Prodigy and Westinghouse to develop floating NPP

25 January 2024

Canadian firm Prodigy Clean Energy and US-based Westinghouse are designing a transportable NPP (TNPP) featuring a Westinghouse eVinci microreactor with the aim of launching the first project in Canada by 2030. The TNPP will comprise 5 MWe eVinci microreactors installed on a floating Prodigy Microreactor Power Station. According to a Westinghouse blog, the TNPP would be pre-fabricated and transported to site to supply power and heat to “remote industrial sites, data centres, communities, defence installations, and to islands and island nations”.

To date, the only operational purpose-built floating NPP is Rosatom’s 70 MWe/58 MWt Akademik Lomonosov moored at Pevek in Chukotka in the Russian Arctic Russia’s Far East, which began supplying heat and power to the region in May 2020. Rosatom is in the process of building several morefor Artic industrial sites.

According to Westinghouse, “The IAEA defines a TNPP as ‘a factory manufactured, movable nuclear power plant… capable of producing final energy products such as electricity and heat’.” it said. “This includes ‘Floating Nuclear Power Plants’ that are docked close to where the energy is needed, reducing the need for building the permanent infrastructure.”

Prodigy’s design is for a shipyard-fabricated vessel that would be outfitted and transported by a dedicated heavy-lift carrier to its mooring. “But then the deployment itself would have specific infrastructure in place to hold and house the vessel in a safe place,” Prodigy Clean Energy President & CEO Mathias Trojer explained during a November 2023 panel at the IAEA’s first symposium on FNPPs. This is in effect a replica of the Akademik Lomonosov project.

Trojan added: “We are merging proven technologies in nuclear engineering and nuclear civil construction with decades of experience in marine manufacturing, [operations and maintenance (O&M), lifecycle management of vessels, and integrating these with well-established approaches to nuclear and heavy equipment transport.” He said: “By selecting SMRs with proven safety and operability features at an adequate level of technology readiness, and capitalizing on best practices across these three industries, Prodigy will deliver FNPPs that are safe, robust, economical, but most importantly, licensable under current frameworks and ready for near-term implementation.” However, as yet, the eVinci technology is not proven and still in the design stage,

Prodigy is developing two TNPP projects - the Microreactor Power Station, which can be marine or land-based, and a Grid-Scale Station, which would be installed at a shoreline within a protected harbour. Prodigy earlier signed a memorandum of understanding with NuScale Power for a grid-scale marine TNPP with up to 12 NuScale modules (for a combined output of 924-MWe). The companies completed conceptual design and economic assessments for the potential project in 2021 but it remains to be seen how this will be affected by the recent cancellation of NuScale’s project with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) to construction of six SMRs at the US Department of Energy's (DOE’s) Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

The eVinci microreactor is a transportable reactor that is fully factory built, fuelled and assembled, and capable of delivering combined heat (up to 13 MWt) and power (up to 5 MWe). Its small size allows for standard transportation methods and rapid, on-site deployment, with superior reliability and minimal maintenance, making it suitable for use in remote locations. It will use TRISO fuel. It is one of several advanced reactor designs being supported through ARDP to help accelerate the development and deployment of new reactor technologies.

Westinghouse said work toward a potential TNPP design for the eVinci, has progressed relatively quickly. “A multinational corporation operating strategic critical minerals assets in Canada funded a study in 2019-2020 to identify more reliable clean energy sources. In the study, Prodigy assessed the eVinci microreactor for deployment in a marine facility fixed at shoreside to power a remote mine.”

In 2022, Westinghouse and Prodigy signed an agreement to further a potential TNPP design customised for eVinci. To date, supported by an award from Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund, the companies have completed “milestones” for conceptual engineering and regulatory studies. Westinghouse said the next steps include “completing the TNPP design for the eVinci microreactor, completing development of a nuclear oversight model for TNPP manufacturing, outfitting and transport, and progressing licensing and site assessments to support a first project in Canada by 2030”.

Addressing the IAEA panel in November, Trojer acknowledged that several challenges lie ahead for the widespread deployment of FNPPs. “Executing the development and deployment of an FNPP is a very complex exercise that needs to be carefully planned and systematically carried out,” he said. While the Akademik Lomonosov “is a highly successful proof of concept” as the industry sets out to “pioneer a new paradigm, there are significant questions that must be answered around the design, replicability, standardisation, the regulations, and more generally, the legal framework”.

Image: Artist's impression of the Prodigy Microreactor Power Station (courtesy of Westinghouse)

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