US industry forum the Next Generation Nuclear Plant Industry Alliance (NGNP Industry Alliance) has selected the Areva Generation IV high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR) concept as the optimum design for next generation nuclear plants.

The NGNP industry allowance represents the interests and views of the member companies that have taken a leadership role to mutually support and direct project plans to design, build, operate and use the HTGR technology. Members of the alliance include reactor vendors Areva and Westinghouse, the USA’s second largest nuclear utility Entergy, as well as chemical companies that could benefit from the use of high temperature reactors for process heat.

“Commercialization of next-generation nuclear technology is a critical component of securing clean sources of energy for the future,” said Fred Moore, executive director of NGNP Industry Alliance. “HTGR is the game changing technology for clean, safe nuclear energy production.”

The concept selected is the prismatic high temperature gas reactor advanced by Areva.

The reactor, rated at 625MWt has a modular design. Its outlet temperature would reach around 750°C, which is sufficient to support a broad range of market sectors, providing energy to industries such as electrical power generation, petrochemicals, non-conventional oil recovery and synthetic fuel production.

The prismatic reactor has been selected over the pebble bed design following a review of over thirty design characteristics of two pebble-bed and four prismatic reactor configurations carried out by Idaho National Lab (INL).

After reviewing this information NGNP came to the same conclusions as INL that there is no substantive technical differences between the concepts, nor is there expected to be a substantial difference in cost and that either design can be successfully licensed.

However NGNP said that economy of scale favours the prismatic design, making it a better business proposition. Currently, the pebble bed reactor design concept is limited to a rating of about 250 MWt per module compared to the prismatic design limitation of about 625 MWt per module.

“For a typical total installed plant capacity in the range 2400-3000 MWt (multiple modules), a ~30% lesser energy price would be expected for the 625 MWt module rating prismatic reactor design concept compared to the pebble bed design concept,” NGNP said in a recent paper.

NGNP also noted that Areva has the technical and design capabilities to develop a HTGR for the process heat co-generation and generation markets. The French company, which has been developing the prismatic HTGR design has also indicated a willingness to bring their background intellectual property in both pebble-bed and prismatic HTGRs to the Alliance for further development.

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