Eastern Washington will not get the first advanced nuclear reactor in the US

KENNEWICK — The Tri-Cities area is no longer in the running for the nation’s first commercial advanced nuclear reactor.

But that doesn’t mean the technology won’t arrive at a site near the Tri-Cities in eastern Washington by the end of the decade.

On Wednesday, X-energy Reactor Co. announced the signing of a joint development agreement with Dow to demonstrate the first advanced grid-scale nuclear reactor for an industrial site in North America.

Dow said it will partner with X-energy to install the Xe-100 high-temperature gas-cooled reactor at one of Dow’s US Gulf Coast facilities. A location is expected to be selected this year.

X-energy announced in April 2021 that it would partner with Energy Northwest of Richland and the Grant County PUD to develop, build and operate an 80-megawatt Xe-100 reactor on land already leased by Energy Northwest at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. in Eastern Washington.

It was offered as the first in the country.

But Energy Northwest, which provides electricity at cost to state power utilities, doesn’t have deep enough pockets to come up with the significant development capital available to get the project off the ground.

But working with DOW will put it in a strong position to get the commitments it needs to take the next steps to build Xe-100 near the Tri-Cities, Energy Northwest said in a statement.

“We remain committed to the deployment of an advanced SMR (small modular reactor) in Washington state,” said Bob Schutz, chief executive of Energy Northwest, after Dow’s announcement Wednesday.

X-energy’s Xe-100 reactor remains Energy Northwest’s preferred small modular reactor technology, he said.

“Dow’s selection of Xe-100 confirms what our own analysis found — X-energy’s innovative technology will be a vital tool in our clean energy transition,” said Schütz.

The Xe-100 is an 80 megawatt reactor under development and can be scaled up in groups of four to create a power plant of 320 megawatts or more if needed.

It uses off-the-shelf components that can be manufactured overseas and then transported by road and rail to where it will be built and operated.

X-energy claims it has a simple reactor design with meltdown protection.

Energy Northwest’s collaboration with X-energy over the past two years gives it greater confidence in X-energy’s technologies and the ability to deploy the Xe-100 in Washington, Energy Northwest said in a statement.

Energy Northwest continues to work toward a state-of-the-art reactor deployment by the end of the decade, Schuetz said.

Energy Northwest now operates the only commercial nuclear power reactor in the Northwest, the Columbia Generating Station on leased land in Hanford north of Richland. Its capacity is 1207 megawatts.

As Energy Northwest works to add the small modular reactor, it is focusing on securing financing for the project, and it has identified some possible paths, the report said.

“Our state’s clean energy mandates drive the need for solid, dispatchable, carbon-free power, and the Xe-100 could be an ideal fit for our region and a valuable addition to Energy Northwest’s existing zero-emission portfolio. “, Schutz said.

In addition to the Columbia Generating Station, Energy Northwest owns and operates hydroelectric, solar, battery and wind farms.

Dow plans to operate the Xe-100 reactor on the Gulf Coast this decade.

Its agreement with X-energy calls for up to $50 million in engineering work, half of which could be funded by the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program and the other half by Dow.

X-energy was selected by the Department of Energy in 2020 to receive up to $1.2 billion in federal co-financing through the Department of Energy’s program to develop, license, build and demonstrate an advanced reactor and fuel plant by the end of the decade.

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