Partnership unveils plan for helium test facility

03 April 2023

X-Energy Reactor Company, LLC and Kinectrics have announced a partnership to design, construct and operate a commercial-scale facility to test and verify the performance of critical structures, systems, and components of X-energy’s Xe-100 advanced small modular reactor (SMR) in helium-based high-temperature and high-pressure environments.

(Image: X-energy)

The facility will be one of the first commercial-scale helium test facilities (HTF) in North America.

The companies expect to announce the HTF site this summer and complete its detailed design in 2023, with the goal of having an operational facility in 2025. Data collected from testing in the HTF will be used to refine Xe-100 start-up and commissioning procedures and to gain critical operating experience to inform future reactor maintenance, operations, and staff training.

"The Helium Test Facility is an integral part of testing our systems and components in expected operating conditions and verifying their safety, operability, and reliability," X-energy CEO Clay Sell said. It will also drive additional potential optimisations of X-energy's reactors, he added.

The Xe-100 - a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor - will use circulating helium gas to transfer heat from the reactor core through a heat exchanger to generate high-temperature steam that can be used to generate electricity or supply heat for industrial processes. The HTF will test Xe-100 components and instruments under operating conditions and without the presence of any nuclear materials. These tests will enable design verification and give Kinectrics and X-energy performance data on key reactor systems, X-energy said.

Kinectrics CEO David Harris said the testing provided by the HTF will support "timely commercialisation" of the Xe-100. "This project is part of a long-term partnership between X-energy and Kinectrics. We expect the Xe-100 will produce electricity and high temperature process steam in a safe and reliable manner, which enables our clean energy future," he said.

X-energy is receiving support from the US Department of Energy, under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, to deliver a four-module version Xe-100 demonstration plant and a commercial TRISO fuel fabrication facility. The company has recently agreed to work with materials science company Dow to develop a four-unit Xe-100 facility at one of Dow's US Gulf Coast sites. This will be supported by testing and design validation at the HTF, X-energy said. Energy Northwest has also named the Xe-100 as its preferred technology for the prospective deployment of an SMR in Washington state by the end of the decade.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News