Multiple Xe-100 SMRs planned for Washington State

19 July 2023

A joint development agreement (JDA) has been signed between US utility Energy Northwest and X-Energy Reactor Company for the deployment of up to 12 Xe-100 small modular reactors (SMRs) in central Washington State. Energy Northwest expects to bring the first Xe-100 module online by 2030.

The Columbia Generating Station (Image: Energy Northwest)

The agreement defines and details the scope, location, and schedule under which the commercial development of the project will move forward. The companies will also work together to determine the best approaches to licensing and regulatory matters, as well as the project delivery model.

Energy Northwest owns the Columbia Generating Station in Richland, Washington, which is the only commercial nuclear power plant in the region. Under the JDA, the Xe-100 project is expected to be developed at a site controlled by Energy Northwest adjacent to the Columbia plant.

The Xe-100 is an 80 MWe (scalable to a 320 MWe four-pack) high-temperature gas cooled reactor which uses TRISO (tristructural isotropic) particle fuel. It can integrate into large, regional electricity systems as a base and load-following source of carbon-free power, and can optimise grid use of low-emission, intermittent renewables and other clean energy resources, X-energy says. It can also support industrial applications with 200 MWt output per unit of high pressure, high temperature steam.

In May, industrial giant Dow selected its UCC Seadrift Operations manufacturing site in Texas for X-energy's first deployment of the Xe-100 as part of the US Department of Energy's (DOE's) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). X-energy was awarded USD1.2 billion from the DOE in 2021 under the ARDP in federal cost-shared funding to develop, license, build and demonstrate an operational advanced reactor and fuel fabrication facility by the end of the decade. Dow and X-energy plan to submit a construction permit application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission with the aim for construction work to begin in 2026.

The first commercial deployment of the Xe-100 had previously been expected to be a four-unit plant near Energy Northwest's Columbia nuclear power plant in Washington, which has mandated 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045. In April 2021, Energy Northwest and X-energy, together with Grant County Public Utility District, signed a memorandum of understanding to form a partnership to support the development and commercial demonstration of the USA's first advanced nuclear reactor. The TRi Energy Partnership aimed to construct an Xe-100 plant at Energy Northwest's Columbia site with the potential to generate up to 320 MWe.

"Energy Northwest's mission is to provide the region with clean, reliable and affordable electricity, and X-energy's innovative advanced reactor technology will be a valuable addition to our existing portfolio of carbon-free electric generating resources," said Energy Northwest CEO Bob Schuetz. "As the Northwest region of the United States pursues a future clean energy grid, it is clear it will need new sources of dependable, carbon-free power. X-energy's Xe-100 advanced reactor technology possesses many attributes ideally suited to a carbon-constrained electric system, and this agreement reflects our determination to deliver the technologies to meet growing clean energy needs".

"Energy Northwest is a leader in building the clean energy grid, and the advancement of our partnership is expected to help meet growing commercial and household demand for reliable carbon-free energy across the state of Washington," said X-energy CEO Clay Sell. "X-energy is eager to bring the insights and learnings from our ARDP experience to successfully deliver an Xe-100 nuclear power plant in central Washington. Energy Northwest's experience as a leading nuclear operator in the region uniquely positions it to showcase the benefits and scalability of advanced nuclear."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News