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X-Energy reactor company partners with TransAlta on feasibility study

Posted on April 18, 2024 by Sunny South News

By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

TransAlta has joined forced with X-Energy Reactor Company, LLC (X-energy), to study the deployment of X-energy’s Xe-100 advanced small modular nuclear reactors in Alberta.

The research is funded by Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) and will explore the feasibility of repurposing a fossil fuel electricity generation site for an Xe-100 plant. The Xe-100 reactor is a pebble-bed, high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR).

The feasibility study will focus on licensing requirements, potential timelines, economic and regulatory impacts, and “overall suitability” of deploying an Xe-100 plant at a fossil fuel power plant site. Further, the study will aim to identify and build Alberta-based supply chain partners.

According to a recent X-Energy release, the ERA awarded X-energy the contract based off the ERA’s competitive proposal-based initiative, “Reshaping Energy Systems” funding opportunity which is supported by the Government of Alberta and aims to invest in “promising technologies and solutions to reduce emissions” in Alberta. Last year, the Province announced their goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050; X-energy aims to deploy the first advanced small modular reactor in Alberta by the early 2030s. 

The study will be supported by several Canada-based nuclear and professional engineering firms, with results anticipated to provide valuable “insights and data” which will help inform future TransAlta projects and business decisions.

In the release, Alberta Minister of Affordability and Utilities Nathan Neudorf said, “I am proud that Alberta continues to be a global leader in responsible energy development. By investing in innovative technology such as small modular nuclear reactors, we are ensuring that Alberta’s power grid will be affordable, reliable, and sustainable for generations to come.” 

According to X-energy, both the Xe-100 reactor and TRISO-X fuel have been designed with safety, “greatly expanding applications and markets for the deployment of nuclear technology relative to other small modular and conventional nuclear reactors.” Applications which currently rely on the use of fossil fuels to produce steam and high-temperature heat for manufacturing, resource extraction, hydrogen production, and petroleum refining.

With respect to what extent this technology may be well-suited for deployment in Southern Alberta specifically, X-energy’s Director of corporate communications, Robert McEntyre said, 

“The modular and scalable nature of Xe-100 plants are designed to enhance geographic flexibility sites for facilities, largely driven by our technology’s enhanced safety features. Our plants only require 26 acres for a full four-unit plant configuration producing 320 MW of electric power. By providing reliable, load-following capacity and a smaller operating footprint, we believe advanced nuclear will become a critical component to supporting high reliability for a diversified electric power grid.”

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