SMR completes Canadian design review milestones

18 January 2024

Canadian regulators have concluded that there are no fundamental barriers to licensing the Xe-100 small modular reactor, X-Energy Reactor Company has announced.

The Xe-100 (Image: X-energy)

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) vendor design review (VDR) of the Xe-100 began in 2020, combining the first two phases of the VDR process. A VDR takes place during the design process, while the design is still evolving, to provide early feedback, so that potential regulatory or technical issues can be identified and resolved, particularly those that could result in significant changes to the design.

The CNSC has now concluded that there are no fundamental barriers to licensing the Xe-100, an outcome that X-energy says increases confidence in proceeding with formal licence applications in Canada.

"The completion of the pre-licensing milestone underscores the regulatory and commercial readiness of the Xe-100 and demonstrates the opportunity to bring our advanced high-temperature gas reactor technology to the Canadian market," said X-energy CEO Clay Sell.

The VDR process has seen the submission of more than 400 technical documents and white papers across 19 focus areas and provides an opportunity for the reactor developer to demonstrate understanding and compliance with Canadian licensing requirements and seek detailed feedback ahead of a formal licence application.

The CNSC said in its summary of the review it had concluded that X-energy "understands and has correctly interpreted the intent of regulatory requirements for the design of nuclear power plants in Canada". The review did identify some technical areas requiring further development "in order for X-energy to better demonstrate adherence to CNSC requirements", it said.

Some of these will be addressed in a Phase 3 VDR, which allows the vendor to follow up on certain aspects of Phase 2 findings, the regulator said. In this phase, a vendor may seek further information from the CNSC about Phase 2 topics and it may also ask the regulator to review activities taken by the vendor towards the reactor's design readiness, following the completion of Phase 2. X-energy said it plans to proactively continue working with CNSC in pursuit of Phase 3 VDR in the future.

The Xe-100 is an 80 MWe high-temperature reactor that can be scaled into a 'four-pack' 320 MWe power plant, fuelled by the company's proprietary TRISO-X tri-structural isotropic particle fuel. Initial deployment of the Xe-100 at US chemical company Dow's Seadrift facility in Texas and a new commercial facility to manufacture TRISO-X is receiving support from the US Department of Energy's Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. X-Energy has also signed a joint development agreement with utility Energy Northwest for the deployment of up to 12 Xe-100 small modular reactors in central Washington State.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News