27 Jan 2023
X-energy UK and Cavendish Nuclear convene British suppliers to support early deployment of advanced small modular reactors
- Mature technology means first UK unit targeted for 2030.
- Compact, modular plants would deliver zero-carbon heat for industry as well as flexible clean power
- Xe-100 reactor to use advanced fuel pioneered in the UK and build on decades of British expertise in high temperature reactors.
- Target of up to 80% of construction and manufacturing to be sourced in the UK
More than 70 British engineering, construction and manufacturing companies this week joined X-energy UK Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary of X-Energy Reactor Company LLC, and deployment partner Cavendish Nuclear, part of Babcock International Group, for a programme of presentations and meetings in Bristol, to explore how they can support the early roll-out of advanced nuclear power stations in the UK.
The plan is to deliver a fleet of advanced, small modular Xe-100 reactors in the UK to address the challenges of energy security and decarbonisation, with the first unit planned for commercial operation in 2030 and a goal to secure up to 80% of its construction and manufacturing from the UK supply chain. The technology is more compact than traditional nuclear plants with factory-built components easily assembled on site, making each one cheaper and quicker to construct, and with a greater range of available locations.
The reactors are designed to be capable of producing both electricity and higher-temperature heat and steam than conventional ‘small modular reactors’ and can supply electricity and heat for hydrogen production and replace fossil fuel-generated heat for industrial processes.
In addition, the spherical fuel ‘pebbles’ that act as containment vessels in themselves, are able to withstand extremely high temperatures and naturally remain stable in the event of any foreseeable disruptions. This intrinsic safety reduces the need for many of the largest, most expensive and time-consuming structures and systems found in traditional nuclear plants.
The Xe-100 can deliver reliable ‘always-on’ electricity as well as increase or decrease power levels safely within minutes to respond to varying demand or supply, making it an ideal complement to weather-dependent renewable energy, and reducing the need for gas-fired power stations or battery storage as a backup.
Carol Tansley, X-energy’s Vice President of UK New Build Projects said: “Until now it’s been widely expected that advanced reactors would not be ready until around 2040 at the earliest, but X-energy’s technology is ready for the market and advanced in its design and applications.
“We’re in discussions with various parties regarding siting options in the UK. The ability to significantly reduce emissions from industrial heat applications makes it a great technology for sites like Hartlepool on Teesside, which is already home to a nuclear power station.
“We’re keen to see the Government press ahead with its ambitious plans for a programme of nuclear power stations, including the establishment of the Great British Nuclear body. We believe we can follow hard on the heels of our US programme and deliver first power around 2030, supporting the UK’s energy security and environmental goals, in particular the drive to deliver 24GW of new nuclear power by 2050.”
Mick Gornall, Cavendish Nuclear Managing Director said: “We are looking to source components, systems, goods, services and a skilled workforce right here in the UK. We’re delighted to have had such a positive response to our first supplier outreach.”
X-energy and Cavendish Nuclear have applied for funding from the UK Government’s Future Nuclear Enabling Fund to support a Generic Design Assessment and supply chain development activities for the first project.
X-energy is already progressing its US Government-endorsed plans to build a ‘four-pack’ of its Xe-100 reactors in the USA with generation within the decade. It has also begun construction of a fuel fabrication facility for its proprietary advanced TRISO-X fuel in Tennessee. The company has raised over £1.5bn in US Government funding and private sector investment. Last year X-energy signed framework customer agreements with chemical company Dow in the US and Ontario Power Generation in Canada.
The Xe-100 builds on years of technological progress, evolving from both the UK’s Dragon reactor at Winfrith in Dorset and the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor project in South Africa, which was supported by the UK Government.
Deployable singly or in multiples, each reactor produces around 80 megawatts of electricity or 200 megawatts of the high-quality heat which is seen as essential for ‘deep decarbonisation’ of heavy industry.
The reactor is an ideal successor to the British Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor fleet, given the UK’s rich knowledge of gas graphite reactors. It uses tri-structural isotropic particle (TRISO) fuel, first patented in the UK in 1957. The highly-robust fuel pebbles encase uranium inside layers of carbon and ceramic based protection, preventing the release of fission products.
Companies interested in finding out more can contact X-energy and Cavendish Nuclear on [email protected].