X-energy receives $6mn grant from the US Government
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."
Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process
Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.
Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.
The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content.
In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.
Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.
"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president.
“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.
"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.
Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.
Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.
A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.
The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.