Department of Energy: US to invest in advanced nuclear power reactors
In support of the Administration’s goal to produce more carbon-free energy, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the selection of two companies, X-energy and Southern Company, to further develop advanced nuclear reactor designs. These awards, with a multi-year cost share of up to $80 million for both companies, will support work to address key technical challenges to the design, construction, and operation of next generation nuclear reactors.
“In order to ensure that nuclear energy remains a key source for US electricity generation well into the future, it is critically important that we invest in these technologies today,” said Secretary Moniz. “Public-private partnerships to develop advanced nuclear capabilities will enable low-carbon nuclear energy to power America for years to come.”
Nuclear power is a critical energy source that provides almost 20 percent of the electricity generated in the United States, and over 60 percent of the nation’s carbon free electricity. These awards provide an example of the public-private partnerships envisioned under the recently launched Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative. Announced at the White House last fall, GAIN provides the nuclear energy community with access to the technical, regulatory, and financial support necessary to accelerate the commercialization of advanced nuclear energy systems.
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Following a competitive process, DOE will fund cost-shared research and development activities with industry to support these two companies with performance-based advanced reactor concepts for further development in the areas of safety, operations, and economics. The projects announced today will allow industry led teams, which include participants from universities and national laboratories, to further nuclear energy technology, and will enable companies to further develop their advanced reactor designs with potential for demonstration in the 2035 timeframe. Initially, DOE’s investment will be $6 million for each project and both companies will provide cost-share. The possible multi-year cost-share value for this research is up to $80 million.
The two advanced nuclear power projects receiving awards today are:
X-energy – partnering with BWX Technology, Oregon State University, Teledyne-Brown Engineering, SGL Group, Idaho National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to solve design and fuel development challenges of the Xe-100 Pebble Bed Advanced Reactor. This type of reactor has next generation design and the most advanced safety features and it is also smaller than traditional nuclear reactors. These factors would potentially enable such a reactor to serve a wider array of communities – particularly densely populated areas – while ensuring public safety.
Southern Company Services – partnering with TerraPower, Electric Power Research Institute, Vanderbilt University, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to perform integrated effects tests and materials suitability studies to support development of the Molten Chloride Fast Reactor. The MCFR is also a next generation design with the most advanced safety features that enable its potential use across the country.
Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition
The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.
The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).
This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.
In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.
The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.