Three developers get FEEED funding to test microreactors in INL’s DOME

October 25, 2023, 3:01PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) awarded $3.9 million to three advanced nuclear energy developers on October 23 to design experiments to test microreactor designs in the Demonstration of Microreactor Experiments (DOME) test bed at Idaho National Laboratory.

Radiant, Ultra Safe Nuclear, and Westinghouse each received awards through a front-end engineering and experiment design (FEEED) process that will support the design, fabrication, construction, and testing of fueled microreactor experiments. The NRIC, which is charged with demonstrating advanced reactors by the end of 2025, developed the FEEED process to help industry partners progress more quickly toward first-of-a-kind testing of advanced reactors.

“The FEEED process will bring three microreactor designs—Kaleidos, Pylon, and eVinci—one step closer to reality,” said Kathryn Huff, DOE assistant secretary for nuclear energy. “These technologies will give choices to diverse communities looking to transition to a clean energy future.”

Conceptual art of Westinghouse’s eVinci microreactor. (Image: Westinghouse)

Westinghouse’s eVinci: According to a Westinghouse announcement, the company’s selection for a FEEED contract will lead to a one-fifth scale test of the eVinci microreactor. The eVinci team will work with the NRIC and INL to create an end-to-end reactor test program plan and schedule for placing the test reactor in DOME. As designed, eVinci could deliver several kilowatts to 5 megawatts of electricity around the clock for eight-plus years without refueling.

“We appreciate the ongoing support from the Department of Energy and Idaho National Lab to further the development of this truly innovative reactor technology,” said Jon Ball, president of eVinci Technologies at Westinghouse. “We are at an inflection point and are accelerating the commercialization of our eVinci technology. NRIC’s partnership will be a critical enabler to advance technology readiness and licensing.”

Conceptual art of Radiant's Kaleidos microreactor. (Image: Radiant)

Radiant’s Kaleidos: Radiant Nuclear’s Kaleidos is a high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor that can provide up to 1 MWe and 1.9 MWt for applications including replacing diesel generators in remote regions and providing energy resilience for strategic military and civilian infrastructure. According to a blog post from Radiant, Kaleidos fits in a shipping container for transportability and features a core designed for factory refueling every five years.

“This award is crucial in keeping our timeline to test Kaleidos in 2026 and produce our first commercial unit in 2028,” said Doug Bernauer, cofounder and chief executive officer of Radiant. “Radiant is focused on developing and testing hardware fast, and this award lets us test and iterate rather than just theorize on a design.”

Conceptual art of USNC's Pylon microreactor. ( Image: USNC)

USNC’s Pylon: USNC bills its Pylon microreactor as a 10-ton class transportable microreactor configurable for both Earth and space, using technology that follows on the company’s Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR) and fully ceramic microencapsulated (FCM) fuel technologies. Compared to their MMR, “Pylon is a lower-mass system that is more easily transportable to off-grid locations and space,” according to USNC.

A single Earth-based Pylon system can provide 1.5 MWe–5 MWe for three years, and additional systems can be interconnected to scale the amount of power. The baseline system comprises two modules: the nuclear heat supply system module and the balance of plant, each individually fitting within a standard 20-foot CONEX container. If configured for space—scalable from 10kWe to 3MWe—the reactor could power resource extraction and processing facilities or electric propulsion systems.

DOME and more: DOME is a new test bed developed by the NRIC and intended to speed up microreactor development. It repurposes the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II containment structure to lessen the environmental footprint, costs, and project risks for reactor development testing. The DOE is also developing the Laboratory for Operation and Testing in the U.S. (LOTUS) test bed, which will host smaller reactor experiments to support the development of advanced reactors. Testing in DOME could start as early as 2026, according to the DOE.

Kaleidos, eVinci, and Pylon aren’t the only microreactors being tested at INL. Also planned for the site (though not the DOME) are Project Pele’s demonstration of a BWX Technologies–designed microreactor for military purposes, Oklo’s first Aurora plant, and INL’s own MARVEL.

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