First set of equipment delivered for Xe-100 RPS prototype

March 7, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Members of the Xe-100 reactor protection system team and the first set of prototype equipment. (Photo: X-energy)

X-energy, developer of the Xe-100 small modular reactor, has delivered the first of four sets of equipment for the Xe-100 reactor protection system (RPS) prototype, marking the latest milestone in the company’s efforts under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).

This initial delivery enables field testing, validation, and optimization, the results of which will be built into the final Xe-100 RPS design, according to X-energy. The first set of prototype equipment is tagged for installation at the company’s mock-up control room in Rockville, Md.

The reactor: The Xe-100 is an 80-MWe reactor that can be scaled into a “four-pack” 320-MWe power plant. As a pebble bed high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, it would use TRISO particles encased in graphite pebbles as the fuel and helium as the coolant. Designed for a 60-year operational life, the reactor could potentially be used to produce process heat as well as electricity and be operated as a baseload or load-following plant.

The safety system: An RPS is a set of independent and redundant safety and security components that enables the automatic and safe shutdown of a nuclear reactor. The Xe-100’s RPS provides an added layer of protection for the plant and its environment, the company said, with a simpler design than those used in reactors of previous generations. It uses the Highly Integrated Protection System platform developed by Rock Creek Innovations and approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for safety-related applications.

The engineers: “We’ve modeled how the system would behave in a plant simulator; now we can see how it behaves in real life,” said Shawn Hanvy, digital instrumentation and control engineer at X-energy. “The RPS design is an interactive and iterative process that will evolve over time. Unlike typical computer-based protection systems, it won’t use any software or microprocessors to operate, relying solely on simple and fixed logic that cannot be changed while in operation. The reduced complexity of the design lowers costs while increasing plant safety and security.”

“We’re proud to provide this first set of reactor protection prototype equipment to X-energy early in the design development process,” added Jason Pottorf, engineering manager at Rock Creek Innovations. “This will help ensure the system functions as intended, supports the regulator’s understanding of the design, and allows X-energy to begin developing the associated operator training.”

Background: The DOE launched the ARDP in May 2020 to support the development of advanced reactors through cost-shared partnerships with U.S. industry. In October of that year, the department announced that it had selected X-energy and TerraPower for near-term demonstrations. Each company was awarded $80 million in initial funding to build an advanced reactor that could be operational within seven years. X-energy signed a cooperative agreement with the DOE in March 2021, officially marking the beginning of the company’s participation in the program.

The Xe-100 project is estimated to cost about $2.4 billion, with half of the funds provided by the DOE and half through private investment, capital, and financing.

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