GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Advanced Reactor Concepts LLC said Monday they had agreed to collaborate in the development and licensing of an advanced small modular reactor that would have an initial focus of deployment in Canada.
The companies said they had signed a memorandum of understanding that paves the way for joining forces to develop a reactor “based on mature Generation IV sodium-cooled reactor technology with a target of pursuing a regulatory review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission through its Vendor Design Review process that would build on earlier technology licensing success in the United States.
The companies said the initiative was a “commercialization program,” meant to move forward on advanced reactor design that would compete with about 90 other small advanced reactor designs in development around the world. The companies also said they would take the next, inevitable steps of commercialization by including “near-term goals of confirming projected construction and operating costs, as well as the identification of a lead-plant owner/operator for the joint aSMR (advanced small modular reactor).”
Notably, the companies have made aSMR design progress that has both similarities and distinct differences.
Both have established improvements on the EBR-II integrated sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype first developed by Argonne National Laboratory between 1961 and 1994. “No U.S. fast spectrum reactor technology has more test data, design maturity, programmatic information or operational experience,” the companies noted.
However, the basic objectives of GEH's PRISM reactor and ARC Nuclear's ARC-100 design have to be reconciled. The ARC-100 design is a 100 MWe aSMR that is expected to operate for 20 years without the need for refueling. The PRISM design, on the other hand, will require refueling every 12 to 24 months. It has been designed around the concept of using transuranic fuel.
However, both designs share fundamental features, such as high energy neutrons, liquid sodium cooling and metallic fuel.
Both designs also answer to the problem of intermittent generation that is inherent in either wind or solar power, which faces the obstacles of cloudy or windless days.
Despite the challenges, ARC Nuclear Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Don Wolf expressed confidence in the collaboration, expecting it will “bring affordable, carbon-free utility-scale nuclear power to the evolving market landscape.
“While there are more than 90 advanced nuclear technology and small reactor designs under various stages of development, GEH and ARC Nuclear view sodium fast reactors as being the most mature advanced reactor technology with decades of real operating experience from more than 20 previous reactors,” the companies said.
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