Ultra Safe Nuclear looks to deploy microreactors in US by 2026

13 October 2020

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation's Micro Modular ReactorSeattle-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) is proposing to partner with Idaho National Laboratory (INL), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) to deploy its 15MWe high-temperature, gas-cooled Micro Modular Reactors (MMR™) in the US by 2026.

The USNC-led team seeks to demonstrate integrated energy systems with renewables and other clean energy technologies at INL, and to provide training and experimental capabilities and heat to UIUC.

The join proposal to host the microreactors has been put together under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), which seeks a commercial nuclear power plant in 5-7 years.

At the University of Illinois the plan is to demonstrate a single MMR operated as a Training, Research and Test Reactor, and to partially re-power the coal-fired Abbott power station by providing district heating and power to the UIUC campus. UIUC plans to develop the first generation of commercial microreactor opeartors and will also be involved in the MMR deisgn and integration, USNC said.

Ultra Safe Nuclear also proposes to site a MMR Energy System at the Idaho National Laboratory. This will be used to support the demonstration of INL’s Integrated Energy Systems (IES), which includes carbon-free production of hydrogen by thermo-chemical processes and other zero-carbon energy applications well suited to the high-temperature output of the MMR.

Electrical power and/or process heat is produced in the MMR ES, depending on configuration. Nuclear heat is transferred from the micro reactors to a molten salt energy storage unit that decouples the nuclear system from the power conversion system, simplifying operations and allowing flexible use of the energy generated. No water is required for cooling. The MMR Energy System can be used as a standalone power plant or as part of microgrids that include intermittent renewables such as solar or wind, USNC said.

“Our breakthrough technology, grounded in decades of work at places like INL and the University of Illinois, and our commercial strategy, based on private investments in multiple projects, will make the MMR solution affordable and widely available," said Francesco Venneri USNC’s CEO.

"Our rapid prototyping will allow the development of the next-generation MMR in the US with its manufacturing eco-system already in place in 2026," he added.

Demonstration of the MMR technology in the United States will also bring "a new level of affordability and reliability to clean power generation," with smaller nuclear plants deployable for tens of millions, rather than billions of dollars, USNC said. Costs of micro nuclear technology, like renewable energy, are expected to drop rapidly as manufacturing techniques advance and smaller and safer nuclear reactors gain wider acceptance.

The deployment of the MMR in the USA will be supported by a first-generation reactor demonstration at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories at Chalk River, USNC said. The regulatory review of the proposed ARDP project will benefit from the Canadian project, as design verification and licensing work with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) will be shared with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), under a Memorandum of Cooperation signed in 2019.

Photo: Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation's Micro Modular Reactor

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