Canada studies advanced reactor deployment at fossil fuel site

April 9, 2024, 3:00PMNuclear News

U.S.-based reactor company X-energy has partnered with Canadian power producer TransAlta Corp. to study the feasibility of deploying an advanced small modular reactor at a fossil fuel power plant site in Alberta.

Funded by the Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) agency, the project will evaluate the economics, regulatory impacts, licensing requirements, timelines, and overall suitability of siting X-energy’s Xe-100 reactor at a former carbon-emitting plant. In 2023, Alberta established a goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“I am proud that Alberta continues to be a global leader in responsible energy development,” said Nathan Neudorf, Alberta minister of affordability and utilities. “By investing in innovative technology such as small modular nuclear reactors, we are ensuring that Alberta’s power grid will be affordable, reliable, and sustainable for generations to come.”

What’s next: X-energy received nearly $460,000 (C$623,152) from ERA’s Reshaping Systems funding competition, one of 13 projects that received awards totaling $24.8 million ($C33.7 million). The program also has private investors, creating funding of nearly $64.8 million (C$88 million) focused on technologies that will reduce emissions and contribute to a more flexible and sustainable energy grid in Alberta.

X-energy and TransAlta will be supported by Canada-based nuclear and professional engineering firms, including Hatch Ltd., Kinectrics Inc., and PCL Nuclear Management Inc. The study results are expected to provide valuable insights and data to inform future TransAlta project and business decisions, and to help identify and build Alberta-based supply chain partners and vendors and economic benefits for the province.

A closer look: X-energy’s Xe-100 reactor and its TRISO-X fuel are designed to be intrinsically safe, greatly expanding applications and markets for the deployment of nuclear technology relative to other SMRs and conventional nuclear reactors. The Xe-100 is an 80-MWe high-temperature gas reactor; it is one of two designs selected by the U.S. Department of Energy for its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Project and an accompanying $80 million award.

Last year, X-energy announced its first Xe-100 deployment will happen at one of Dow’s manufacturing sites on the Gulf Coast. The company also signed a joint development agreement with Energy Northwest for production of up to 12 SMRs in central Washington State.

X-energy has already hit milestones in the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s prelicensing vendor design review. CNSC found no fundamental barriers to licensing the Xe-100—an outcome that increases confidence in proceeding with formal license applications in Canada. The company wants to deploy Alberta’s first SMR by the early 2030s.

Quotable: Blain van Melle, TransAlta’s executive vice president of commercial and customer relations, said in a statement, "TransAlta is excited to work with Emissions Reduction Alberta and our project partners to explore how X-energy’s innovative small modular reactor technology can potentially augment TransAlta’s existing sites and assets to deliver clean, reliable heat and power to our customers at competitive rates and without emissions from fossil fuels.”

Benjamin Reinke, vice president of global business development at X-energy, added, “This partnership with Emissions Reduction Alberta marks a significant step forward for clean energy technologies in the province. Alberta’s tradition of energy innovation combined with our advanced nuclear technology offers a powerful solution to reducing emissions while increasing reliable baseload generation capacity and supporting the region’s key economic drivers.”

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