The UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) has awarded a US$29.3million matching funds grant to an integrated team comprised of the Seattle-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) and Jacobs Solutions, an international technical professional services firm based in Dallas, toaccelerate the design and deployment of USNC’s Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR) in the UK and globally.
‘This is an important next step for deploying MMR nuclear batteries in the UK and across Europe,’ said Francesco Venneri, CEO of Ultra Safe Nuclear. ‘The UK has long and unique experience with the gas reactor technology the MMR builds on and this is the right team to demonstrate the design’s versatility to meet the world’s market needs.’
According to USNC, the MMR is well suited to achieving the aims of the DESNZ’s Advanced Modular Reactor Research, Development & Demonstration Programme. The MMR is designed to work at various power levels by simply changing the way in which it’s operated. At higher power, fuel is consumed faster, much like in a battery.The grant will enable the second phase of work towards building a demonstrator of the high-temperature gas-cooled reactor by the early 2030s.
‘This high-temperature reactor has the potential to assist the world’s energy transition and take nuclear power into a new era,’ said Jacobs energy, security and technology senior vice president Karen Wiemelt. ‘With 60 years of experience in research, design and operational support for high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, Jacobs is ideally placed to support USNC through a range of scientific, engineering and programme-management capabilities.’
Jacobs will support the front-end engineering design programme, including reactor analysis, the refuelling system, primary and secondary systems and safety systems, associated testing facilities, human factors, the safety case and security, licensing and regulation, overall system integration and preparation for delivery of the demonstrator model.
Using encapsulated TRISO particle fuel and cooled by helium, the MMR energy system is designed to act as a replacement for the gas-fired plants that are currently used to balance power grids when output from wind and solar sources drops off. The reactor can provide power in both urban and off-grid locations, and for large industrial users. The UK demonstrator will also focus on the production of high-temperature process heat for industrial applications.
The reactors, which USNC describes as ‘fission batteries’, will be situated underground. According to the company, in the case of a reactor vessel breach, the primary helium coolant ‘would escape with very little thermal energy and next to zero fission products’.