Aalo Atomics lays ground for microreactor licensing and siting

July 9, 2024, 3:00PMNuclear News
A view of INL’s desert site. (Photo: INL)

Aalo reported last week that it has submitted a regulatory engagement plan to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in “a huge step forward in getting regulatory approval for our Aalo-1 reactor.”

Aalo plans to build seven 10-MWe microreactors in Idaho by 2029 for what it is calling the Idaho Nuclear Project and is considering “potentially expanding to an additional seven reactor units.” Electricity from the cluster of small sodium-cooled microreactors with uranium zirconium hydride (UZrH) fuel elements would “help our partner utility provide affordable, reliable electricity to meet current and future energy and sustainability needs.”

Regulatory engagement: In the regulatory engagement plan, Aalo outlines its technical approach for the Aalo-1 reactor, which would use uranium enriched to just under 10 percent U-235 and operate in the thermal neutron spectrum. At 10 percent enrichment, its fuel falls into multiple categories: low-enriched uranium, because it is under 20 percent; HALEU, because it is between 5 and 20 percent; and LEU+, because it is between 5 and 10 percent. The reactor’s design is inspired by the MARVEL microreactor being built at Idaho National Laboratory, which is a much smaller microreactor (100 kWt) also fueled with UZrH.

In May, Aalo said it had recently completed the Aalo-1 conceptual design and was “fully engaged in the preliminary design,” with plans to construct a full-scale, nonnuclear prototype of the reactor. The company plans to submit a full license application in 2026.

Siting: Aalo announced in May that it had signed a siting memorandum of understanding with the Department of Energy. “With the MOU in place, our immediate focus shifts to entering into a real property agreement with DOE, selecting a specific parcel of land to site the Aalo-1 reactor.”

While not yet confirmed, Aalo wants to locate the first Aalo-1 reactor at the Central Facilities Area (CFA) site within INL, a location chosen to co-locate with newly constructed megawatt-scale electrolyzers and INL’s planned hydrogen motorcoach fleet. Aalo-1 can provide behind-the-meter electricity and heat to these electrolyzers and demonstrate efficient hydrogen production. Aalo has signed an Umbrella Strategic Partnership Project to leverage INL's expertise to support the potential deployment.

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