BWX Technologies selected to build the microreactor for Project Pelé: New Nuclear

June 09, 2022

The first full-scale transportable microreactor prototype will be completed and delivered in 2024 for testing at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

Transportable microreactors can deliver clean, carbon-free power where and when it’s needed in a variety of austere conditions (Image: BWXT)

The Office of Strategic Capabilities (SCO) of the United States Department of Defense (DOD) announced in April its decision to proceed with the project to build and demonstrate a prototype mobile microreactor powered by TRISO at the INL site following the publication of a final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the reactor. Two companies – BWXT and X-Energy – were selected in 2019 to develop a final prototype reactor design.

BWXT has now been awarded a contract by SCO to complete and deliver the reactor in 2024. The prototype will be built under a contract-type cost of approximately $300 million, depending on options selected, by BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC in facilities in Lynchburg, Virginia and Euclid, Ohio. Some 120 employees are expected to work on the project over the next two years, the company said.

“We are on a mission to design, build and test new nuclear technology to protect the environment while providing energy, and we are delighted with this competitive award after years of hard work by our design team and engineering,” said Joe, president of BWXT Advanced Technologies. said Miller. “The entire nuclear industry recognizes that advanced reactors are an important step forward in meeting growing energy needs and significant carbon reduction imperatives.”

SCO has partnered with the Department of Energy to develop, prototype and demonstrate a transportable reactor in what has been described as a whole-of-government effort, also drawing on expertise from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the US Army Corps of Engineers, NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration. Transportable reactors that can provide clean, carbon-free power where and when needed can provide a resilient power source for DOD operational needs, but can also potentially be used in the civilian and commercial sectors for disaster response and recovery, remote power generation locations and deep decarbonization initiatives.

The high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) will operate between 1 and 5 MWe and will be transportable in commercially available shipping containers, BWXT said. It will be powered by TRISO (TRIstructural-ISOtropic) low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel with high dosage, capable of withstanding extreme heat and presenting very low environmental risks.

The transportable design consists of multiple modules that contain the microreactor components in 20-foot (6-meter) long, ISO-compliant CONEX shipping containers, BWXT said. The reactor is designed to be moved quickly and safely by road, rail, sea or air, and the entire reactor system is designed to be assembled on site and operational within 72 hours. Shut down, cool down, disconnect and remove for transport are designed to take less than seven days.

team effort

BWXT is the prime contractor and integration lead, responsible for manufacturing the reactor modules, with Northrop Grumman, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Rolls-Royce LibertyWorks and Torch Technologies, Inc, among other companies playing key roles in the project.

The reactor and fuel will be shipped separately to the test site, where refueling will take place. The system will then undergo up to three years of testing at the INL to confirm its performance and operability. It will also be disassembled and reassembled to prove its transportability.

Since the project is not commercial, the prototype reactor will be tested and operated under authorization from the Department of Energy. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission also participates in the project to provide accurate and up-to-date information on applicable regulations and licensing processes.

Research and writing by World Nuclear News

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