Five advanced reactor designs get DOE risk reduction funding

December 16, 2020, 3:00PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy today announced $30 million in initial fiscal year 2020 funding—with the expectation of more over the next seven years—for five companies selected for risk reduction for future demonstration projects. The chosen reactor designs from Kairos Power, Westinghouse, BWX Technologies, Holtec, and Southern Company collectively represent a range of coolants, fuel forms, and sizes—from tiny microreactors to a molten salt reactor topping 1,000 MWe. They were selected for cost-shared partnerships under the Office of Nuclear Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) through a funding opportunity announcement issued in May 2020.

“All of these projects will put the U.S. on an accelerated timeline to domestically and globally deploy advanced nuclear reactors that will enhance safety and be affordable to construct and operate,” said Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette. “Taking leadership in advanced technology is so important to the country’s future, because nuclear energy plays such a key role in our clean energy strategy.”

The awardees: The projects selected for risk-reduction awards could be licensed and deployed over the next 10 to 14 years. ARDP funding is intended to support the developers as they resolve technical, operational, and regulatory challenges to prepare for future demonstration opportunities.

  • Hermes Reduced-Scale Test Reactor, Kairos Power. Kairos Power, of Alameda, Calif., will design, construct, and operate its Hermes reduced-scale test reactor. Kairos plans to site the test reactor at the East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Hermes is expected to lead to the development of Kairos Power’s commercial-scale KP-FHR (Kairos Power Fluoride Salt-Cooled High-Temperature Reactor), which uses TRISO fuel in pebble form combined with a low-pressure fluoride salt coolant. Total award value over seven years: $629 million (DOE share: $303 million).
  • eVinci Microreactor, Westinghouse Electric Company. Westinghouse Nuclear, of Cranberry Township, Pa., will advance the design of a heat pipe–cooled microreactor to support a nuclear demonstration unit by 2024. The project is to reduce technical risks associated with the moderator canister design, improve the ability to manufacture heat pipe wicks, and develop an economically viable refueling process and licensing approach. Total award value over seven years: $9.3 million (DOE share: $7.4 million).
  • BWXT Advanced Nuclear Reactor (BANR), BWXT Advanced Technologies. BWX Technologies, of Lynchburg, Va., plans to develop a commercially viable transportable microreactor using TRISO fuel particles to achieve higher uranium loading and an improved core design using a silicon carbide matrix. Total award value over seven years: $106.6 million (DOE share: $85.3 million).
  • Holtec SMR-160 Reactor, Holtec Government Services. Holtec, based in Camden, N.J., is receiving funding for early-stage design, engineering, and licensing activities to accelerate the development of Holtec’s light-water-cooled SMR-160. Total award value over seven years: $147.5 million (DOE share: $116 million).
  • Southern Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment, Southern Company Services. Southern Company, based in Birmingham, Ala., is designing, constructing, and operating the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment to demonstrate the high-burnup capabilities of Southern’s liquid salt–fueled Molten Salt Reactor. Total award value over seven years: $113 million (DOE share: $90.4 million).

ARDP background: The DOE was directed by the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act to establish the ARDP to help domestic private industry demonstrate advanced nuclear reactors. The program has three components: advanced reactor demonstrations, risk reduction for future demonstrations, and advanced reactor concepts 2020 (ARC 20).

In October 2020, the DOE announced the selection of TerraPower and X-energy to receive $160 million in initial demonstration funding to develop and construct two advanced nuclear reactors that can be operational within seven years. An announcement of ARC-20 funding, to support designs in their earliest phases with the potential to commercialize in the mid-2030s, is expected later this month.

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