5 New Reactor Designs Earn DoE Funding
Many companies working on next-generation nuclear reactors lack the infrastructure, laboratory facilities, and computer models to collect the data necessary to prove to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that their designs are safe and functional . To give some of these companies a head start, the U.S. energy division recently granted each of the five U.S. teams an initial $ 30 million funding to help them meet the technical, operational, and licensing challenges of bringing their designs to market. This is part of the department’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. The aim is to help the US nuclear industry demonstrate advanced reactor designs on accelerated schedules.
Here’s a quick look at five U.S. designs that could be operational in the next 14 years.
The first three constructions are based on TRISO particle fuel (TRi-Structural ISOtropic). TRISO particles consist of a uranium, carbon and oxygen fuel core encapsulated by three layers of carbon and ceramic based materials. The carbon and ceramic layers prevent the release of radioactive fission products regardless of the reactor conditions. TRISO particles cannot melt in a reactor and withstand extreme temperatures well above the threshold of current nuclear fuels.
The particles are small, about the size of a poppy seed, and can be made into cylindrical pellets or billiard ball-sized balls for use in high temperature gas or molten salt cooled reactors.
BWXT Advanced Nuclear Reactor
BWX Technologies is developing a transportable microreactor for off-grid applications and remote areas. It is expected to generate 50 MW of thermal energy and be operational in the early 2030s. The high temperature gas reactor uses a version of DoE’s TRISO fuel that contains a uranium nitride fuel core for increased performance. The team plans to work with Idaho and Oak Ridge National Labs to test and qualify their new fuel. You will also focus on developing manufacturing processes that can cut the cost of the microreactor in half while developing features that benefit other reactor designs.
The transportable 15 MW from Westinghouse Electric Co. proofs The microreactor can be installed on site in less than 30 days. It has a heat pipe design that allows it to work on a network or in remote locations. The company will work with Los Alamos and Idaho National Labs and Texas A&M University to test and manufacture components for the heat pipe and develop a small demonstration unit. This two-year project supports a major effort by Westinghouse to build a prototype reactor by 2024, with full commercial deployment planned for the mid to late 2020s.
Hermes test reactor on a reduced scale
Kairos Power is partnered with Idaho and Oak Ridge National Labs along with the Electric Power Research Institute and Materion Corp. work together to develop Hermes, a scaled-down version of Cairo’s commercial FHR reactor. The 140 MW commercial reactor uses a TRISO fuel pebble bed design with a liquid fluoride salt coolant to efficiently extract heat from the fuel and generate electricity. It is designed to operate at lower temperatures than most advanced reactors and offers high availability for online refueling. Hermes is expected to be operational in 2026 and is demonstrating in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Holtec SMR-160 reactor
Holtec will work to complete the research and power plant development required to demonstrate its small modular light water reactor. The 160 MW reactor can be adapted to use air-cooled condensers on its secondary side, so it can be used in most arid regions of the world. Holtec plans to manufacture most of the reactor’s components in the United States. After the shutdown of this nuclear power plant, the reactor will be demonstrated at the Oyster Creek site in New Jersey.
Hotec works with Kiewit Power Constructors, Framatome, Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Western Services Corp. and the Idaho National Lab together.
Experiment with molten chloride reactor
Southern Co. plans to build and operate a small prototype based on the TerraPower High Speed Molten Chloride Reactor (MCFR). It should be scalable for commercial use on the grid and able to use several different fuels, including spent nuclear fuel from other reactors. MCFR technology is highly efficient in terms of transmission and can be used for heat storage, supplying process heat or generating electricity. What the team learns from building and operating the molten chloride reactor will be used to design, license and operate a demonstration reactor that could be operational for the next five years.
Southern Co. will partner with TerraPower, Core Power, Orano and EPRI as well as other private companies, laboratories and universities.