US-based Westinghouse Electric Company has completed manufacture of a 3.7-metre-long heat pipe that will be used to support the Nuclear Test Reactor (NTR) Westinghouse aims to operate by 2026.

The project is backed by the US Department of Energy's Advanced Reactor Demonstration Project (ARDP) through a $9m cost-share project. Westinghouse says the heat pipe, which was manufactured at its facility in Waltz Mill in Pennsylvania, “is one of the largest of its kind ever built”. Previously, the company was manufacturing and testing heat pipes just over 1 metre in length.

The pipes are made of a specialised iron, chromium, and aluminium alloy engineered for superior heat resistance and performance. Westinghouse intends to manufacture hundreds of them to transfer heat away from the NTR fuel. The data collected by NTR will be used to inform the design of the eVinci microreactor that Westinghouse says will be operational at commercial sites within the decade. The company is currently working with Texas A&M, along with the Los Alamos and Idaho national laboratories to analyse and test components for the heat pipe and for a novel moderator for the NTR.

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.

In February, Westinghouse filed a Notice of Intent to submit key licensing reports for eVinci to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for joint review.

Image: Members of the Westinghouse team with the heat pipe (courtesy of Westinghouse)