X-energy, TransAlta to assess use of Xe-100 in Alberta

03 April 2024

X-Energy Reactor Company and Canadian power producer TransAlta Corporation are to study the feasibility of deploying an X-energy Xe-100 advanced small modular nuclear reactor at a repurposed fossil fuel power plant in the province of Alberta.

The Xe-100 reactor design (Image: X-energy)

The partners will evaluate the economics, regulatory impacts, licensing requirements, timelines, and overall suitability of deploying an Xe-100 plant at a fossil fuel power plant site. The study will also focus on identifying and building Alberta-based supply chain partners and vendors and economic benefits for the province.

X-energy and TransAlta will be supported by Canada-based nuclear and professional engineering firms, including Hatch Ltd, Kinectrics Inc, and PCL Nuclear Management Inc. The study results are expected to provide "valuable insights and data to inform future TransAlta project and business decisions".

The study will be supported through funding from Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA), an initiative supported by the Government of Alberta designed to invest in promising technologies and solutions to reduce emissions throughout the province. X-energy has been awarded CASD623,152 (USD459,079) in funding for the project through ERA's Reshaping Energy Systems funding competition. It is one of 13 projects to receive funding totalling CAD33.7 million through the competition. "These projects, valued at approximately CAD88 million in public and private investment, focus on technologies that will reduce emissions and contribute to a more flexible and sustainable energy grid in Alberta," ERA said.

Alberta - which last year established a goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 - joined the provinces of New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan as a signatory to a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on small modular reactor (SMR) development in 2021 and has more recently signed memorandums of understanding with several SMR developers including ARC Clean Technology, X-energy and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute.

The Government of Alberta is reconsidering the possibility of having conventional nuclear power plants, Affordability and Utilities Minister Nathan Neudorf told reporters at the provincial legislature on 28 March. His comment was the first public suggestion that the government is contemplating conventional nuclear power plants like those in Ontario and New Brunswick, according to CBC.

"This partnership with Emissions Reduction Alberta marks a significant step forward for clean energy technologies in the province," said Benjamin Reinke, X-energy's vice president for global business development. "We are pleased to work with TransAlta, a leader in power production, innovation, and sustainability, to evaluate how X-energy can support the province's climate goals.

"Alberta's tradition of energy innovation combined with our advanced nuclear technology offers a powerful solution to reducing emissions while increasing reliable baseload generation capacity and supporting the region's key economic drivers."

Blain van Melle, Executive Vice President, Commercial and Customer Relations at TransAlta, added: "TransAlta is excited to work with Emissions Reduction Alberta and our project partners to explore how X-energy's innovative small modular reactor technology can potentially augment TransAlta's existing sites and assets to deliver clean, reliable heat and power to our customers at competitive rates and without emissions from fossil fuels."

The Xe-100 - a high-temperature gas reactor capable of a thermal output of 200 MW or (80 MW electrical) which uses fuel made from robust TRISO fuel particles - is one of two designs selected by the US Department of Energy in 2020 to receive USD80 million each of initial cost-shared funding to build an advanced reactor demonstration plant that can be operational within seven years. X-energy announced in March 2023 that the first deployment of the design will be at one of materials science company Dow's sites on the US Gulf Coast. Seadrift - where Dow manufactures more than 4,000,000 pounds (1816 tonnes) of materials per year for use in applications such as food packaging, footwear, wire and cable insulation, solar cell membranes and packaging for pharmaceutical products - was selected to host the first Xe-100 in May 2023.

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.

X-energy aims to deploy the first advanced small modular reactor in Alberta by the early 2030s.

In January this year, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission concluded that there are no fundamental barriers to licensing the Xe-100, an outcome that X-energy said increases confidence in proceeding with formal licence applications in Canada.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News