Energy Northwest and X-energy sign joint development agreement

20 July 2023

US utility Energy Northwest and X-Energy Reactor Company, which is developing advanced small modular reactors (SMRs) and fuel technology have signed a joint development agreement (JDA) for up to 12 of X-Energy’s Xe-100 SMRs in central Washington capable. Together, they would generate up to 960 MWe and Energy Northwest expects to bring the module online by 2030.

Energy Northwest owns or operates numerous generating facilities throughout the Northwest region of the USA, including Columbia Generating Station in Richland. Under the JDA, the Xe-100 project is expected to be developed at a site controlled by Energy Northwest adjacent to the Columbia plant.

The Xe-100 is a high-temperature gas reactor with a thermal output of 200 MWt or an electrical output of 80 MWe. It is one of two designs selected by the US Department of Energy in 2020 to receive $80m each of initial cost-shared funding to build an advanced reactor demonstration plant that can be operational within seven years. The Xe-100 evolved from both the UK’s Dragon reactor at Winfrith in Dorset and the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor project in South Africa. It will use TRIstructural ISOtropic (TRISO) fuel comprising three layers of carbon and ceramic materials that surround kernels or balls of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel.

X-energy was selected by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to receive up to $1.2bn in matching funds under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) to develop, license, build, and demonstrate an operational advanced reactor and fuel fabrication facility by the end of the decade. X-energy has since completed the reactor engineering and basic design and is developing a fuel fabrication facility in Oak Ridge in Tennessee.

Energy Northwest and X-energy have discussed plans for an Xe-100 facility in central Washington since 2020. The JDA defines and details the scope, location, and schedule for commercial development of the project. The companies will also work together to determine the best approaches to licensing and regulatory matters, as well as the project delivery model.

Bob Schuetz, CEO of Energy Northwest said, as the Northwest US developed a future clean energy grid, it will need new sources of dependable, carbon-free power. “X-energy's Xe-100 advanced reactor technology possesses many attributes ideally suited to a carbon-constrained electric system,” he noted.

X-energy CEO J Clay Sell said: “X-energy is eager to bring the insights and learnings from our ARDP experience to successfully deliver an Xe-100 nuclear power plant in central Washington. Energy Northwest's experience as a leading nuclear operator in the region uniquely positions it to showcase the benefits and scalability of advanced nuclear." In May 2023, Dow selected its UCC Seadrift Operations manufacturing site on the Texas Gulf Coast for X-energy's first deployment of the Xe-100 as part of the ARDP.

Image: The Columbia Generating Station (courtesy of Energy Northwest)

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