US-based X-Energy Reactor Company has signed an agreement with the Export-Import Bank of Korea (Kexim) to explore project financing opportunities for the deployment of its Xe-100 advanced small modular reactor (SMR). Kexim will work with X-energy to provide financing for new or existing projects that utilise Korean manufacturing and supply chain partners.

This follows recently announced partnerships between X-energy and major Korean conglomerates Doosan and DL E&C. Both companies are expected to play significant roles in developing and manufacturing key components and systems for the Xe-100.

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 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. DOE says TRISO is “the most robust nuclear fuel on earth”. Since 2016, X-energy subsidiary TRISO-X has operated a pilot-scale nuclear fuel fabrication facility (TF3) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to further develop its TRISO-X fuel and support the Xe-100 reactor.

X-energy CEO J Clay Sell said: “Our Korean partners bring deep nuclear expertise and track strong records to support the successful deployment of our advanced nuclear technology on a global scale.”

Kexim Chairman & President Hee-sung Yoon said through the business agreement with X-energy, “we expect business opportunities of Korean companies to expand in various areas of the next-generation SMR field beyond water-cooled reactors”.

Image: J. Clay Sell, X-energy CEO (L) and Kexim Chairman & President Hee-sung Yoon (R) at the signing ceremony (courtesy of X-energy)