The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has signed three more memorandums of understanding (MOUs) related to small modular reactors at the 28th Conference of the Parties to the original 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) in Dubai. The latest agreements are with US-based small modular reactor (SMR) developers X-energy and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) as well as with UK-based developer of molten salt nuclear technology MoltexFLEX.

Earlier at COP28 ENEC signed three agreements with US SMR and micro-reactor vendors – GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), TerraPower and Westinghouse Electric. The agreements came after ENEC launched its ADVANCE programme, in the run up to CO28, aimed at leveraging the UAE’s experience in successfully delivering the four-unit Barakah NPP, constructed in Abu Dhabi by a South Korean consortium. ENEC said the ADVANCE programme is intended to harness the latest advancements in nuclear energy technologies and to strengthen the UAE's position as a leading nation in accelerating the global clean energy transition to Net Zero. The programme will evaluate the latest SMR and microreactor technologies and ENEC will work with national stakeholders to determine deployment pathways and international partners for technology and project collaboration opportunities.

The MOU with MoltexFLEX was signed by ENEC CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi, and MoltexFLEX CEO David Landon in the presence of British Ambassador to the UAE Edward Hobart and representatives from the UK government. Under the MOU with a joint working group will be set up to examine the commercial viability of deploying MoltexFLEX's 60 MWt/24 MWe FLEX molten salt reactor in the UAE. The FLEX reactor design – a thermal neutron (moderated) version of Moltex Energy's stable salt reactor technology – was launched by Moltex Energy subsidiary MoltexFLEX in September 2022.

ENEC and MoltexFLEX will assess using FLEX reactors for a range of industrial applications including desalination, hydrogen production and electricity generation. “We will also explore opportunities throughout the Middle East and beyond, which is aligned with MoltexFLEX’s vision for global deployment of the FLEX reactor,” Landon said.

ENEC’s MOU with USNC seeks to jointly explore commercial development of USNC's Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR) energy systems and paves the way for potential commercialisation of the MMR in the UAE, USNC said. Further areas of collaboration within the UAE include workforce and supply chain development and project delivery, along with a potential framework for ENEC to lead MMR deployments across the region in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and other areas covered by the Three Seas Initiative. Dr Francesco Venneri, USNC Founder & CEO said the MMR “will play an important role for Emiratis as the nation continues towards deep decarbonisation hand-in-hand with prosperity for Emiratis and other nations across the region”.

The MMR features the high temperature helium-cooled MMR unit providing up to 45 MWt of heat, delivered into a centralised heat storage unit which can combine the heat from one or more reactors. Electric power or superheated steam can then be extracted from the storage unit for various uses. USNC has also developed and patented its own TRISO-based, additively manufactured FCM fuel for use in the MMR.

The MOU with X-energy, signed by Al Hammadi and X-energy CEO Clay Sell will see the two parties work together to assess technical design and commercial viability of X-energy's nuclear technologies for the UAE market, to meet the growing demand for clean electricity generation, along with generating steam, heat and hydrogen to decarbonise industry. The companies will also evaluate potential project partnerships for developments in the UK and Europe and will develop a regional deployment framework for ENEC-led projects in the Middle East, Africa, and Indian subcontinent, X-energy said.

X-energy is developing the Xe-100 pebble bed high-temperature gas reactor as well as proprietary TRISO-X tri-structural isotropic encapsulated particle fuel. "Our partnership will explore the many ways we can combine X-energy's leading technology with ENEC's delivery expertise to address a broad range of decarbonisation challenges in the region and around the world," said Sell.

The statement on the MOU said the agreement also helps advance the US-UAE Partnership for Accelerating Clean Energy (PACE), which was launched in November 2022 and aims to help catalyse $100bn in clean energy and decarbonisation projects by 2035. A White House fact sheet noted that PACE “intends to tap available resources and public and private sector expertise in the US and the UAE and expedite investment in and deployment of new technologies to drive down cost”. PACE also “supports the full-scale implementation of the civil nuclear cooperation between the US and the UAE. The three earlier MOUs with GEH, TerraPower and Westinghouse also cited PACE as the context for their co-operation with ENEC, indicating the key role of the US in the signing of these agreements.

In March, ENEC had also signed a letter of intent with the US Idaho National Laboratory (INL) as a basis for discussions regarding INL working with ENEC on clean molecule generation systems that could be deployed at the Barakah NPP such as hydrogen, ammonia, oxygen, water and steam, with the long-term view to export clean hydrogen and ammonia to meet growing global demand. INL also announced its intention to partner with ENEC on its Net-Zero Nuclear platform at COP28.

Relations with the US were also strengthened during COP28. An MOU signed between the UK Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ) and ENEC paved the way to “explore potential collaboration opportunities in the deployment of large-scale nuclear reactors, in addition to advanced nuclear technologies (including small modular reactors), as well as a host of related fields, from nuclear security to the supply of nuclear fuel”. ENEC and DESNZ will also share lessons learned in project delivery of large-scale reactors, as well as efficiency improvements, best practices in government and commercial project financing, and site and technology selection. Al Hammadi noted that the Net Zero Nuclear summit was “the perfect platform to sign and agree on new areas of cooperation with trusted partners as we collectively work towards faster climate action”.


Image: Clockwise from left – ENEC has signs MoUs with MoltexFLEX, X-energy, INL and USNC (courtesy of  X/@ENEC_UAE, MoltexFlex, USNC)