US company X-energy announced on 11 August that it had initiated a Vendor Design Review (VDR) for its Xe-100 small modular reactor (SMR) design with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). In preparing to site the advanced nuclear technology reactors in Canada, with partners across the Canadian supply chain, X-energy has found the ideal environment to develop and deploy the 75 MWe reactors, scalable to a 300 MWe four-unit plant, to meet the world’s growing need for clean energy solutions, the company said.
The Xe-100 is a 200 MWt (75 MWe) reactor will use tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) fuel that seals uranium particles in a protective coating, which makes meltdown impossible and retains the waste inside. Each Triso particle has a kernel of uranium oxycarbide enriched to 10% uranium-235, encased in carbon and ceramic layers which prevent the release of radioactivity. X-energy reached an agreement in May with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the Institute's Nuclear Reactor Laboratory to use its research reactor to irradiate its TRISO-X fuel.
X-Energy said its reactor brings baseload power and load-following to electricity systems that include intermittent renewables and can provide energy self-sufficiency for remote communities meeting electricity, heating and needs such as water desalination. Furthermore, the high-temperature steam and co-generation features make it ideal as a carbon-free source for hydrogen production, mining and other resource projects.
“It transforms how we think about optimising energy systems,” says X-energy Country Manager Katherine Moshonas Cole. “The Xe-100 can serve as a catalyst for development of a Canadian SMR industry that will be a world leader, to provide accessible, affordable, safe and reliable energy, wherever it is needed globally.”
The reactor design builds on decades of High Temperature Gas Reactor (HTGR) operation and R&D. As a result, the VDR submissions reflect a well-advanced design based on inherent and passive safety. Due to the advanced state of design, the VDR is a combined Phase 1 and Phase 2 review. Kinectrics will lead X-energy’s Canadian regulatory affairs and licensing efforts. The advance regulatory review will demonstrate X-energy’s understanding of Canadian requirements and confirm there are no fundamental licensing barriers for the Xe-100 in Canada. The process will also provide the company valuable early feedback to further strengthen its design.
The pre-licensing VDR is offered by CNSC as an optional service to assess a nuclear power plant design based on a vendor's reactor technology. It is not a required part of the licensing process for a new nuclear power plant, but aims to verify the acceptability of a design with respect to Canadian nuclear regulatory requirements and expectations. The three phases of the VDR process involve: a pre-licensing assessment of compliance with regulatory requirements; an assessment of any potential fundamental barriers to licensing; and a follow-up phase allowing the vendor to respond to findings from the second phase.