Aalo prepares for US licensing of microreactor

10 July 2024

Aalo Atomics has submitted a pre-application regulatory engagement plan (REP) with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for its Aalo-1 microreactor, detailing the planned pre-licensing application interactions with the regulator.

(Image: Aalo Atomics)

An REP helps reactor developers' early interactions with NRC staff and can reduce regulatory uncertainty and add predictability to licensing advanced technologies. There is no regulatory requirement for an REP, and the guidelines note that the topics and appropriate level of detail a prospective applicant would wish to include are entirely voluntary and should be agreed upon in discussions between the applicant and NRC staff.

Austin, Texas-headquartered Aalo said: "By setting expectations, building trust, and addressing the NRC's questions and concerns early on, we aim to create a safe, socially acceptable, and commercially viable Aalo-1 reactor for the Idaho Nuclear Project."

The company said that initially, this project will feature seven independent Aalo-1 reactors, potentially expanding to an additional seven reactor units.

"Once we get the green light and start construction, this will be the highest number of nuclear reactors at a single site in the US - a game-changer for small reactor clusters," Aalo said. "This plant will help our partner utility provide affordable, reliable electricity to meet current and future energy and sustainability needs. We aim to have it up and running by 2029."

In May, Aalo announced it had completed the conceptual design of the Aalo-1 - a factory-fabricated 10 MWe sodium-cooled microreactor that uses uranium zirconium hydride (UZrH) fuel elements. It plans to construct a full-scale, non-nuclear prototype of the reactor that will be used to test and refine its technology, ensuring that Aalo-1 meets its technical, regulatory, and economic targets.

The company also said in May that it had signed a siting memorandum of understanding with the Department of Energy (DOE), marking the first step towards deploying its first Aalo-1 reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) site in Idaho. "While not yet confirmed, Aalo intends to leverage this siting MoU towards locating the first Aalo-1 reactor at the Central Facilities Area site within INL, a location chosen to collocate with newly constructed megawatt-scale electrolysers, and INL's upcoming hydrogen motorcoach fleet," Aalo said.

It plans to submit a combined construction and operating licence application (COLA) for the project in 2026.

In December last year, Aalo was among the first FY2024 recipients announced for GAIN vouchers. The federally funded vouchers aim to accelerate the innovation and application of advanced nuclear technologies by providing companies access to the extensive nuclear research capabilities and expertise of the US Department of Energy's national laboratory complex.

GAIN - Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear - is an initiative launched in 2016 by the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy which helps businesses overcome critical technological and commercialisation challenges of nuclear energy technologies through a voucher system, giving stakeholders access to the DOE's R&D facilities and infrastructure to support the cost-effective development of innovative nuclear energy technologies. All awardees are responsible for a minimum 20% cost-share, which could be an in-kind contribution.

Aalo was awarded GAIN vouchers to collaborate with INL to evaluate modelling and simulation capabilities for the fuel and core system of the Aalo-1 microreactor, which is inspired by INL's planned MARVEL microreactor.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News