Maryland and X-energy examine coal-to-nuclear switch

15 June 2022

The USA’s Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) has awarded grants to Maryland-based X-energy and Frostburg State University to evaluate the benefits of repurposing a coal-fired electric generating facility with X-energy’s Xe-100 small modular reactor.

X-energy's Xe-100 (Image: X-energy)

In addition to the potential production of carbon-free energy, the evaluation will look at the plan's economic viability and wider benefits - such as reducing stranded asset costs, allowing well-paying jobs to remain in the region and providing business opportunities for the manufacturing and construction sector during the construction and maintenance phases. A joint analysis of the findings is due to be delivered later in the year.

The study focuses on a specific coal plant and, the MEA says, is "only the first step in a robust feasibility process for siting considerations" but is intended to help inform not only an initial siting proposal but also options for similar schemes in Maryland - which is on the east coast of the USA - and other states.

"We are experiencing a transition in our energy systems and must look for new opportunities and impactful approaches to provide reliable 24/7 power generation within our rapidly changing energy landscape," said MEA Director Mary Beth Tung.

"This is the right set of circumstances for Maryland to explore new ways to advance clean energy goals, while staying at the forefront of technological advancements. We are excited to partner with local Maryland-based companies like X-energy that are on the vanguard of new, advanced, clean energy technologies that prepare us for the future."

Maryland is seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2045.

The Xe-100 is a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, being deployed by X-energy under the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. It is designed to generate zero-carbon industrial process heat and electricity across numerous sectors of the economy with each reactor unit producing 80 MWe. There can be up to 12 reactor units at a single site, generating nearly 1 GWe of power.

"As a company established and growing in Maryland, we have already created more than 300 jobs here since 2019 and we are excited to help our home state explore expanded opportunities for nuclear power in the move toward cleaner, zero-carbon sources of energy," said X-energy CEO Clay Sell.

"Next-generation nuclear energy offers Marylanders an opportunity to create a more resilient grid for the future while drastically lowering costs and greenhouse gas emissions. The energy transition can and should build on the experience and expertise of the men and women currently powering communities across Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic. This partnership will evaluate how nuclear energy can enable clean energy goals and maintain jobs and economic security in energy-centred communities across the state," Sell added.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News