US Department of Energy funds X-energy’s Xe-100 reactor

By William Girling
Nuclear reactor and fuel engineering company X-energy has announced that it will receive USD$6mn in funding from the US Department of Energy (DoE...

Nuclear reactor and fuel engineering company X-energy has announced that it will receive USD$6mn in funding from the US Department of Energy (DoE).

Led by a team with a diverse range of experience, including “engineering, policy, government relationships and experience operating large government engineering contracts,” the grant money will go towards developing the company’s Xe-100 reactor.

A design which aims to balance sustainability, reliability, safety and cost-efficient economics, the Xe-100 is optimised to be scalable, flexible and affordable: the O&M (operations and maintenance) cost for the reactor is $2/MWh.

Transforming nuclear energy

X-energy has been creating cutting-edge nuclear systems with a broad appeal since 2009. This has included commercial plants, military operations and astronautics. In total, the company has received over $100mn from DoE, DoD (Department of Defense) and NASA contracts.

Regarding the DoE’s patronage of the project, Clay Sell, CEO of X-energy, claimed that this investment was a significant step forward in the development of nuclear reactor efficiency.

“We are grateful for DOE’s support of X-energy and so pleased to be working with ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy) on this incredibly important effort to create transformational, cost-competitive energy technology.

“This will allow us to advance our reactor designs, providing reliable carbon-free baseload power that’s available anywhere, at any time.”

The company will be working on further innovations through the GEMINA project, which will explore robotics, automation, remote maintenance, VR (virtual reality), monitoring and more, in the hopes of developing an enhanced, highly efficient system.

Making use of a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR), the Xe-100 is a Generation-IV unit which does not require an active cooling system to maintain safety. Powered by ‘TRISO-X fuel pebbles’, it is specially designed to eradicate the risk of a meltdown.

Proof of concept

In addition, the company has also announced that MIT will be using TRISO-X in its research reactor, a mark of confidence in the fuel and an opportunity for X-energy to prove its quality.

"This is an incredible milestone for the X-energy team as we will now have irradiation tested fuel for the first time," said Pete Pappano, PhD, Vice President of Fuel Production at X-energy.

"The project's data will enable licensing for our Xe-100 reactor, the safest, most economic and most advanced design for a small modular nuclear reactor."

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