US-based Paragon Energy Solutions has entered into a preferred supplier agreement with X-energy Reactor Company to provide instrumentation & control (I&C) systems for the Xe-100 advanced small modular reactor (SMR). These include the Reactor Protection System (RPS), the Post-Event Monitoring System, and the Neutron Instrumentation System.

The Xe-100 is a high-temperature gas reactor with a thermal output of 200 MWt or an electrical output of 80 MWe. It is one of two designs selected by the US Department of Energy (DOE) in 2020 to receive $80m each of initial cost-shared funding to build an advanced reactor demonstration plant that can be operational within seven years. The Xe-100 evolved from both the UK’s Dragon reactor at Winfrith in Dorset and the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor project in South Africa.

It will use TRIstructural ISOtropic (TRISO) fuel comprising three layers of carbon and ceramic materials that surround kernels or balls of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel.

Paragon President & CEO Doug VanTassell said Paragon continues to partner with companies such as X-energy “to find optimal solutions that ensure safe operation of nuclear reactors”. Paragon's HIPS FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) system, which has been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for use in nuclear protection systems, is an important part of this safety equation, he added.

Clay Sell, X-energy CEO said safety “is the most important objective of our company, our people, and our products – and Paragon is helping us achieve those goals”. He noted: “This partnership allows us and Paragon to ensure a system that is more effective and secure, and less costly and complex than legacy systems used by older nuclear power plants."

Over the past two years, X-energy worked with Paragon to develop, deliver, install, and test the RPS prototype system for the plant simulator. Paragon is expected to build and deliver the four-division RPS to all Xe-100 plants around the world when they are deployed. The RPS is a set of independent and redundant instrumentation and control components that enable the nuclear reactor to automatically and safely shut down, providing an added layer of protection for the plant and its environment.

Image: A look inside X-energy's pioneering Xe-100 reactor (courtesy of X-energy)