General Atomics in contest for SMR funds

06 August 2013

General Atomics has announced that it is among the small modular reactor (SMR) developers seeking funds from the US Department of Energy. It has submitted its Energy Multiplier Module (EM2), a helium-cooled high-temperature reactor.

EM2 on truck (GA) 460
The factory-made EM2 reactor would be transported by truck (Image: GA)

The Department of Energy (DoE) intends to fund up to two designs for SMRs through a cost-shared partnership which will support first-of-a-kind engineering, design certification and licensing. With the first round of funding allocated to B&W in late 2012, the DoE is now reviewing applications under a second round.

General Atomics (GA) has now confirmed that it is one of several SMR developers to have submitted proposals in the second round. Its proposal is for the EM2, a modified version of its Gas-Turbine Modular Helium Reactor (GT-MHR) design.

The EM2 employs a 500 MWt, 265 MWe helium-cooled fast-neutron high-temperature reactor operating at 850°C. This would be factory manufactured and transported to the plant site by truck. According to GA, the EM2 reactor would be fuelled with 20 tonnes of used PWR fuel or depleted uranium, plus 22 tonnes of uranium enriched to about 12% U-235 as the starter.

It is designed to operate for 30 years without requiring refuelling, the company said. Used fuel from the EM2 could be processed to remove fission products (about 4 tonnes) and the balance then recycled as fuel for subsequent cycles, each time topped up with four tonnes of used PWR fuel. The module also incorporates a truck-transportable high-speed gas turbine generator.

General Atomics has been the primary developer of modular helium-cooled nuclear power reactor systems, while its TRIGA research reactors have operated around the world for over 45 years. GA has teamed up with Chicago Bridge & Iron, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Idaho National Laboratory to develop the EM2.

Senior vice president of GA's energy and advanced concepts group John Parmentola commented, "We welcome the opportunity to join the Department of Energy in advancing the next generation of nuclear technology for reliable and cost-effective clean energy, for this century and beyond."

In November 2012, the Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) mPower reactor was selected as the winner of the first round of funding, receiving access to $79 million to commercially demonstrate the design by 2022. A second round of funding was announced in March 2013. The DoE anticipates awarding those funds by mid-January 2014. The maximum amount available in each of the first and second rounds is set at $226 million.

Other SMR developers who have already announced that they submitted proposals by the 1 July deadline include Westinghouse, Holtec International, NuScale and Hybrid Power Technologies.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News