GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Advanced Reactor Concepts (ARC Nuclear) have agreed to collaborate in the development and licensing of an advanced small modular reactor (aSMR) based on mature Generation IV sodium-cooled reactor technology.
In a memorandum of understanding, the two companies have agreed to enter into a procompetitive collaboration to progress a joint aSMR design for global power generation with initial deployment in Canada.
The companies will pursue a preliminary regulatory review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission through its Vendor Design Review process, building on earlier technology licensing success in the United States. This collaborative commercialization program also includes the near-term goals of confirming projected construction and operating costs, as well as the identification of a lead-plant owner/operator for the joint aSMR.
GEH and ARC Nuclear have each developed advanced reactor designs based on the EBR-II, an integral sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype which was developed by Argonne National Laboratory and operated successfully for more than 30 years at Idaho Falls, Idaho. No U.S. fast spectrum reactor technology has more test data, design maturity, programmatic information, or operational experience.
These two reactor designs – GEH’s PRISM and ARC Nuclear’s ARC-100 – have been focused on different objectives. The ARC-100 is a 100 MWe aSMR designed for efficient and flexible electricity generation, while operating for up to 20 years without the need for refueling. In comparison, PRISM, which is designed to refuel every 12 to 24 months, has primarily been focused on closing the fuel cycle by, among other things, consuming transuranics.
Both these aSMR designs nevertheless share fundamental features, such as high energy neutrons, liquid sodium cooling and metallic fuel, which together deliver inherent safety performance and more economically competitive plant architecture compared to traditional water-cooled reactors. The operational flexibility of this advanced reactor technology enables true load following to complement the intermittent generation of renewable energy technologies now being deployed.
“GEH has broad engineering experience, deep technical capability and significant investment in its sodium fast reactor technology program that builds on a 60-year history as an original equipment manufacturer of more than 60 boiling water reactors worldwide,” said Jay Wileman, President and CEO, GEH. “The ARC Nuclear team brings decades of sodium fast reactor experience to this collaboration and, by working together, we can accelerate commercialization of this technology.”
“ARC Nuclear has a heritage of sodium fast reactor experience that includes key senior scientists and engineers from the EBR-II prototype program — technical leaders involved in developing and demonstrating the fast reactor foundational technology within the U.S. Department of Energy,” said Don Wolf, Chairman and CEO, ARC Nuclear. “We are confident that this collaboration with GEH will more rapidly bring affordable carbon free, utility-scale nuclear power to the evolving energy market landscape.”
While there are more than 90 advanced nuclear technology and small modular reactor designs under various stages of development, GEH and ARC Nuclear view sodium fast reactors as being the most mature advanced reactor technology with decades of real operating experience from more than 20 previous reactors.