Funds awarded to assist Xe-100 deployment in the UK

04 April 2024

X-energy and Cavendish Nuclear have been granted GBP3.34 million (USD4.23 million) in funding from the UK government to develop plans for the deployment of X-energy's Xe-100 high temperature gas-cooled reactor in the country.

An artist's impression of a four-unit Xe-100 power plant (Image: X-energy)

X-Energy UK Holdings - a wholly owned subsidiary of the USA's X-Energy Reactor Company - and UK firm Cavendish applied to the UK's Future Nuclear Enabling Fund (FNEF) to support a Generic Design Assessment of the Xe-100 small modular reactor (SMR) and also supply chain development for the first proposed project.

The GBP120 million fund was launched by the UK government in May 2022. It is intended for potential nuclear projects with mature technologies that could be in a position to take a Final Investment Decision within the next parliament (ie by 2030). The fund aims to help industry reduce project risks so they are better positioned for future investment decisions.

The Department for Energy Security & Net Zero has now said the application "exceeded the quality thresholds across all four assessment criteria and successfully completed the department's due diligence and governance approvals processes". It noted the funding is the first the UK government has awarded to an advanced modular reactor technology for post-R&D commercialisation and business development activities.

"We are backing innovation in nuclear - from building large-scale plants better to encouraging new advanced technologies - to achieve our ambition for a quarter of our electricity to come from nuclear power by 2050," said Minister for Nuclear and Renewables Andrew Bowie. "This funding supports the next step in the development of advanced modular reactors and shows our commitment to keeping the UK at the forefront of nuclear technology."

The government's award of GBP3.34 million will be matched by X-energy for a total programme of GBP6.68 million. The companies will use the funds to develop UK-specific deployment plans including an assessment of domestic manufacturing and supply chain opportunities, constructability, modularisation studies and fuel management.

The Xe-100 is a Generation IV advanced reactor design which X-energy says is based on decades of HTGR operation, research, and development. Designed to operate as a standard 320 MWe four-pack power plant or scaled in units of 80 MWe, it is engineered to deliver reliable and load-following grid-scale power to electricity systems and to pair seamlessly with renewables. At 200 MWt of 565°C steam, the Xe-100 is also suitable for other power applications including mining and heavy industry.

X-energy and Cavendish - a wholly-owned subsidiary of Babcock International - are proposing to develop a 12-reactor plant at the Hartlepool site on Teesside in the northeast of England, to be ready by the early 2030s. The companies plan to build a fleet of up to 40 Xe-100 reactors in the UK.

"We are delighted to receive this FNEF award from the government. It reflects the readiness of our advanced technology to contribute to the UK's energy needs in the next wave of new nuclear," said Carol Tansley, X-energy’s UK market leader and vice president of projects. "Building on X-energy's initial deployment with Dow on the US Gulf Coast, we can create both jobs and long-term energy security in the UK with clean, reliable advanced nuclear power."

“As X-energy's UK deployment partner we're pleased to welcome this award as a key step forward," added Cavendish Nuclear Managing Director Mick Gornall. "A fleet of Xe-100s can complement renewables by providing constant or flexible power and produce steam to decarbonise industry and manufacture hydrogen and synthetic transport fuels. Deployment in the UK will create thousands of high-quality, long-term jobs across the country."

X-energy and Cavendish plan to engage with the UK nuclear regulators to evaluate approaches to licensing the Xe-100 for UK deployment. The design is already progressing through initial regulatory assessments in Canada and the USA.

The two companies also announced a partnership with Kier Group, a leading UK provider of construction and infrastructure services, to support constructability and supply chain analyses. Kier joins steel producer and engineer Sheffield Forgemasters and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) to support X-energy and Cavendish in completing the scope outlined in their FNEF proposal. The companies' goal is for 80% of the value of the Xe-100 projects to flow to UK firms.

Last year X-energy and Cavendish signed a memorandum of understanding with Howden, the Glasgow-based gas circulator manufacturer. They will also work with Nuclear Waste Services to review the approach to used fuel management.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News