Energy Northwest is involved in two Department of Energy (DOE) grant funding opportunities to demonstrate advanced nuclear power reactor designs for small modular reactors. The company is partnering with Washington-based Terrapower and Maryland-based X Energy for this project. The $160 million award is split between the two companies with the potential for additional federal funding over the life of the project. DOE intends to invest $3.2 billion over seven years in the program, subject to future congressional appropriations.
Modular reactors operate with nuclear fission and are smaller than conventional reactors, allowing for manufacture at a plant and transport to a site for assembly. Modular reactors allow for less on-site construction, increased containment efficiency, and enhanced protection due to passive nuclear safety features. Also, with the rising share of wind and solar power, they are far more flexible than traditional reactors at integrating alternative power generation.
TerraPower, backed by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, has a group of partners including GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy who is using molten salt energy storage to provide flexibility over previous SMR designs. Other partners include engineering giant Bechtel, DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and a group of utilities, including Energy Northwest. A spokesman for Energy Northwest said that “any siting decisions for new plants is years away, while adding that the utility has potential sites available.”
The second award recipient, X-Energy, manufactures fuel that seals uranium particles in an inherently safe, protective coating, retaining the waste inside indefinitely. Also, X-energy designs plants that unlock the fuel’s potential in a process that’s as clean as wind or solar.
“We are honored that DOE selected X-energy and our utility partner Energy Northwest, to deliver our commercial-scale Xe-100 advanced reactor by 2027,“ said Clay Sell, X-energy CEO. “We commend DOE and Congress for recognizing the contribution of nuclear to the clean energy equation and in bringing this safe, secure, clean and affordable technology to the US and many countries around the world.