US-based NANO Nuclear Energy has announced that Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has completed a pre-conceptual design review of its ODIN low-pressure coolant microreactor design. The review was requested by NANO Nuclear to provide an external audit of the technical work completed to date on the microreactor. Nano said the review served to ensure that it had “thoroughly considered the necessary aspects of its design and the applicable regulations for advancing the technology towards a commercial product”.
NANO announced development of ODIN in March 2023 “to diversify its technology portfolio, as the design requirements can be met through different technological solutions”. This followed earlier announcements about its ZEUS advanced nuclear micro reactor designed to be modular and to connect with local power grids or power systems, “revolutionising recovery from natural disasters and how remote communities, mining project, and military bases, among others, obtain consistent electricity”. The company said it is “committed to building smaller, cheaper, and safer nuclear energy for the future by incorporating the latest technology into its own proprietary novel reactor designs, intellectual properties, and research methods”.
NANO said the ODIN design will utilise conventional sintered pellet uranium dioxide (UO2) fuel with up to 20% enrichment, “helping to minimise the required development and testing programme schedule and costs”. The low-pressure coolant will “minimise the stress on structural components, improve their reliability and service life”. It will also “use a unique reactivity control system design, aiming to have high reliability and robustness through minimizing the number of moving parts”. The “ODIN” design will aim to take maximum advantage of natural convection of coolant for heat transfer to the power conversion cycle at full power and for decay heat removal during reactor shutdown, operational transients, and off-normal conditions.
The company website has extensive information on the global potential for nuclear in general and small reactors in particular. However, it has no information on the technology or reactor-type planned for either ZEUS or ODIN. It notes: “A handful of microreactor designs are under development and they could be ready to roll out within the next decade. These compact reactors will be small enough to transport by truck and could help solve energy challenges in a number of areas.”
NANO announced a Strategic Partnership Project Agreement with INL in April 2023 after which INL advanced its examination of ODIN through a panel of national laboratory engineers and scientists. NANO said it expects that INL will now perform a similar review of its proprietary ZEUS microreactor.
“Idaho National Laboratory has been instrumental in aligning our operations with the United States’ energy objectives and strategic direction,” said Jay Jiang Yu, NANO Founder & Executive Chairman. “Through the laboratory’s thorough evaluation … we have obtained enormously useful and valuable insights to assist our technological development.
INL reviewed the technical information provided by NANO on its reactor design, siting, fuel, and decommissioning strategy, culminating in a Panel Review Workshop to discuss every applicable area of the design and the future work required “to successfully deliver an optimised and market-driven product”. The review panel provided recommendations and outlined a path forward.
James Walker, NANO’s CEO and Head of Nuclear Reactor Development, said: “Idaho National Laboratory is a great resource to help the development and evolution of our advanced nuclear reactors. Their recommendations will serve to both optimise our reactor designs, and ensure these developments simultaneously align with national standards and licensing requirements.”
Image: Rendering of NANO’s low-pressure coolant microreactor “ODIN” (courtesy of NANO Nuclear Energy)