flexible electricity output that complements variable renewable generation such as wind a solar. In addition, this project will establish a new metal fuel fabrication facility that is scaled to meet the needs of this demonstration program.
X-energy will deliver a commercial four-unit nuclear power plant based on its Xe-100 reactor design. The Xe-100 is a high temperature gas-cooled reactor that 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 TRi-structural ISOtropic particle fuel (TRISO) fuel fabrication facility, leveraging DOE’s substantial investment in development of this highly robust fuel form.

The Xe-100 high temperature gas-cooled pebble bed modular nuclear power plant has a small physical footprint, only 200 meters by 100 meters with a small emergency planning zone, and a reduced water requirement which means it can be installed in a much wider range of potential locations compared to other clean energy solutions.

Both projects incorporate a range of design features that will not only enhance safety, but make them affordable to construct and operate, paving the way for the United States to deploy highly competitive advanced reactors domestically and globally.
“DOE and U.S. industry are extremely well-equipped to develop and demonstrate nuclear reactors with the requisite sense of urgency, which is important not only to our economy, but to our environment, because nuclear energy is clean energy,” said Dr. Rita Baranwal, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy.

X-Energy Steps Into The Ring With Its Advanced Pebble Bed Modular Nuclear Reactor (Forbes, March 27, 2017)

Congress appropriated $160 million for the Fiscal Year 2020 budget as initial funding for these demonstration projects. Funding beyond the near-term is contingent on additional future appropriations, evaluations of satisfactory progress and DOE approval of continuation applications. In addition, the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriation also provided initial year funding of $30 million for two to five Risk Reduction for Future Demonstrations projects and $20 million initial year funding for at least two Advanced Reactor Concepts-20 (ARC-20) projects. Awards for these projects are expected to be announced in December 2020. 
More information on the Office of Nuclear Energy and its programs can be found here.