BWXT wins Project Pele contract; DOE awards $61 mln to nuclear projects

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Cross-section of a TRISO particle (Source: Department of Energy)

BWX Technologies has won a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) to build an advanced nuclear microreactor, the Project Pele full-scale transportable microreactor prototype, the company said.

The prototype, which will be built under a cost-type contract valued at around $300 million, will be completed and delivered in 2024 for testing at the Idaho National Laboratory.

BWXT expects some 120 employees will be working on the project over the next two years including around 40 skilled trades, engineers, and other positions.

“We are on a mission to design, build, and test new nuclear technology to protect the environment while providing power, and we are thrilled with this competitively bid award after years of hard work by our design and engineering team,” said BWXT Advanced Technologies President Joe Miller.

The reactor will be a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) and will operate at a power level of between 1 and 5 MWe. It will be powered by TRISO fuel which uses high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) that can withstand extreme heat.

The design is of multiple modules that contain the microreactor’s components in an around 6 meter-long, ISO-compliant CONEX shipping containers. The reactor can be assembled on-site and up and running within 72 hours and can be shut down, cooled down, disconnected, and removed for transport in less than seven days.

DOE awards $61 mln to nuclear projects

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded more than $61 million to 74 nuclear energy projects across the country in an effort to support nuclear technology development, infrastructure improvements, and career opportunities at more than 40 universities, the DOE said in a statement.

The funding is divided into three main areas; research and development ($53 million) which supports 49 rewards; Infrastructure improvements ($5.2 million), which builds up scientific infrastructure and upgrades research reactors at 20 universities and; Career development ($3.1 million), which awards five university scientists for their outstanding commitment to science and education.

“These awards are an investment in both the next generation of nuclear technology and the next generation of scientists and engineers,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

“With funding from DOE, our nation’s universities will spur innovation and keep driving us toward our carbon-free future.”

The DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy has awarded more than $931 million to advance nuclear energy research and train the next generation of nuclear engineers and scientists since 2009, the DOE said in the statement.

EDF SMR to be subject to joint regulatory review 

Électricité de France’s (EDF’s) NUWARD small modular reactor (SMR) design will be used as a test case for a European early joint review, led by the French Safety Authority (ASN) and with the participation of Czech (SUJB) and Finnish (STUK) nuclear safety authorities, the French utility said in a statement.

Close collaboration between national regulators is considered essential to move nuclear power from the large countries with an established regulator, such as the United States, Canada, and France, to smaller countries that want nuclear power but whose regulator is too new and inexperienced to handle the necessary paperwork.

The NUWARD review will be based on the current set of national regulations from each country, the highest international safety objectives and reference levels, and up-to-date knowledge and relevant good practices, EDF said.

Collaboration between ASN, SUJB, and STUK will increase their respective knowledge of each other’s regulatory practices at the European level, and harmonization of regulations and requirements in the 27-country economic bloc is an essential element to support aspirations of standardization of design and in-factory series production, it said.

“I warmly thank the French safety authority ASN and its European peers STUK and SUJB for leading this approach and I confirm EDF’s commitment to bringing its contribution to accelerate SMR deployment worldwide and play an essential part in achieving the net-zero target by 2050,” EDF Group Senior Executive Director in charge of Engineering and New Nuclear Projects Xavier Ursat said.

BEA, NASA select partner for moon reactor

U.S. DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) contractor Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) and NASA have selected proposals to design a fission surface power system (FSP) for applications on the moon, INL said in statement.

The project, sponsored by NASA, the DOE, and INL, aims to demonstrate a 40 kWe nuclear reactor on the moon by the end of the decade, the lab said.

The INL-awarded contracts are each valued at around $5 million and are looking at initial designs.

Twelve-month contracts for the Phase 1 design effort were awarded to Lockheed Martin, partnered with BWXT and Creare; Westinghouse partnered with Aeroject Rocketdyne; and a joint venture between X-Energy and Intuitive Machines, IX, partnered with Maxar and Boeing.

“The Fission Surface Power project is a very achievable first step toward the United States establishing nuclear power on the moon, and I look forward to seeing what each of these teams will accomplish,” INL Director John Wagner said. 

By Reuters Events Nuclear