DOE taps X-energy, Southern Company to develop safer nuclear reactors

A diagram of the Xe-100 reactor. | Courtesy of X-energy

As part of the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative, a White House effort to boost production of carbon-free energy, grants totaling up to $80 million were awarded to X-energy and Southern Company to develop advanced nuclear reactors, the Department of Energy (DOE) said late last week.

X-energy will be working with Oregon State University, BWX Technlogy, Teledyne-Brown Engineering, the Idaho and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, and the SGL Group on Xe-100 Pebble Bed Advanced reactors. DOE said this reactor-design concept aims to enhance safety, partly through the use of a smaller unit, because of this. DOE said this can benefit smaller communities.

The GAIN program aims to foster public and private partnerships in nuclear technology development.

“In order to ensure that nuclear energy remains a key source for U.S. electricity generation well into the future, it is critically important that we invest in these technologies today,” DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz said. “Public-private partnerships to develop advanced nuclear capabilities will enable low-carbon nuclear energy to power America for years to come.”

A similar grant was awarded to Southern Company, which will work with TerraPower, Electric Power Research Institute, Vanderbilt University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop a Molten Chloride Fast Reactor, which also aim to boost safety.

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