DOE Funds Nuclear Energy Projects, Westinghouse Begins SMR Regulatory Process

by | May 11, 2023

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Nuclear Power Plants

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As nuclear energy is becoming more of a focus in helping the United States obtain clean power, the Department of Energy is granting more than $22 million for 10 industry-led projects, including two designed to expand clean hydrogen production and another on a microreactor design.

The other projects will address nuclear regulatory hurdles, improve the operations of existing reactors, and address new advanced reactor developments. The projects are funded through the Office of Nuclear Energy, which has invested more than $230 million in 48 projects from 31 companies since 2018.

Separate from the DOE funding, Westinghouse Electric Company has submitted a pre-application regulatory engagement plan with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the AP300 small modular reactor (SMR), which the company unveiled on May 4, 2023. Westinghouse is among the companies receiving DOE funding and will study coupling hydrogen technology with existing nuclear reactors.

Another hydrogen project will see General Electric Global Research scale-up co-electrolysis technology to produce a carbon-neutral aviation fuel. General Electric will demonstrate a conceptual design for the project with an advanced nuclear reactor.

The remaining nuclear projects include X-energy making a preliminary design of a microreactor; the Electric Power Research Institute demonstrating advanced manufacturing of small modular reactor components to support the U.S. supply chain; 3M developing an isotope recovery process to support commercial deployment of molten salt reactors; and Constellation Energy Generation improving the operational efficiency of the current fleet of nuclear reactors.

Additionally, RhinoCorps, Analysis and Measurement Services, General Atomics, and Terrestrial Energy will all study and develop various ways to tackle nuclear regulations.

Westinghouse Quickly Takes Next Steps on AP300 SMR

Westinghouse’s pre-application process with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will document the basic design of the AP300 technology, an overview of its proposed licensing approach, and a timeline for planned interactions with the NRC with a goal of receiving feedback on important topics, the company said.

The AP300 is based on already approved and operational technology that is used in the larger AP1000 reactor. The technology has regulatory approval in the US, Great Britain, and China, as well as compliance with European Utility Requirements standards for nuclear power plants.

Westinghouse plans for design certification by 2027 with site-specific licensing and construction of the first SMR by the end of the decade. The SMR is reported to hold the same energy capacity as a traditional coal power plant, and Westinghouse said it can be integrated with renewable energy sources and hydrogen production.

Nuclear power is an important part of President Biden’s target for the use of 100% clean electricity by 2035 and net zero by 2050. The DOE says nuclear power produces about half of the country’s carbon-free energy.

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