New regional centre to support Xe-100 fleet rollout

07 March 2023

X-Energy Reactor Company is to build a digital twin-based support centre as the first step in its Commercial Operations Services business to support the initial deployment of its advanced modular reactors. Meanwhile, Energy Northwest is hopeful that X-energy's recent announcement that the first Xe-100 reactor will be installed at a Dow site on the US Gulf Coast will help further plans for its own project in Washington state.

The PSCE will be based around a simulator of the plant's main control room (Image: X-energy)

X-energy's Plant Support Center-East (PSCE), a regional reactor fleet management, monitoring, and training facility, will be built in Frederick, Maryland. It will be centred on a high-fidelity main control room simulator that integrates real-time plant instrumentation and control systems with X-energy's custom 3-D virtual reality environment.

The centre's innovative technology builds on more than two years of work in partnership with the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy - or ARPA-E - programme and the US Electric Power Research Institute to develop a so-called "digital-twin" maintenance lab and a US-based, continuous fleet monitoring and diagnostics initiative, the company said. X-energy is combining this technology with artificial intelligence and machine learning into a suite of proprietary tools called Xe-100 Data Analytics Tools & Applications, or X-DATA, which it says will improve reliability as well as reduce predictive and preventative maintenance costs for its customers.

The PSCE is "just the starting point" of the company's fleet support strategy, X-energy CEO Clay Sell said: "Our customers expect much lower operating and maintenance costs than the large conventional nuclear fleet today, and X-energy is bringing an innovative business model to the market to meet that need. Modernising and centralising fleet services will help drive the cost-competitiveness of our Xe-100 technology as well as establish the potential for a sustainable, long-term business that generates consistent and recurring revenue for X-energy."

As the Xe-100 fleet grows, the company envisages expanding such regional centres to provide a wide range of support services to Xe-100 owners and operators in areas such as plant diagnostics, maintenance planning, outage scheduling, supply chains, human resources, and regulatory compliance.

Washington plant

The Xe-100 - a high-temperature gas reactor capable of a thermal output of 200 MW or (80 MW electrical) which uses fuel made from robust TRISO fuel particles - is one of two designs selected by the DOE in 2020 to receive USD80 million each of initial cost-shared funding to build an advanced reactor demonstration plant that can be operational within seven years. X-energy announced on 1 March that the first deployment of the design will be at one of materials science company Dow's sites on the US Gulf Coast.

The first commercial deployment of the Xe-100 had previously been expected to be a four-unit plant near Energy Northwest's Columbia nuclear power plant in Washington.

Following Dow and X-energy's joint announcement on 1 March, Energy Northwest CEO Bob Schuetz said the company remains committed to deploying an advanced SMR in Washington state by the end of the decade, and that the Xe-100 is its preferred technology.

Energy Northwest is an independent joint operating agency of Washington state, and was a partner on both TerraPower and X-energy's funding applications for support under the DOE's Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). However, the company said on 1 March that it does not have the "significant development capital" to initiate the project without a committed off-taker, compared with a company such as Dow. But working collaboratively with Dow "will put us in a strong position to gain the commitments necessary to take the next steps to build an Xe-100 in central Washington," the company said, adding "our focus is on securing project financing, and we have identified several viable pathways to successfully execute this project".

"Dow's selection of the Xe-100 confirms what our own analysis found: X-energy's innovative technology will be a vital tool in our clean energy transition," Schuetz said.

"As X-energy demonstrates its technology alongside Dow as part of ARDP, we will support and learn from their work to optimise, deliver, and develop future projects together. Working collaboratively to deploy multiple advanced reactors in a short timeframe will be beneficial to both Dow and Energy Northwest, as well as to the entire advanced nuclear industry."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News