Partnership formed for advanced reactor deployment in Washington State

06 April 2021

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed by Energy Northwest, Grant County Public Utility District and X-energy to form a partnership to support the development and commercial demonstration of the USA's first advanced nuclear reactor. The TRi Energy Partnership aims to construct a plant based on X-energy's Xe-100 reactor design at Energy Northwest's existing Columbia site in Washington.

The signing of the MoU, watched by Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA-04) (Image: Energy Northwest)

The MoU was signed on 1 April in Richland, Washington, by Energy Northwest CEO Brad Sawatzke, X-energy CEO Clay Sell and Grant PUD CEO Kevin Sawatzke.

Through the MoU, the partners will collaborate and share resources to evaluate their mutual goal of siting, building and operating a Xe-100 advanced nuclear power plant with the potential to generate up to 320 MWe. Through the TRi Energy Partnership, the parties will evaluate each step of the project and identify the best approach to licensing, permitting, construction, operation and ownership.

The Xe-100 is an 80 MWe (scalable to a 320 MWe four-pack) high-temperature gas cooled reactor which uses TRISO (tristructural isotropic) particle fuel. It can integrate into large, regional electricity systems as a base and load-following source of carbon-free power, and can optimise grid use of low-emission, intermittent renewables and other clean energy resources, X-energy says. It can also provide a source of industrial process heat.

Washington has mandated 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045. According to the partners, the TRi Energy Partnership will provide invaluable carbon-free electricity to the grid, create new jobs and economic growth, establish the foundation for new renewable energy projects, and help achieve our climate goals with affordable, reliable clean energy.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) launched its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program in May 2020 to help domestic private industry demonstrate advanced nuclear reactors in the USA. The programme will speed the deployment of advanced reactors through cost-shared partnerships with the private sector.

X-energy was announced by the DOE in October 2020 as one of two awardees - the other being TerraPower - to receive USD80 million each of initial cost-shared funding to build an advanced reactor demonstration plant that can be operational within seven years. DOE selected X-energy to deliver a commercial TRISO fuel fabrication facility and a four-module version of its Xe-100 reactor, which the company plans to site at Energy Northwest’s Columbia nuclear plant. DOE will invest about USD1.23 billion in X-energy's project over the seven-year period.

"As Washington state implements the Clean Energy Transformation Act - requiring 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045 - new sources of reliable, affordable and emissions-free electricity will be needed across the region," Sawatzke said. "Advanced nuclear energy can and should play a vital role in our state's clean energy future: it does not emit greenhouse gases, is available around-the-clock, pairs well with renewables, and provides numerous benefits essential to grid reliability."

Nordt added: "This partnership signifies our strong interest in advanced nuclear energy as one of the best, lowest-cost options to reliably serve Grant County's growing communities and support their continued economic growth. The electricity generated by an Xe-100, and other advanced nuclear energy technologies, will be invaluable to our future carbon-free grid."

"Together we represent the three pillars on which a successful project will be built: X-energy's innovative Generation IV nuclear technology and fuel design; Energy Northwest's ideal site and proven operating experience and nuclear expertise; and in Grant PUD a forward-thinking, resourceful, and extremely well-run utility with an interest in new resources to meet growing demand," said Sell. "Combined with the Department of Energy's vital support and visionary leadership, we have the foundation on which to build the future of clean energy."

X-energy last year initiated a pre-licensing Vendor Design Review of the Xe-100 with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. It is one of three grid-scale small modular reactor (SMR) technology developers selected last year by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to advance engineering and design work, with the goal of identifying options for future deployment. OPG is considering the deployment of an SMR development at its existing Darlington site as early as 2028.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News