Micro-scale nuclear prototype showcased in D.C.

April 22, 2024, 9:33AMNuclear News

Energy startup Last Energy took an opportunity last week to showcase a prototype of its micro-scale nuclear reactor outside a convention center in Washington, D.C.

The reactor: Last Energy’s prototype is nonfunctional, weighs 22 tons, and stands 48 feet tall. The prototype represents part of the underground portion of Last Energy’s broader power plant (referred to as the PWR-20), including where key nuclear components are located.

Last Energy is pushing micro-scale nuclear development as the fastest, most affordable, least resource-intensive path to 24/7 clean baseload power. The company noted that micro-scale nuclear development also affords siting flexibility and can deliver power on-site via private wire, allowing data center customers to circumvent the traditional restraints and price volatility of the grid.

Specifics: According to Last Energy, its unit would be a single loop pressurized water reactor rated at 20 megawatts electric with closed cycle air cooling for the tertiary loop and using less than 8 gallons per minute of water. The reactor would operate on PWR fuel enriched to less than 4.95 percent in a 17 by 17 array. It would have a 72-month fuel cycle with a three-month refueling period. The nuclear island would be subterranean.

Power where needed: The prototype was displayed near the Washington Convention Center, where a global conference for data center facilities and IT professionals was going on. The conference highlighted the anticipated high energy demands of data centers and nuclear energy’s role as a solution.

Data centers worldwide currently consume 240–340 TWh of power, equal to roughly 1 percent of all global energy consumption. The global data center industry consumes more energy per year than many entire countries, including South Africa, Egypt, and Argentina, according to Last Energy. Further, estimates show that the global data center industry’s energy consumption could surpass 1,000 TWh in 2026, the company said.

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