US DOE signs agreement to develop X-energy’s Microreactor

1 November 2023

US-based X-Energy Reactor Company has signed a cooperative agreement with the US Department of Energy (DOE) to 2024 to further advance the development of its mobile microreactor design. The agreement, awarded through the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, supports continuing work on architecture and key technologies for the preliminary design of X-energy’s transportable nuclear plant.

X-energy says its transportable microreactor is designed to generate in the range of 3-5MWe and should be cost-competitive with remote diesel power. X-energy will initiate pre-licensing engagement with the NRC, in order to enable a broad range of deployment possibilities to decarbonise off-grid, remote, or small-scale grid resiliency needs.

“We are grateful for the DOE’s continued support and plan to use this latest award, totalling approximately $2.5m, to continue advancing our mobile microreactor beyond technical feasibility to commercial reality,” said Georgette Alexander-Morrison, X-energy’s Vice-President of Government Programs. “This DOE award underscores our role as a leading microreactor developer. We intend to build on our expertise in next-generation nuclear reactor and fuel design, transportable nuclear systems, and small nuclear solutions for space to create a clean and practical microreactor to be competitive with fossil fuel-based power generation used today for commercial and government agency applications.”

In 2020, the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) Strategic Capabilities Office selected X-energy, as part of its Project Pele initiative, to design a prototype mobile microreactor capable of producing 1-5 MWe to support mission-critical operations in remote military locations. The DOD in September expanded its agreement with X-energy to develop a cost-effective design for a transportable advanced nuclear microreactor prototype for use in remote military locations or other strategic missions.

X-energy is working in parallel – through DOE- and DOD-funded agreements – on advanced microreactor designs intended to make the technology commercially viable in the marketplace.

Dr Hans Gougar, X-energy’s lead microreactor engineer said that with DOE and DOD support the combined support of the DOE and DOD “we are confident that we can reduce costs and deliver a solution that meets the needs of both civilian and military users.”

DOE, through its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), is also supporting initial deployment of X-energy’s Xe-100 advanced reactor and the creation of the first US commercial facility to manufacture TRISO-X high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel for next-generation reactors. DOE awards under its Advanced Reactor Concepts programme supported development of X-energy conceptual and basic design of the Xe-100 reactor and the TRISO-X fuel facility. In addition, funding from the DOE’s ARPA-E programme helped develop operational innovations – such as automation, robotics, remote and central maintenance, and diagnostic monitoring – in the Xe-100 design.

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