Modular Nuclear Looks To Power Up Industrial, City Sites
Dow, X-energy join forces to supply nuclear power to Gulf Coast plant, while NuScale gets the go-ahead from western cities to build reactor despite cost increases.
Materials giant Dow and nuclear reactor developer X-energy Reactor Company have entered into a joint development agreement (JDA) to demonstrate the first grid-scale advanced nuclear reactor for an industrial site in North America, according to the companies.
As a sub-awardee under the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) Cooperative Agreement with X-energy, Dow intends to work with X-energy to install their Xe-100 high-temperature gas-cooled (HTGC) reactor plant at one of Dow’s US Gulf Coast sites and start providing the site reliable, low-carbon power and steam within this decade.
The JDA includes up to $50 million in engineering work, up to half of which is eligible to be funded through ARDP, and the other half by Dow. The JDA work scope also includes the preparation and submission of a construction permit application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
“The utilization of X-energy’s fourth-generation nuclear technology will enable Dow to take a major step in reducing our carbon emissions while delivering lower carbon footprint products to our customers and society,” said Jim Fitterling, Dow chairman and chief executive. “The collaboration with X-energy and the DOE will serve as a leading example of how the industrial sector can safely, effectively, and affordably decarbonize.”
Dow and X-energy expect to finalize site selection in 2023. Additionally, the companies have agreed to develop a framework to jointly license and utilize the technology and learnings from the project, which would enable other industrial customers to effectively utilize Xe-100 industrial low- carbon energy technology.
X-energy's Xe-100 is an 80 MWe reactor that can be scaled into a ‘four-pack’ 320-MWe power plant. With its modular design, the scale can grow even larger as needed.
X-energy’s HTGC technology can support broad industrial use applications through its high-temperature heat and steam output that can be integrated into and address the needs of both large and regional electricity and industrial manufacturing systems. The four-reactor Xe-100 nuclear plant is expected to provide the chosen Dow facility with cost-competitive, low-carbon process heat and power to make products used by consumers and businesses. X-energy’s simplified modular design is also road-shippable and intended to drive scalability, accelerate construction timelines, and create more predictable and manageable construction costs.
X-energy was selected by DOE in 2020 to receive up to $1.2 billion under the ARDP in federal cost-shared funding to develop, license, build, and demonstrate an operational advanced reactor and fuel fabrication facility by the end of the decade. Since that award, X-energy has completed the engineering and basic design of the nuclear reactor, advanced development of a fuel fabrication facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and is preparing to apply for licensure to the NRC.
Elsewhere, western cities involved with the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) have approved to continue with the development and deployment of the small modular reactor project lead by NuScale Power despite a notable cost increase.
NuScale plans to build a demonstration small modular reactor power plant at the Idaho National Laboratory. If successful, the six-reactor, 462-MW Carbon-Free Power Project will run in 2030.
The company said in January the target price for power from the plant is $89/MWh, up 53% from the previous estimate of $58/MWh. The increase raised concerns about whether customers would be willing to pay for the power it generates.
UAMPS, which includes participants in Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, and Nevada, voted 26-1 to approve a new budget and finance plan for the project. An application to construct and operate the plant is expected to be submitted to the NRC early next year.
“Despite the rising costs, felt worldwide by all large energy projects due to interest rates increases and rapidly escalating inflation in commodities such as fabricated plate and structural steel, copper wire, and cable, not seen for over 40 years, participants felt overwhelmingly that the project remains viable and is a key energy resource for the future,” said Mason Baker, UAMPS chief executive and general manager. “The project will support our decarbonization efforts, complement and enable more renewable energy, and keep the grid stable. It will produce steady, carbon- free energy for 40 years or longer.”
The first module is scheduled to be operational in 2029 to meet UAMPS’ timeline for replacing aging assets.