Dow and X-energy announced today that they have signed a joint development agreement (JDA) to demonstrate the first grid-scale advanced nuclear reactor at an industrial site in North America within a decade. As part of the agreement, Dow is now a subawardee under X-energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) Cooperative Agreement with the Department of Energy.
Dow and X-energy plan to install an Xe-100 high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) plant at one of Dow’s U.S. Gulf Coast sites, where it would provide both power and steam heat for industrial processes. Working with the DOE, Dow and X-energy expect to finalize site selection—subject to the DOE’s review and approval—in 2023.
According to the companies, the JDA includes up to $50 million in engineering work, up to half of which is eligible for ARDP funding, with the other half funded by Dow. The JDA work scope also includes the preparation and submission of a construction permit application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
From intention to action: Dow and X-energy first announced that they had signed a letter of intent to deploy an Xe-100 plant at one of Dow’s Gulf Coast facilities in August 2022 at the American Nuclear Society’s Utility Working Conference and Vendor Technology Expo. At that time, Dow also announced its intention to take a minority equity stake in X-energy.
Today’s announcement of a JDA takes the project one step further and also makes it clear that the work will be funded in part through X-energy’s existing ARDP agreement with the DOE.
CEOs speak: “The utilization of X-energy’s fourth-generation nuclear technology will enable Dow to take a major step in reducing our carbon emissions while delivering lower carbon footprint products to our customers and society,” said Jim Fitterling, Dow chairman and chief executive officer. “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.”
“Today’s announcement demonstrates the commercial versatility of the Xe-100 and is an important milestone for the future of advanced nuclear and carbon-free energy around the world. X-energy’s collaboration with Dow brings added significance because of the immense opportunity to further reduce emissions in the energy-intensive industrial sector,” said X-energy CEO J. Clay Sell. “From the beginning to the end of the supply chain, our technology can supply both power and heat to businesses in most sectors of the economy to help limit their carbon footprint. We are thrilled to work with Dow to deliver a successful project and illustrate the broad, highly flexible applications of X-energy’s proprietary nuclear energy technology.”
Clean energy goal: As Edward Stones, vice president for Dow’s Energy and Climate business, explained in the January 2023 issue of Nuclear News, “We produce more than 7 GW of power and steam that fire more than 50 gas and steam turbines and boilers. Moreover, we have more than 100 furnaces at 30 major manufacturing sites worldwide.” The company is pursuing carbon neutrality by 2050, Stones said.
“Our teams are constantly evaluating opportunities to provide reliable, sustainable, and affordable energy and steam to our sites while keeping in mind the constraints of society and physics. That’s why Dow considers nuclear energy, especially the promising technology of advanced small modular reactors, to be a long-term viable source of low-carbon-emitting, sustainable energy.”
The technology: The Xe-100 unit is an 80-MWe HTGR that can be scaled into a four-pack 320-MWe power plant. As a pebble bed HTGR, it would use TRISO particles encased in graphite pebbles as the fuel and helium as the coolant. Capable of providing high-temperature steam at 565°C as well as electricity, the Xe-100 could enable decarbonization of industrial end-use applications, including hydrogen generation, oil sands operations, mining applications, and other industrial processes. According to X-energy, the modular reactor design is “road-shippable and intended to drive scalability, accelerate construction timelines and create more predictable and manageable construction costs.”
Moving pieces: X-energy and TerraPower were selected by the DOE in October 2020 as the first recipients of cost-shared ARDP funding to develop, license, build, and demonstrate an operational advanced reactor by the end of the decade. Since that award, X-energy has completed the engineering and basic design of the nuclear reactor as well as advanced development of a fuel fabrication facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and is preparing to submit an application for licensure to the NRC. In April 2021, X-energy, Energy Northwest, and the Grant County Public Utility District agreed to support a demonstration of the Xe-100 in Washington state.
In December, the NRC accepted an application from X-energy's fuel subsidiary, TRISO-X LLC, for a proposed TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility (TF3) in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and developed a 30-month review schedule targeting completion in June 2025.
As was also announced in December 2022, X-energy has entered into a definitive business combination agreement with Ares Acquisition Corporation. The transaction is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2023, with the combined company named X-Energy Inc. and listed on the New York Stock Exchange.