BWXT to evaluate microreactor deployment in Wyoming

13 September 2023

BWX Technologies Inc has been contracted by the Wyoming Energy Authority (WEA) to assess the viability of deploying microreactors in the state. The value of the contract was not disclosed.

Concept of a site housing six BANR reactors (Image: BWXT)

Lynchburg, Virginia-based BWXT said its BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC subsidiary will execute the two-year contract in close consultation with the State of Wyoming and other Wyoming organisations and companies.

During phase one of the contract, BWXT will work with Wyoming industries to define the requirements basis for nuclear applications of base heat and power needs of the trona mining operations within the state. BWXT will also perform engineering work to further the design of BWXT's Advanced Nuclear Reactor (BANR) microreactor system that can integrate into Wyoming's future power needs. This work will also include identifying areas where Wyoming's existing supply chain can demonstrate capabilities for reactor component manufacturing and support reactor deployment. BANR is a 50 MW (thermal) high-temperature gas microreactor that uses a form of TRISO (TRIstructural-ISOtropic) fuel.

Based on the outcomes of the first phase, phase two of the contract will entail BWXT furthering the design basis of BANR to meet the specific needs of potential Wyoming end users. A demonstration of the capabilities of Wyoming manufacturers would also be performed to validate the supply chain activities completed in phase one.

Throughout both phases of the contract, BWXT will leverage existing US Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) achievements through the company's collaboration with Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and other internal BWXT research and development investments. Through the ARDP, BWXT and DOE have been developing the BANR microreactor since 2021, and this effort in Wyoming represents an acceleration of BWXT's commercial nuclear development efforts.

"At the end of this project, the potential job-creation, manufacturing and industrial opportunities for nuclear power in Wyoming will be clearer, and we will have a roadmap for deploying microreactors in the state," said BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC President Joe Miller. "When state and federal agencies work together with the private sector, we expect the economic and environmental benefits of nuclear innovations will be unlocked."

"BWXT and the State of Wyoming are leaders in forging innovative partnerships and innovative business frameworks that will help transform Wyoming's economy and help secure the nation’s energy future," said Steven Aumeier, senior advisor for strategic programmes at INL, which has been providing strategic and technical support to the State of Wyoming under a memorandum of understanding signed in May 2022.

"BWXT's microreactor project presents the possibility of creating additional resources for industrial end users in Wyoming - thereby helping further a full value chain nuclear industry in Wyoming, advancing and diversifying our economy," said WEA Executive Director Rob Creager. "Wyoming is in the unique position to be able to contribute funding for these innovative projects and believes this further demonstrates the strength of the Wyoming Energy Authority's public-private partnerships."

Last month, BWXT's project was one of two recommended by WEA to Governor Mark Gordon to receive nearly USD10 million each from the Energy Matching Funds programme which was established by the state legislature in 2022 to provide matching funds for research, demonstration, pilot projects or commercial deployment projects related to Wyoming energy needs. Management of the fund is delegated by the governor to the WEA.

The other project recommended by WEA is a carbon storage hub project led by the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources in partnership with Frontier Carbon Solutions. It recommended that both receive their recommended awards - USD9,999,802 for the BWXT project and USD9,135,000 for the Sweetwater Carbon Storage Hub project - in full. The total cost of the BWXT project is USD20.6 million.

Kemmerer in Wyoming was selected in 2021 as the preferred site for TerraPower's Natrium demonstration project, featuring a 345 MWe sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system. The reactor is scheduled to begin operating by 2030.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News