Wyoming invites BWXT to assess microreactors for the state

September 18, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News

Concept art of the BANR microreactor system. (Image: BWXT)

BWX Technologies last week announced a contract with the Wyoming Energy Authority (WEA) to evaluate the viability of deploying microreactors in the state.

The Lynchburg, Va., tech firm said its BWXT Advanced Technologies subsidiary will execute the two-year, two-phase agreement in close consultation with the state government and other Wyoming organizations and companies.

While the value of the contract was not disclosed in the September 12 announcement, the WEA on August 8 recommended to Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon that BWXT receive “$9,999,802 of the $20,589,751 required to execute its project.” Gordon approved the Energy Matching Funds award earlier this month. (Established by the Wyoming legislature in 2022 with an initial $100 million, the EMF program provides matching funds for private or federal funding of research, pilot projects, or commercial deployment projects related to Wyoming energy needs.)

Phases: In the contract’s first phase, BWXT is to work with Wyoming industries to define the requirements basis for nuclear applications of base heat and power needs of the state’s trona mining operations. (A sodium carbonate compound, trona is extracted from underground mines and processed into soda ash.) In addition, the company will perform engineering work to further the design of its BWXT Advanced Nuclear Reactor (BANR) microreactor system so that it can integrate into Wyoming’s future power needs. This work will include identifying areas where the state’s existing supply chain can demonstrate capabilities for reactor component manufacturing and support reactor deployment.

Based on the outcomes of phase one, phase two of the contract will entail BWXT furthering the design basis of BANR to meet the specific needs of potential Wyoming end users. A demonstration of the capabilities of Wyoming manufacturers would also be performed to validate the supply chain activities completed in phase one.

Throughout both phases of the contract, BWXT will leverage existing Department of Energy Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) achievements through the company’s collaboration with Idaho National Laboratory and other internal BWXT research and development investments, according to the announcement.

In late 2020, the DOE selected BANR for a cost-shared partnership under the ARDP. The award value totaled $106.6 million, with the department contributing $85.3 million.

Official words: “At the end of this project, the potential job-creation, manufacturing, and industrial opportunities for nuclear power in Wyoming will be clearer, and we will have a roadmap for deploying microreactors in the state,” said Joe Miller, BWXT Advanced Technologies president. “When state and federal agencies work together with the private sector, we expect the economic and environmental benefits of nuclear innovations will be unlocked.”

Rob Creager, WEA executive director, remarked that “BWXT’s microreactor project presents the possibility of creating additional resources for industrial end users in Wyoming, thereby helping further a full value chain nuclear industry in Wyoming, advancing and diversifying our economy.”

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